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Cabling Your Office Space for Efficiency and High Performance

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The CBRE APAC Occupier Survey 2015/2016 reports strong growth prospects for office space across Asia Pacific as organizations plan for increased headcount. Companies are investing in new office spaces and also looking to consolidating existing offices. The relatively high cost of real estate across many of the large metro cities in Asia Pacific is driving renewed focus on space optimization.

Office buildings in India are being deployed with increasingly large floor plates; it is not uncommon to see floor plates upwards of 100,000 square feet, especially in cities like Bangalore and New Delhi. Network architecture, focused on local area network (LAN) cabling design, can play a vital role in lowering costs while increasing network performance.

The TIA 568 and 569-B standards lays a solid foundation for LAN design by elaborating on the hierarchy and placement 
of space - work spaces, horizontal distributors, building distributors, campus distributors, equipment rooms and facility entrances. IT network managers need to be mindful of the following infrastructure trends.

Network Densification

Optimizing the horizontal distributors in the equipment room leads to more useable floor space, improved network densification and a flatter network. Optimizing floor distributors also leads to better use of LAN electronic ports (Ethernet switches), and also minimizes the intra-building back-bone runs. With an optimal design and placement of distributors, network management is easier and the network becomes more reliable.

Network managers should also consider using copper and fiber panels with a higher density of ports. A good metric to evaluate design efficiency is to evaluate ports per unit of rack space. This leads to optimal use of rack space, thereby reducing the number of racks and optimizing use of floor space. Network managers should also consider wall-mounted panels for cable termination and management so that only LAN electronics and fiber panels are prioritized for rack space.
A wall-mounted panel approach is well-suited to organizations that seek to converge building applications onto IP networks. Wall-mount panels can ensure that IT and facilities management teams manage their respective networks within the rack, and yet enabling the organizations to share a common cable plant.

Cabling System Performance

The TIA 568 standard limits copper cable runs to 90 meters from the floor distributor to workstations. Violating this rule results in higher signal losses (insertion loss), as well as propagation delay limits imposed by the Ethernet protocol, which can impair network performance. A large floor size with the optimal number of floor distributors typically results in longer average length of cables, beyond 90m, which means more insertion losses (attenuation). At the same time, the shorter cable runs are impacted by near end effects for crosstalk, return loss and other parameters. Network managers should therefore exercise caution and specify not only performance headroom for the end to end channel, but also demand
a guarantee that the application to be used will indeed work – this is called an application assurance warranty. Further, keeping in mind the growing adoption of 2.5, 5G and 10G Ethernet and the latest high performance wireless access points (WAP), it is important to specify a category cable type that can meet future high bandwidth demands – Cat6A cabling systems are ideal.

Three Important Drivers

Network managers should also consider three important connectivity drivers: Wi-Fi; Power over Ethernet (PoE) enabled devices, and In-Building Wireless (IBW) systems.

Wi-Fi has emerged as a business critical requirement extending LANs throughout a building to collaboration areas like conference rooms – thereby making employees highly mobile. If the network was not designed with Wi-Fi in mind then network managers will subsequently find it challenging to install cables close enough to connect WAPs wherever needed. Utilizing a concept like CommScope’s Universal Connectivity Grid (UCG) offers an elegant approach to cabling network design by providing tremendous flexibility in general capacity planning and identifying the optimum placement of WAPs
at the network design stage. The latest IEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard provides relatively high throughput (5GHz) which coupled with CommScope’s UCG approach optimizes network design. The IEEE PoE standard IEEE 802.3bt allows for powering end devices up to 96W over the same data cable. Lastly, with the need for greater mobility and increasing challenge to maintain effective cellular coverage throughout larger facilities, dedicated IBW systems ranging from distributed antenna systems to small cell technology are more prevalent.

Office retrofit projects are intended to serve at least 10 years of installed life and greenfield construction at least 15-20 years. Knowledge of structured cabling practice can help IT and facility managers save costs, improve network performance and ease network management over these decades long intervals. The CommScope Universal Connectivity Grid (UCG) approach offers an elegant and flexible approach to cabling network design.