Acceptance testing your installed structured cabling is an extrememly important step in the process of cable installation. An installed cable might get a signal end to end, but what is happening along the way can be very crucial to the overall speed and performance of your network. Factors such as cross-talk, attenuation, and insertion loss can contribute significantly to the bandwidth capability of your system. EMEC, Inc uses the Fluke DSX-5000, the industry's gold-standard in test equipment to certify your copper and fiber structured cabling systems. Read below to learn more about this powerful tool.
State of the Testing Industry - A Fluke Whitepaper
A key reason for the stasis in the networking industry over the past decade had been the effectiveness of 1 Gbps copper connections. These cables were common, inexpensive, fast enough and relatively straightforward to install and repeatedly test. But, that era is coming to a close as we move from 1 Gbps copper to 10 Gbps copper, and to 40 Gbps and even 100 Gbps fiber. As more data travels over each connection, each cable is that much more critical.
Complicating matters further is the issue of evolving standards. Where Cat 5 cable used to rule the day, now there’s Cat 5e, Cat 6, Cat 6a or Cat 7 copper, and multiple types of fiber. There’s a broad range of industry standards, measurements and compliance requirements – TIA vs. ISO, EF, TCL, CDNEXT, TCLT, ELTCTL, etc.
And for Wi-Fi, there’s 802.11a, b, g, n and soon ac (gigabit) and eventually ad (7 gigabit). The traditional notion of “pull this Cat 6 and connect it to the server rack, pull this Cat 6 and connect it to the switch, pull this Cat 5e for the LAN” is going away. Simultaneously, the people who are responsible for deploying and maintaining this infrastructure – the cable installers, project managers, network administrators, etc. – are wrestling with limited resources. Time and money are certainly the most obvious constraints: the need to get more done, faster and for less.
Less-recognized issues are the twin constraints of manpower and expertise. There are fewer trained personnel available to do the work (specifically in terms of ratio between installer/installation), and those that are available may have limited expertise. As with many industries, there’s a growing divide between the project managers, who have professional certifications and substantial expertise across a broad range of installation and testing requirements, and the techs or installers, who have more limited training, isolated expertise, and may even be temporary workers. Not only is complexity increasing, but the volume of cable installation and certification is still high. According to surveys, nearly 93 percent of contractors expect to certify the same (59%) or a higher volume (34%) of links next year.
Testing and certification are key requirements for these installations, and not just for the obvious need to make sure that everything works. Certification reports are generally required for payment, to comply with manufacturers warranties, and to facilitate trouble-shooting.
Yet because of the volume of work and the scarcity of resources, roaming install/test teams and separate service tiers are common. Almost 90 percent of these links are typically fixed individually and immediately, meaning that if a tool or expertise is not available, work stalls until it gets there. And the test equipment travels with these teams: 55 percent of installers in a recent survey moved their tools several times a month, not just from one site to another, but back again.
Adding to the complexity, installations are not problem-free: In recent Fluke Networks’customer surveys, 91 percent of U.S., 90 percent of Asian and 97 percent of European installers report at least one problem. More than half of the respondents from the U.S.and Europe report seven or more problems. In Asia, that climbs to 10 or more problems. While those problems are frequently issues with the cable or installation itself, they are as likely, if not more so, to be errors in process: incorrect test limits; misconfigurations or parameters; test data spread across multiple testers; mismatched results, incomplete testing or reporting, etc.
And those problems add up, according to the research. In total, in any given month, more than 22,000 hours in the U.S., 18,000 hours in Asia and 4,000 in Europe are spent resolving cable infrastructure issues. That works out to 45 hours (U.S.), 61 hours (Asia) and 26 hours (Europe) per 1,000 cable links on average, depending on region. In simple terms, the mistakes, complexity and rework can add a week to a week and a half of labor to a typical 1,000-link project. This is a worldwide problem, with global scope but unique geographic impact. Right now, the industry is awash in “multiples” – multiple cables, multiple standards, multiple teams, multiple tools, multiple projects, multiple test regimes, multiple skill levels and more. That puts two opposing forces – increasing complexity and thinly stretched expertise - on a collision course that affects the fundamental connectivity of technology.
The implication is that if something doesn’t change, then some other factor has to give. If complexity continues to increase, and resources don’t increase commensurately, then there will be a steady increase in either time or cost per install. It will either take longer to test and certify links, slowing growth until volume, complexity and resources reach an unsteady equilibrium; or the cost will begin to rise, allowing additional expertise and resources to catch up to growth in volume and complexity.
The Future of Certification
All things being equal, a possible answer to these requirements would be adding more expert project managers to the process, so that they could apply the insight, training and oversight needed to eliminate errors and improve efficiency. Unfortunately this isn’t economically feasible. The solution then is a testing tool that helps take on that role, managing the test process as well as the test itself. What’s needed is a new solution that would be much more agile, able to address every part of the certification process from planning through system acceptance, and multiple testing scenarios. It would also incorporate built-in intelligence and a revolutionary touchscreen interface that would walk technicians through testing and project requirements, regardless of training. It would be built from the ground up for the “multi” environment, and help project managers and technicians meet the evolving challenges associated with cable certification.
Looking at the six-step certification process, such a solution would deliver significant benefits:
Planning – The appropriate tool would incorporate project management capabilities to seamlessly plan and manage multiple jobs, different cable types or testing regimes, multiple teams, and more. In short,it would be adept at simultaneously handling all the complexity thrown at the typical cable infrastructure installation, thus improving efficiency and eliminating costly errors.
Setup – Test setup wizards would deliver guided referencing and link budget configuration, as well as incorporating built-in standards to ensure the right tests are performed. This approach eliminates the “wait for an expert” delay as well as further reducing errors.
Testing – As we’ve said, testing can always be faster, and tools continue to improve in speed. More importantly, built-in wizards and a graphical interface will quickly get the user to the right test configuration, also improving speed.
Troubleshooting – The ability to drill down to identify root cause, as opposed to a simple pass-fail,
is critical to effective troubleshooting. This drill-down, along with precision graphical wiremaps, allows technicians of varying skill levels to quickly pinpoint and correct problems.
Reporting – Reporting, as we’ve shown, is evolving and the need for flexibility and agility never ends.To eliminate this challenge, test tools should incorporate a project system that manages results across multiple teams, media and testers to control and integrate results into a single report across an entire project. Moreover, the dramatic improvements made in earlier segments of the certification process should largely eliminate common errors and oversights, speeding project completion.
System acceptance – If complexity tends to “complicate” system acceptance, then the antidote is a clear system that uses concise statistics, event maps and ISO Level V accuracy certification to deliver instant insight into job quality without the need to page through thousands of reports.
If the future of cable infrastructure, and technology in general, is ever increasing complexity, then we must demand more from our tools to keep up. We must be more agile. And today that means much more than just raw speed. Keeping the cable infrastructure healthy and on-pace with the rest of the industry means focusing on the entire certification process, optimizing workflow as needed around the ever-increasing multitude of job requirements to speed system acceptance.
-From Fluke Network's whitepaper, "The New Normal: Multi-Everything - The State of the Cabling Certification Industry
Fluke DSX-5000 Sample Results
Click the document to the right to see an example of a test performed on a Category 6 permanent link in a real-world environment. The Fluke Versiv provides info on 14 different tests so you can see exactly how your installed cabling will perform or where it fails. It will also show you which network standards the cable plant is verified for, and allows a detailed analysis of your cabling.
Call or email EMEC, Inc so we can discuss your acceptance testing needs and put this next-generation tool to use at your facility. In today's high-bandwidth world, you need to know your cabling will meet the demands of your network.