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Tech Corner

  Patch Cords Improve...
rj45 plug

High Performance Networking
Calls For High Performance Patch Cords

The high speed data communication revolution continues. Driven by a long-recognized exponential increase in data processing capabilities, this revolution is turning data streams into torrents. Evolving technologies are requiring even faster network protocols to handle the flow.

The most common computer networking protocol now in use is 10 Base T Ethernet, operating at the once-impressive rate of 10 Mbps (10 million data bits per second). Thanks to the foresight of telecommunication industry leaders, Ethernet transmission at this speed requires only two of the four pairs of wires found in the widely installed UTP data cable. Not merely spare wires, the extra pairs were designed into the network scheme, anticipating the day when 10 Base T would be replaced by something even faster.

That day has come. 100 Base T, the next generation of Ethernet, has arrived. The new Fast Ethernet sends signals ten times quicker than the older 10 Base T. Many existing network installations and almost all new ones are upgrading to Fast Ethernet. But amazingly, an even speedier version is only a year or so away. The soon-to-come 1000 Base T, known as Gigabit Ethernet, will signal at a blistering 1 billion bits per second.

There is an old joke in the industry that unless something extremely bad was done to a premise network, Ethernet will run on wet string. That's an exaggeration, of course, but the point is valid: a typical 10 Base T network has a huge safety margin. Components, connections, cabling and installation can each be off spec and the network will still work. Most of us have seen the occasional cable run with a splice in the middle. Despite the flaw, the link passed testing and 10 Base T functioned just fine.

This convenient fact is changing as network speeds increase. Many network managers now switching over to Fast Ethernet are seeing 10-15 percent of their Category 5-rated nodes fail to operate at speeds for which they paid large sums of money. Worse, some nodes don't work at all.

One can guess what will happen when Gigabit Ethernet starts up at the desktop. But both Fast and Gigabit Ethernet are supposed to run on the installed base of Category 5 cabling. What has gone wrong?

Margin Is Critical

At the higher speeds of these new protocols, performance margins begin to shrink dramatically. The reasons are highly technical but they can be stated simply.

Bidirectional signaling with four pairs adds new network complexity. These higher speed signals are weaker and the noise accompanying them is relatively strong.

The signal to noise ratio of these new high speed protocols is so low that very exotic and expensive processing techniques are being designed into the network interface cards and other network gear.

New premises cabling installations can employ the latest cabling and components to ensure performance margin but how about existing cabling systems, do they have to be replaced as the network speed increases?

Replacing the entire cabling system is one option, a very expensive option. Remember that the new high speed protocols are being written to be compatible with older Category 5 cabling, therefore our objective is to make sure that the cabling system performs properly and with a degree of margin or "headroom".

It has been proven that replacing questionable patch cords in an existing Category 5 installation with high performance cords results in measurable improvement in system performance. Improvements such as smoother impedance, better NEXT (near end crosstalk) and better RL (return loss) performance can be attained by simply replacing the patch cables.

Control Cable & Quabbin Wire & Cable

Control Cable is proud to announce our certification as an authorized manufacturer of DataMax 6 patch cables.

The combination of Quabbin's DataMax 6 cable, state of the art connectors, molded strain relief boots and Control Cable's controlled manufacturing process results in simply the best patch cable available today. Quabbin Wire and Cable's extensive testing has proven that DataMax 6 patch cables provide superior NEXT performance combined with low attenuation and stable impedance and typically improve channel return loss by 4 to 6 decibels.

DataMax 6 patch cables exceed proposed TIA/EIA 568A standards for Category 6 performance.

For more detailed technical information and test results please review the following documents

2005-10-24
 

 

 

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