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Industry Panel 2010

Nine industry experts discuss the impact LEED is having on the networking and structure cabling professional, green myths and realities and the overhauling of the RCDD program by BICSI.


January 1, 2010  


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BARKER: Let’s jump right into it. What impact is LEED having on the network and structured cabling professional?

BOYD: From where I stand, there are not a lot of things that can be done to help with regard to a building becoming LEED certified. When we’re on a job site, we already remove all of our waste so the footprint is already small. As a contractor, how it impacts our business will be decided by the engineers and consultants.

LENNOX: LEED leads to positive change, and that’s exciting for our industry. But really, at the end of the day it’s about optimizing business. It’s about efficiency and that’s where the excitement comes. The infrastructure provides the common means to transmit data but the biggest benefit is then linking that information to corporate/business policies that dictate how the facility should respond. The result is significant cost savings and an increase in the building and occupant efficiency. Additional value is realized when organizations plan, design, install these various infrastructure systems with a holistic approach. So now the cabling professional will become more relevant across the building systems, data centres and work place environment.

MAGUIRE: LEED has brought the importance of environmentally friendly non-wasteful practices to the attention of the entire building industry. What we’re finding is that most of our end users are becoming more interested in partnering if they can work with a manufacturer that has green practices. At the Siemon Company we think that being green is not just a political thing to do it’s the right thing to do for now and for future generations.

It’s encouraged BICSI to start working with the U.S. Green Building Council. They have developed a program that allows innovation credits for the structured cabling industry and currently what they are proposing is one innovation credit for physical layer technology. As an example, maybe using a future generation of cabling that you won’t have to pull out as quickly — it will have a longer lifecycle — as well as two credits for audiovisual deployment, which is interesting because that speaks to the point of converging applications on a unified network.

BARKER: Now, you mention the U.S. GBC., is that a U.S.-centric only strategy?

WEEKES: Canada follows lock step with what the US GBC is initiating.

MAGUIRE: There’s also the World Green Building Council and these committees are working very closely together. I think if something is adopted by the U.S. GBC it will certainly apply to all of North America and it will be something that will be emulated by the other Green Building Councils, for example, the World Building Council, and the Green Star Program in Australia and New Zealand. Japan has a program, Taiwan has a program, and I think they would all fall in line to adopt these technology credits proposed by BICSI.

FRANC: But, I think the innovations give us much more opportunity to provide value to those end users. Directly related to cabling? Yes, there are some things that we can do, and we’ve already done a lot, but now we can go beyond that sort of commodity stage to help people with their building automation systems and lighting control and HVAC.

One of the key points is use of energy and with data centres, for example, they’re saying that they are the worst case of building for energy waste in North America. I mean, what was that stat that came out in TIA, I don’t know if you remember Val in one of our sessions — 3% of gross domestic power production in the U.S. is dedicated just for data centres.

MAGUIRE: It was from the Gartner Group and the actual figure was that IT activity accounts for 2% of global CO2 emissions, which is equivalent to the footprint of the entire amount produced by the aviation industry.

FRANC: LEED is not a magic checklist anymore. It’s encouraging innovation, it’s encouraging people to think. I mean, Business 101 as a manufacturer: it’s just smart to use fewer resources, to be more economical in our processes; and from the contractor’s perspective to recycle your waste, recapture costs and use less resources.

SHARP: We have to be careful not to confuse green and LEED. Our discussion so far has really been on green issues, and I have no dispute with what is being said. The problem is that you can be as green as you want, and the question that Paul poses is what impact is it (LEED) having on the structured cabling professional?

Well, LEED frankly isn’t having any impact. It’s having no influence, no effect. You can put as much junk or as much clean stuff into a building as you want and it’s not going to take away from the LEED certification and that’s an issue, and it’s a problem.

It’s sad, because it doesn’t matter how well intentioned a designer or a contractor or a manufacturer may be by putting their product into a building, it is not going to give the owner of that building any more LEED credits than what they would’ve had in the first place.

BARKER: Do you agree with that Bill?

WEEKES: I sit at the table with the architects, the electrical consultants, the mechanical consultants and we as an industry have not stepped up. We’re starting the initiatives, absolutely, and I spoke about it not too long ago about some of the initiatives that BICSI is taking. I think BICSI really has an opportunity right now to grab the bull by the horns so to speak and bring some of these innovation credits to the table right now, today.

I’ve got architects who look at me and say: “Bill, have you got a point for me? A point! A single point to get us from silver to gold?”

There’s not a damn thing I can do. There is nothing recognized in the process that I have in terms of a deliverable to that team.

KOSTASH: The only opportunity we have as professionals is to try and contribute through the innovation and design portion of the LEED accreditation and the way that they determine point values. Unfortunately, there are a relatively small number of points that are available under innovation and design.

WEEKES: But I think the opportunity for outreach is there, Bob.

KOSTASH: Oh, for sure. And what BICSI is doing is very encouraging.

WEEKES: Whether it’s BICSI alone or whether it’s the manufacturers and BICSI getting together, there’s a great opportunity to reinvent ourselves.

BARKER: We’ve touched on the structured cabling side. What impact is LEED having on networking professionals?

MYERS: It is bringing more business value to the various business stakeholders. As an example, it used to just be about connecting disparate incompatible computing systems and then along came technologies such as Voice Over IP, which 10 years ago was questioned. Today, from a LEED perspective, you can control the power of those phones by applying power to them over the cabling. The standards are there to do that now, and you can put algorithms in place that can power down all the phones and then tie in previously disconnected systems like sensors for burglar alarms and that sort of thing.

ORESKOVIC: LEED basically brings a holistic view to the whole installation. It brings all of these disciplines that are typically forgotten or on the outside and pulls them all in. Everything that touches the whole design, the whole build if you will, is brought in to impact directly or indirectly through the overall LEED process. Everything is brought to the forefront.

BARKER: In the quest to reduce the carbon footprint there are both myths and realities surrounding green technology. Give me some examples of each.

SHARP: Well the first thing is that LEED only gives you points on what the base building is intending to do. You don’t get any LEED points or commercial green points if you invest in energy efficient or green products into a data centre, for example, because a data centre is a fit out of a buil
ding, it’s not the base building.

MAGUIRE: I agree; however, even though you may not qualify for credits does not mean it’s not of interest to the customer. A recent survey I came across revealed that 75% of buyers would choose a green vendor over a nongreen vendor if prices were the same. So this is something that matters, LEED notwithstanding. The other interesting fact is that 25% of respondents would be willing to pay a 10% premium to work with a green vendor. I guess what I’m saying is while I agree with your myth that you don’t get a lot of qualification for LEED, I think the fact is that manufacturers and end users aren’t specifically targeting LEED, they’re actually going beyond that to do some things that are environmentally correct and green.

SHARP: Val, you’re absolutely right. The problem is we’ve also got to change our business practices as well as our business philosophy, and part of the reason for that is that notwithstanding the fact that there may be a desire to pay 10% extra, or a willingness to pay 10% extra — that was the wrong word, wasn’t it? — in order to get green aware products, but most authorities are not permitted to take anything but the lowest bid. And if the lowest bid is for non-green products then that is the one that’s going to get in, so we’ve got business practices to address as well.

BOYD: It’s real easy when you are responding to a survey to say that, yes, I’ll pay 10% more for something that is green. It’s a lot more difficult when that decision makes it to the CIO level and they go, “hmmm, we need to save money here, we are laying people off. We had a terrible year. Come on, let’s be realistic.” One of my pet peeves is the term value added, I prefer that it be called value included, because people aren’t willing to pay more for green, I don’t think, but if you have it, you’re probably going to win the deal.

FRANC: I think we’re all in vehement agreement that there may be some flaws certainly in the LEED process. Still, whether it’s reality or perception, the fact is that it is changing all of our business practices and business models.

WEEKES: Don’t get me wrong. Prior to last year’s crash, Bank of America was giving special commercial mortgage rates to commercial builders in the United States if they were doing a LEED building.

When the carbon tax comes and it’s not that far away, a true carbon tax based system, people that are going to have LEED buildings are now going to see other tangible and financial benefits because they’ve got LEED building versus those who don’t. The collective consciousness absolutely is embracing LEED.

I celebrate LEED every day. I’m an evangelist for LEED in the telecommunications industry. I was the first one to speak about it at BICSI and challenge every manufacturer in the room to tell me how they’re recycling cable. I mean, let’s get the secrets off the table. We’ve got some dirty secrets in our industry, what are we doing with them? And on the equipment manufacturing side, when I do a new building and I lay out 20 new Cisco switches, where are the old Cisco switches going?

Oh, well, they’re going to Goodwill and then Goodwill packs them up and takes them down to somebody who throws them in a container and the container goes to China. A W5 news special reported on this recently and it showed someone taking these things apart by hand and using a soldering gun. Inhaling all this crap, killing himself, literally, in order to save gold and other precious materials.

So yes, the big picture we talk about all of that, but when we actually have to design a building, when we’re sitting in that room it’s still about the all mighty buck, and decisions are still made around that almighty buck. I’m speaking like the evangelist that I am in this area, but — we all want to do the very best we can. We all want to put Energy Star rated computers in there and every little thing that helps us lower the cost of energy for the client and the carbon footprint, but as a telecommunications association we need to bring more value to those people that are making that decision.

LENNOX: You bring up a good point about the Energy Star-labeled products and the green-labeled products. There’s also something if we dig a few layers deeper that might prove out to be more power efficient; however, the actual materials going into the hardware still might not be free of mercury and cadmium and all those other things, so it’s also another opportunity as you challenge the manufacturers for all of us to step up and say, “hey are we RoHS-compliant through and through?” And it doesn’t stop at the device level either.

SHARP: The real radical improvements, the real quantum changes are going to occur with a whole change of tactic. We acknowledge today that data processing is probably here to stay for quite a while yet. We acknowledge that data processing is on the increase and data processing rooms are getting larger, they’re getting more (in number), they’re getting overwhelmed, they’re getting doubled and tripled in size with the demand for 7x24x365 and Tier 4 instead of Tier 3, and that causes another expansion of systems and products.

The one thing that we do know is that data centres produce heat and in fact, 2% of the national production goes out as heat, I haven’t seen anything which really addresses that issue. I haven’t seen anywhere where that heat is now being recovered and reused.

Hospitals could be good at that because hospitals need hot water all the time, and their data centres are a good supply. But interestingly, hospitals are finding it more efficient to outsource their data centres to somewhere else, somewhere that doesn’t need a hot water supply. By that act of becoming more efficient the hospital is actually contributing to the carbon footprint. They adopt a business process that is in direct violation with the ethics and morality of the healthcare professional. So it’s an irony. It’s not something which is nasty and ugly and has to be resolved immediately, it’s just an irony.

But I think that if the heat that is generated from data centres could be diverted into something a lot more productive, ideally into agriculture for example that needs a supply of heat and humid air, then I think that’s one very real, very pragmatic and a very literal way of greening the data centre. Have it produce products that we can then eat, but I’m not seeing that quantum shift of attitude. There isn’t a huge movement out there that would see that happen.

LENNOX: There’s going to be a move towards intelligence in appliances, whether that’s monitoring humidity or heat dissipation and I also think it’s going to create a linkage between the logical network back to the physical layer, so that there’s a transparency through the entire facility and then better decisions can be made and we can sort out a new roadmap in that area.

BOYD: Well, (there’s) something that we haven’t touched on, that I’m very worried about myself and that’s the pollution of the airways. This has nothing to do with the fact that I install cable for a living, but I’d like to start a lobby group to eliminate all wireless data products from the planet.

MAGUIRE: You know when I went to school, I found it fascinating that in all the electromagnetic theory that we learn they tell you that these things don’t hurt you and you can sit under a transformer because it’s a dissimilar wavelength and all this other stuff, but at the end of the day for the last 40 years they’re still telling pregnant women not to sleep under electric blankets. I don’t know what to make of that, I can’t resolve that. That’s why I’d like to join your committee.

BOYD: It’s official. We now have a group.

BARKER: Moving on (laughter in the room), I would like to delve into data centre advances from both a structured cabling and networking perspective: What can we expect to see over the next three years in terms of advances?

KOSTASH: There’s just so m
uch going on in the data centre right now. We’ve recently seen the ratification of the OM4 fiber standard, which is going to drive 40 Gig and potentially 100 Gig in both server connectivity and backbone connectivity inside the data centre over the coming years. In general, there will be much more fiber intensive architectures coming in future years with pre-terminated MPOstyle assemblies and trunks that have not only the benefit of fiber bandwidth, but also the benefit of smaller footprint in terms of disrupting airflow and cooling in the data centre.

LENNOX: We’re going to push the network to the limit. As a result, consideration around the cabling plant has to take on a whole other level, so I do agree with you, Bob, absolutely. We’re going to push the network to the limit. As a result, consideration around the cabling plant has to take on a whole other level, so I do agree with you, Bob, absolutely. As various network topologies are being evaluated by customers, at the same time, they will need to consider the surrounding infrastructure and cabling plant required to support their performance and density requirements. So for instance, many 10Gbs+ switch configurations will be limited to 5 meter distance limitations as imposed by the cable plant. Without understanding how inter-related the logical and the physical infrastructure designs are, customers may have to rethink or worse, redeploy their short sighted design work.

MAGUIRE: Today in the data centre we’re approaching a crisis and actually IBM calls it the $25 billion dollar crisis and here’s what it is: 80% of data centres were built before 2001, which means 80% of the legacy data centres that are out there right now are Category 5E. At this point, we’re in a situation where through the driving of applications, specifically video and storage needs, we have a whole generation of data centres that is in urgent need of immediate upgrading, I think that truly the word crisis is something that is going to apply to data centres in the next one or two years.

BARKER: That should bode well for all vendors I would think, would it not?

ORESKOVIC: The data centre builds and the power and the cooling and infrastructure upgrades are on the rise despite the economy. My feeling is that the number of upgrades are certainly going to continue to increase over the next few years.

KOSTASH: A lot of those data centres that were built in pre-2000 may not be refurbished, they may be abandoned in favour of new construction, because it’s so difficult to upgrade while still physically running.

ORESKOVIC: A recent study indicated that 30% of the marketplace in this survey was looking at building

a new data centre within the next two years.

FRANC: I think to Bob’s point, the impact on the existing data centres is huge, in that you can’t take them down. What you’re going to see is the tool-less data centre where the fiber, the copper, everything is plug and play for rapid deployment for rapid retrofits without having to have major work done. You can’t take a data centre offline for six months, while you retrofit it, so you might get a one day window to swap out a row, and change that configuration. There will be demand for pre-terminated and modular type systems, which still require skilled design and installation, but it makes it a heck of a lot easier.

MYERS: We usually see the banks move first in Canada. They’ve got very significant investments in data centres, very significant costs around power and people. We’ve seen some projects where the previous design of separating compute from storage from network is now collapsing. We have been involved directly in some of these innovations that blur the lines between the physical and virtual world. So this is absolutely going down the road of virtualization quickly. And this means that some of the bank projects we’ve seen have taken their server footprints down by factors of five to 10 times. They had 10,000 servers and they’re going down to 2,000, that kind of thing.

FRANC: The capacity is still growing, though, right?

MYERS: Right. So the demands are going up. The good news is that more and more compute power is in a smaller space. People still have their needs to keep things separate, so they can put more and more of these virtualized servers on a host. We’ve seen people putting up to 24 servers within a single physical host. It becomes very memory intensive and the need to be able to squish the balloon around, if you will, to use a nontechnical approach to this, to be able to push load around in an elegant way means that you can’t have people repatching. So the network has to participate intelligently in redirecting the fabric.

KOSTASH: I think that we do ourselves a disservice by calling it plug and play, particularly with fiber, because really it is clean, inspect, plug and play, and you have to make sure that that’s being done properly and that there are qualified and trained contractors to do it.

BARKER: That ties into question four about the overhauling of the RCDD program by BICSI and the introduction of the NxtGEN initiative. Is it a smart move in your mind?

MAGUIRE: I’m excited to comment on this one because it’s so contentious and I just want to say that I think that it’s a smart move to self evaluate. BICSI did this with great risk to look at their program, which is extraordinarily successful. RCDD owners have a substantial amount of pride, but they recognized that there were some problems with the program.

First of all there were some concerns that there were people sitting for the RCDD that didn’t have the street credentials. That was one problem they identified, and another was that there was a sharp decrease in the number of specialty owners in the program. So they tried to evaluate what was going on and make some changes. I think they took a very logical approach, which is kind of like taking the analogy that if you want to be a dentist you don’t have to become a doctor first. The current program required you to have this very broad, very expensive RCDD knowledge before you gained experience in having the credential of a wireless expert.

I think the RCDD designation itself is actually going to be elevated to the premiere experts that have a broad knowledge of the industry. We won’t know until we get there, but I think that BICSI took the right approach by looking and identifying and trying to improve some real problems in the system.

LENNOx: Anytime an organization really takes a hard look at itself and wants to evolve as a desire to get better and provide more relevancy to its membership and to the community at large, is a good step.

And if I look at the two criteria that they attacked (it) was: what is the experience level that we require for an RCDD, and if they move it from three to five years, I think that’s a good message. The other point I would say is that, to me, it appears that they want to be far more inclusive.

They want to include the design community, and architects and consultants. And, when a body wants to become more inclusive when there are so many challenges that are happening and there are so many opportunities, it’s a great message for them to be sending right now.

KOSTASH: When it first came out it was very, very different and it was much simpler in hindsight than it is today. Nobody was doing security over IP, we weren’t doing Voice over IP, we weren’t building data centres the way we are now, so I think allowing people to specialize in those areas without, as Val said, having to first pass that arbitrary hurdle of the RCDD designation, is going to broaden the accessibility of BISCI. More people in the market will be able to participate and get their designation. It’s positive. I think it’s brilliant actually, and the timing was great.

BOYD: Brantz, in the world of IT, the accreditation from BICSI does it hold water? Or are people looking at wireless manufacturer training certificat
ions? We all have been immersed in the cabling industry for 20 years, so we all think it’s great we can get our wireless and LAN specialist (designation). Does anyone look at a BICSI LAN specialist and say: “That’s good, you’re equivalent to a CCIE” or whatever designation is talked about?

MYERS: We have our own certifications and it involves knowing how to implement our equipment. But really, where the rubber meets the road is what the customer asks for in an RFP. So if they are a Cisco customer, they might actually ask for an expert to not only be an RCDD, but also perhaps also Cisco certified. it really depends on the customer situation. As an example, we’ve seen in the past year healthcare switch from treating wireless as a secondary, nice-to-have network to the primary network.

FRANC: There are other technologies besides the ones that vendor A, B, or C make and that’s where BICSI specialty helps. It helps you understand wireless from a Wi-Fi, from a cellular, from a traditional radio frequency perspective, and the same thing on a cabling side. An RCDD knows more than just vendor solutions, they can talk about pathways, they can talk about spaces, and they can talk about administration and management.

BOYD: My point is the RCDD program in my mind is very effective, because there is a business need to have it for me. I mean, consultants are putting up specs (that) require me to have RCDDs on staff. Because of that we’ve invested in the program, we’re continually investing in the program. My question is does that exist the same way in that when a person earns the RCDD they immediately get a bump in pay, I mean, they’re more valuable to the company, they’ve done that … So not only do we pay for them to get it, but we give them more money when they get it. Is that the same in the wireless IT industry if somebody gets their BICSI wireless accreditation? Are they suddenly more valuable? Are companies going to pay for people to get their wireless accreditation from BICSI or are they going to pay for them to get their wireless accreditation from Cisco, or somewhere else?

FRANC: That goes back to the conversation we had two years ago, namely what’s the purpose of BICSI? Is it an advocacy group, is it a lobbyist group, is it an education group, is it a certification group, is it a standards creating group. To Val’s point I think they’re making a lot of good choices and self-examination, but I don’t think they’ve addressed their underlying issue: what is the main purpose of BICSI?

WEEKES: I don’t know what the answer is.

BARKER: Do you want to tackle that one Peter?

SHARP: I’m thinking out loud and it’s always risky doing that. But it’s something I do more frequently these days. It’s interesting when you get work coming in, an RFP doesn’t talk about putting wiring in, you know, it talks about putting in a network, it talks about putting in a building management system, it talks about putting a surveillance system. “Oh by the way, did we tell you we want IP cameras.” What the engineer, designer, consultant, whatever name you want to give this amorphous person, what they have to do is to take those needs, those wishes, those high-level hand-wavy requests that are coming from the end user and translate them into something physical and something that can be built and something that can work. The wiring portion is now incidental.

And I’m sorry to jump right to the end about being commoditized, but I think cabling has been commoditized for a good 10 years and I think the cabling vendors have done a brilliant job in doing that. You may not want to hear that, maybe it’s false praise, but I think you’ve done a fantastic job of taking a highly complex issue of how to get that many cycles down a piece of wire with incredible fidelity with ease and with a commodity approach so that everyone can understand it.

The real issue that we collectively have to address is what purpose is this wire being put to, and that really is at the nerve of every question that is on your list, Paul.

You know, you talked about data centres. Well data centres are a means of computing, the LEED issue talks about building management and how to best manage that resource which is an application after all, and that application isn’t going to work if you don’t have effectively good communications and that communications isn’t going to work unless you have the networking component to run it. Security is an incredibly important issue and I’m seeing the request for the credentials that Bill has mentioned appearing on more and more RFPs which are based on security and security alone.

I mean 10 years ago, you would never have got an RFP that says we want to improve the security on our building, and yet those projects are worth many millions of dollars because they affect the architecture of the building, they affect the exiting flows, they affect traffic management, they affect the lives and health and safety of people working at night going to their cars.

And it’s interesting that the liability for not providing due diligence for your employees today is now reflecting on the employer, who now has to take proactive action to ensure that their facilities are set up for the protection and welfare of their employees.

BARKER: To wrap up and further to Peter’s point, has cabling and networking become commoditized and conversely, will advanced IP collaboration tools such as cloud computing kick start the networking and cabling sectors?

MYERS: Cisco is one of the few survivors on the network equipment vendor side. There were many 20 years ago, but we’ve managed to survive through good management.

BOYD: I think that there are a number of things, and I agree, you’re in a great position because you’re driving new technologies and you’re able to capture that, so that by definition de-commoditizes what you sell. We used to see that back in the good old’ days when the technology came out before the standards. You could go out and sell it; it was sexy, people liked it, they bought it, off we go. Standards are great. BICSI is great, but it has been the driving force in commoditizing our business as far as I’m concerned because now all people care about is, “is it CAT-5E or CAT-6? Does it meet their requirements?” Yes. “OK. Then that’s what I want, give me a price, and I’m going to compare your price to him, him, him and him.” And, I also think that the engineering, not all, but a lot of the engineering and consulting industry has become commoditized as well. The price per square foot is being driven down and driven down and driven down. And, the result of that is they’re not playing as active a role as they have been seeing these projects through. It used to be 10 years ago a consultant would pick three or four contractors that they knew and trust that could do the job, they would bid to the consultant, they would analyze it, (and) they would see the project through the whole way. The idea that the consultant/ engineer is the advocate of the client, I think we’re losing that or have lost that already. And, they’re basically throwing specs over the fence, and we’re throwing numbers over the fence. That’s the definition of a commodity.

FRANC: You hit the nail on the head, when we break a very complex business need, we tend to treat all things as equal and they aren’t necessarily that. If I treat a vendor A’s Gig-E port that’s a commodity, a metre of cable is a commodity, a jack, a fixture, an outlet, a faucet are commodities, an hour of engineering time an hour of technical time have all been commoditized.

LENNOX: At Panduit, we talk about the unified physical infrastructure and bringing disparate systems across one platform so it’s manageable and you get an ROI. With that you’re bringing a lot of mission critical, power computing, communications, security, everything across one network. There’s a lot of risk. So it becomes a risk mitigation discussion. Back to Henry’s point: business need. The problem we
have is who are we talking to about that? Are we finding the right audience within the right client that values what we’re talking about? And, history tells us if we get the right technical influencer and the right person that is really faced with some critical challenges and opportunities, it could be consolidation and virtualization, then, we engage in a problem solving discussion, not a price discussion.

For example, you might have less cabling in the data centre, but the value of the link becomes higher. It’s a discussion that has to happen at a certain level of an organization to resonate.

ORESKOVIC: I think to the earlier point, the sum of the parts is where that value is. It’s that end-to-end that provides the value. The link’ has got to be strong enough, but the minute we can put a spec item to the link and define it, it becomes somewhat of a commodity.

MAGUIRE: With respect to cabling, I think that there’s a subtlety between something being commoditized and something being ubiquitous and we’re kind of crossing over.

To me, commoditized means it’s apples to apples, and I agree that Category 5 and Category 6 cabling are commoditized, and I think that structured cabling is ubiquitous, we see it everywhere, we use it to support coaxial applications, we use it to support RS-232 applications. But the cabling solutions that we need to solve today’s data centre crisis, the cabling solutions that support 10-Gig using copper or fiber are nowhere near commoditized, and the reason I say that is because there’s key differentiators between products. Some of these differentiators might be termination times, termination method, installation flexibility, features and benefits.

The reason 5E and 6 have become commoditized is because they are not the right grade of cabling to be installing today. Category 6A offerings are not commoditized nor are the connecting hardware components that support these cables. I don’t think we’re going to see that until 10GBASE-T and 10GBASE-SX become ubiquitous.

KOSTASH: There is no doubt there is a cycle there and it does seem to be accelerating. I mean, Category 5E was differentiable amongst competitors for a longer period of time than CAT-6 was, which is, no doubt, a longer period than 6A will be. So the pace of commoditization is faster, but I have great confidence in this industry’s ability, the people around this table and our peers, to continue to innovate to meet the business demands that ultimately are what creates the purchase order that gets the whole thing flowing.

There are all kinds of innovation still coming in the data centre space, whether it’s OM4, connectivity systems or different polarity methods. So there are still ways to differentiate and there will be more, but I think the R&D guys are going to be running very quickly on the treadmill, because commoditization catches up faster than ever these days.

BARKER: I use the term “kick-start” the industry and that may be the wrong term, but clearly we’re going through the worst economic crisis in living memory. Is what’s going on out there going to be enough to push start both sectors?

KOSTASH: I think it’s a factor for sure, cloud computing is really about not having to make your own investment in either infrastructure or software or development platforms. Those things can be hosted and become easier to access without a particular client making that investment, so what does that mean? Well, that means more data centres and bigger data centres and faster data centres…

The second panel did have its lighter moments. Once it’s posted, the video version of the panel will reveal what the group was laughing at.

WEEKES: But it also disconnects the customer from the solution you’re trying to provide, so that there are less people who are interested in cabling than we’ve ever had and they’re going to be under infinitely more pressure than they’ve ever been in designing those facilities in order to squeeze out every penny of cost.

MAGuIrE: I agree totally, but I think to answer the question you have to ask, is this going to result in more processing, and I’m not sure that it will. I think we’re going to have bigger data centres, fewer data centres, but I’m not sure cloud computing is going to increase the amount of processing, so it may be the same amount of cabling, just more of it in one location.

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“We have to be careful not to confuse green and LEED. Our discussion so far has really been on green issues, and I have no dispute with what is being said. The problem is that you can be as green as you want, and the question that Paul poses is what impact is it (LEED) having on the structured cabling professional? Well, LEED frankly isn’t having any impact. It’s having no influence, no effect. You can put as much junk or as much clean stuff into a building as you want and it’s not going to take away from the LEED certification and that’s an issue, and it’s a problem.”

-Peter Sharp