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Managing Director of Panduit Canada

A Conversation With Steve Lennox.


July 1, 2007  


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CNS: What is your strategic alliance program all about and how has it helped shaped your company’s overall product direction when it comes to both structured cabling and the networking sector?

Lennox: Any alliance program is about deepening and/or broadening the solution an organization can provide to their customers. Panduit’s Alliance Strategy is no different.

Convergence has driven and continues to shape our industry and by allying with market leaders, we help customers justify and deploy converged technologies and applications more effectively. We take great care to ensure the alliances are based on true collaboration and not “press release” relationships.

CNS: A Panduit white paper on your site states that the physical layer is essentially the true “edge” of the network, but unfortunately has the least amount of visibility of all of the critical components making up the network infrastructure. Why is that?

Lennox: The physical layer is the foundation layer (ISO layer 1) of the network and traditionally is managed via pencil and paper. In other words, proper labeling standards dictate that all horizontal cabling, patch cords and outlets are labeled for traceability, but over time, the paper documentation fades and may not be kept up to date.

Intelligent physical layer management systems create a relational database, which maps the physical layer connections to the logical connections on a network.

When network changes are made, the database is changed correspondingly. That keeps the physical layer up to date for audits and traceability.

CNS: When it comes to so-called “hot” new product initiatives, Power over Ethernet is garnering a great deal of interest as is the next-generation standard (IEEE 802.3at) or POE Plus scheduled to be ratified next year. What are your thoughts on the technology?

Lennox: Applications that provide a need for Power over Ethernet are becoming commonplace.

For example, millions of Voice over IP lines are being installed as well as wireless access points and IP surveillance cameras all of which utilize PoE because of ease of installation, reliable connectivity and power backup.

Other applications that include automated unified building controls, Pan, Tilt & Zoom cameras, information kiosks and PoE-powered thin terminals will all benefit from the next generation in power over Ethernet technology.

This unification on the wire will bring more importance to copper infrastructure, which provides the most reliable security in terms of data carriage, unified power management and high-speed connectivity.

CNS: Is it something that could change the face of networking as we currently know it?

Lennox: A significant driver is the expansion of the Ethernet/IP network to accomplish tasks that now require a separate power infrastructure.

This will include new applications such as PTZ cameras, RFID systems, industrial devices and even laptops.

As Ethernet continues to expand into new areas, building systems, access control and industrial networks, having significant power available over the network will accelerate the pace.

In addition, there are other disruptive technologies on the horizon. Liquid cooled cabinets for the data centre, 100 GigE and the potential for DC power in the data centre will continue to provide real excitement for our industry over the coming months and years to come.

CNS: You released the TX6 10GIG Shielded Copper Cabling System in January. What are you customers telling you when it comes to their adoption plans for 10GBASE-T?

Lennox: We are seeing a significant up-tick in projects and enquiries for all 10G offerings in the data centre and for high bandwidth applications.

Electromagnetic interference (EMI) can affect mission-critical healthcare applications such as imaging, MRI and telemetry.

Government facilities can benefit from the additional measure of protection-shielded products provide as they maintain the integrity of sensitive information by reducing the possibility of data interception through minimized signal emissions.

CNS: Panduit is a major sponsor of a roadmap developed by the Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA). Where do you see this whole initiative heading?

Lennox: Panduit’s sponsorship of the Intelligent Buildings Roadmap (IBRM) reflects our belief that manufacturers who service this industry must truly understand the needs of the building owners, operators and designers.

The IBRM clearly identifies these needs, as well as the barriers — both perceived and real — preventing wider adoption of intelligent building technologies and processes.

The IBRM also includes a challenge to CABA to develop some new approaches to promoting and developing the industry.

As a member of the CABA board of directors, Panduit will play a role in this effort.

New technologies such as IP telephony, Wi-Fi, PoE devices and remote business applications continue to be embraced.

Sometimes you don’t get the roadmap right, but just by being at the front-end and attempting to lead you can end up finding the right path.

Extending the reach of the IP-based network to all devices in the enterprise is really going to allow building systems to be considered a true business asset.

However, there are challenges to creating these dynamic environments. Due to the complexity of converging several disparate networks, it is going to be imperative that the diverse vendor community work together to provide a scalable solution that addresses the needs and expectations of the new workplace: financial benefits for owners/developers, employee safety and security, workplace mobility, increased productivity, portals into multiple converged systems and an environment that is both green and energy efficient.

Our solution addresses the required infrastructure by extending an existing cable management system to encompass the information technology, data centre, control panel, electrical and low voltage wiring markets.

CNS: Your company co-hosts an SI summit on the Mayan Riviera in Mexico each year to discuss IT challenges and explore future trends. What type of value do you get from holding events such as this?

Lennox: As with any customer event we are able to continue to listen to and understand the needs of these organizations.

We include Alliance partners to increase the educational value of the event. It is a special opportunity to be able to help our partners network, learn and have some fun doing it.

Like a lot of things it began humbly and was initially targeted to the Latin American customer base and partners that we have. It just grew in momentum.

What we witnessed was a desire or thirst of a customer base that wanted to learn about what is coming next and emerging technologies.

You can never underestimate the benefits of bringing customers together. That is the real cool part of it.

CNS: Finally, in comparison to the U.S., how different or similar is the Canadian market?

Lennox: As I see it, the supply chain model and how business gets done in the structured cabling market is very similar between the U.S. and Canada.

As with any region in the world we compete with legacy specifications. In Canada, we have all the major global vendors and players with some type of presence, but with only 32 million people, our market is much smaller and spread over a vast geography.

This makes it challenging for some companies to achieve national coverage. As far as Panduit is concerned, I think the aggressive investments we have made in good people across the country, combined with a strong commitment to service, have helped us accelerate our progress and outpace market growth.

You ha
ve to demonstrate that you are committed to this marketplace. That means sustainable, long-term effort that is backed up by an investment.

The other observation I would have that affects parts of our business is that there are some sectors that have been experiencing great pain. Take the manufacturing sector for instance. You throw in global competition and a rising Canadian dollar and there are pain points.

In general terms, we’ve seen that productivity in Canada lags versus the U.S. To that end, Canadian companies are recognizing the need to invest in automation, machinery and technology to keep up with the competitive landscape here and around the world. That is encouraging for all of us.

We are seeing a lot of foreign investment in our country. We may be only 32 million people, but on a global scale our resources are in great demand, we have a stable geo-political situation and in most cases the Canadian quality of life is stellar. The future is bright.