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The Economy & Category 6A

There was encouraging news in a report issued in late September by RBC Economics on the state of the Canadian economy. While the economy did contract by 3.4% in the second quarter, Craig Wright, senio...


September 1, 2009  


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There was encouraging news in a report issued in late September by RBC Economics on the state of the Canadian economy. While the economy did contract by 3.4% in the second quarter, Craig Wright, senior vice president and chief economist with the bank is predicting a return to positive growth by this quarter.

Improved financial markets, low borrowing rates and fiscal stimulus have moved the economy forward, he said, adding that he expects this current recession to turn out to be the least severe of the past three, even after the consecutive hefty drops in GDP output from late 2008 and early 2009.

The report projects growth of 2.6% next year, which should be enough to kick-start the IT sector as a whole, particularly in the data centre space.

There are positive rumblings on that front as well. Research firm IDC recently polled 300 data centre managers and reported that almost one-half of respondents indicated they plan to increase annual spending on mainframe hardware and software.

It will not stop there. Take storage as an example. “As more people access these systems, investments in capacity must me be made to accommodate increased usage of existing applications,” said Laura DuBois, program director, Storage Software, at IDC.

The ripple effect will grow, as long as IT managers and CEOs see the need to improve their network infrastructure and increase bandwidth through a structured cabling upgrade. An example of what is possible occurred earlier this month at the 40th WorldSkills Competition in Calgary (see p. 12).

A fact sheet from organizers of the event revealed that 8 terabytes of memory were installed, equivalent to 8,000 trucks full of books, 98 fiber locations with media cross throughout Stampede Park as well as “160 kilometres of fiber trenched throughout a 275,000 square metre area to connect close to 50 sites in real time over a Cisco backbone.”

Network equipment included 1,100 monitors, 900 desktops, 200 personal printers, 100 laptops and 105 46-inch LCD displays.

Draka International supplied over 43 kilometres of Category 6 cable. Category 6A will have to wait until the next competition in London, England in two years time.

Meanwhile, the seeming reluctance of Canadian organizations to adopt to the new standard is puzzling to many vendors and industry watchers alike including Carl Siemon. During a recent interview with the president and CEO of The Siemon Company (see story p. 6) I suggested that this country appears mired in Category 5E and 6 and asked him what is it going to take organizations to upgrade?

“I have been asking myself the same question,” he replied. “If it was two years ago, I would have said, well, the 6A standard hasn’t been ratified yet and maybe that’s the reason there is a conservatism here that needs to have that formalization first.

“Judging by our product mix on the copper media side, Category 6A and higher is only about 5%. That compares to the U.S. where it’s 25-26%. The trajectories are fairly steep. The key is education and we need to be more proactive in the market.”

The Internet traffic, he said, is not slowing down, nor is Moore’s Law — backbone speeds have become work area speeds consistently over time. It does not make a lot of sense to invest in Category 6 and below.”

As Lynx Networks, a U.K. network services firm, notes on its Web site, the “role of Cat 6A in our lives is to support 10GbE. That is its only advantage over Cat 5e and Cat 6, but a 10-fold improvement in bandwidth is pretty impressive.”