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Issue of January 2005 

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Campus wireline

Wireline in the campus

Wireline infrastructure in a campus has traditionally been the preferred means of connectivity. We look at the technology options, issues, and future possibilities. by Soutiman Das Gupta

Companies with large campuses such as Hero Honda Motors Limited, BPCL, and Godrej Industries Limited have deployed robust campus networks that combine switched Ethernet with an optic fibre backbone. When it comes to connecting separate buildings optic fibre is preferred. Copper beyond a building is usually not a viable option. Although Cat 7 can support 10 GbE transmission, the use of copper in the outdoors has some disadvantages. Constant exposure to the sun and rain, along with temperature fluctuations can make the cable brittle and cause it to lose its properties.

"At most, an enterprise can consider copper cable to connect buildings that are not more than 90 metres apart. Beyond that, it's best to use optic fibre, says Rajesh Kumar, Country Head, Siemon India.

Gigabit ethernet indoors Fibre outdoors

Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) and 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10 GbE) have provided fast and reliable connectivity in the campus within buildings. The use of this technology in conjunction with an optic fibre backbone provides a robust solution for large enterprise campuses.

So what kind of fibre should a company deploy? OM3 is the latest standard from ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) and IEC (International Engineering Consortium). "It is essentially a multi-mode fibre that can utilise lower-cost light sources, such as light-emitting diodes or Vertical Cavity Surface-Emitting Lasers (VCSEL), to achieve speeds and distances previously only possible through more expensive single-mode fibre solutions," explains KK Shetty, Country Manager, Tyco Electronics Corporation India Ltd.

This is a popular technology and many organisations including the likes of Wipro Technologies in Bangalore, Wipro Spectramind in Delhi, Cognizant Technologies in Chennai, and the Benaras Hindu University use OM3 backbones in their campuses.

"For distances greater than 550 metres, companies should use single mode optic fibre cable. It works out to be cost effective and will last for a very long time," says DS Nagendra, Country Sales Manager, PremisNET, Krone Communications Limited.

Between each building, the fibre should terminate at an Ethernet switch which has the requisite number of fibre ports. In case a building has a small LAN infrastructure, the fibre link can pass through a fibre to UTP converter and terminate at a hub.

Intelligent cabling systems

Most growing organizations typically have a single hub or wiring closet where 400 to 500 or more nodes terminate. Whenever there is a change or move in a department—say a team of 50 is assigned to a different project, or a separate business division needs to be added—the systems engineer has to visit this closet and make the changes that are required.

The engineer has to ensure that the correct patches and connectors have been used with the right cords. Tracking the progress of changes and additions can be quite cumbersome.

Intelligent cabling systems introduce a software component that monitors and tracks changes made in the cabling system and automatically provides information regarding patches and connectors. The interface can highlight missing links or incompatible components in real-time.

Structured cabling issues

The use of structured cabling in the campus can give rise to a few issues.

Temperature changes: Extreme heat or cold can affect transmission quality of cables. To avoid this, the cables must be laid in sealed tubes and buried underground.

Broken links: Optic fibre cables are very thin and may break if they are bent too far. In such a case, digging out the cable from an underground passage can be cumbersome. To avoid this, companies are advised to use tried and tested cabling solutions from reputed vendors.

It's also a good idea to keep a cable testing tool handy. "It helps pinpoint the exact place where the cable has torn making it unnecessary to rip out the entire cable pipeline to search for a broken link," says Nimish Sonawala, Business Development Manager, Fluke Networks.

The campus of the future

"The success of a future proof campus network depends on how intelligently you plan the network," says Vikas Pinjarkar, GM, SCS Sales, D-Link India Limited. "Make a list of the kind of applications you plan to run and identify a core group of applications that will require the maximum bandwidth."

For instance, ERP and database information can be allotted a higher priority than e-mail messaging. Applications such as VoIP and those rich in media content can be given a robust low latency backbone.

Smart Cabling

"Intelligent cabling is one that is more responsive to user needs and has the ability to adapt to new technology or changes in the organizational structure," says Deepak Jagtiani, National Sales Manager, MPN, Molex India Ltd. For instance, if a cable has been removed from a port and plugged in elsewhere, the system will automatically inform you about the changes and compatibility issues. This approach gives flexibility and provides protection against the future as it simplifies additions, moves, and changes with the help of cable management techniques. See box: Intelligent cabling systems for more information

Campus networks of the future will be built on switched Ethernet technology, using a single mode optic fibre backbone, with 10 Gbps transmission capabilities. The use of composite cables, which have a few strands each of single mode and multi-mode optic fibre in the same jacket will also be preferred.

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at:

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