Contractors and installers—the professionals who are responsible for designing, installing and certifying structured wiring networks for their customers—are facing huge challenges as well as opportunities in today’s market. Several trends are having a dramatic impact on networking and on the roles of these professionals, who are charged with planning and deploying networks for organizations.

Wireless Networking
One of the biggest trends is the move toward wireless networking. Wireless is becoming a big part of most enterprise networks, and the trend is likely to continue with the growing popularity of devices such as tablet computers and smart phones in the workplace.

Many of the networks that are being designed and implemented today are either completely wireless or include a portion that is wireless. The wireless network infrastructure market is expected to grow by nearly 8% between 2012 and 2013, representing a $53 billion market worldwide, according to a report from research firm Research and Markets, entitled, “Wireless Networks Infrastructure Market (2G, 3G, LTE, WiMAX, WiFi): 2010 – 2017.”

Optical Fiber
Another trend is the use of optical fiber within enterprise facilities. Many organizations are installing fiber as demand for bandwidth continues to increase. According to a 2012 report on the fiber optic components market by Global Industry Analysts Inc. (GIA), the global market for fiber components is projected to reach $42 billion by 2017. Growth will be driven by the increasing demand for bandwidth and the ensuing need for fiber-based broadband, as well as robust growth in mobile Internet and other factors, the firm says.

Many organizations are preparing for 100 gigabit over fiber transmission, and that’s going to involve the use of Multifiber Push-On (MPO) Connectors. MPO connectors are new to many cable installers as well as end users, so there will be a learning curve involved. With MPO, there are more opportunities for errors in connections, because the technology is a lot more complex.

Contractors are also facing changes in how data centers are being designed and built, as more organizations move to a cloud computing model. Many companies will rely on a hybrid cloud environment that consists of private cloud infrastructure and public cloud services.

 

To prepare for this rapidly changing network environment, contractors and installers must obtain the knowledge experience and training they need to meet the evolving requirements of customers.

Structured wiring network professionals are expected to be experts on many if not all of these areas, or at least be highly knowledgeable about them. They need to be able to demonstrate to customers that they understand the changes underway in the marketplace and the impact they are having on enterprise networks.

In many cases, that’s going to mean getting training, either through refresher courses or by learning entirely new disciplines. Contractors will need to understand, for example, how to design wireless systems, and how to write fiber test specifications and fiber design specifications. They will also need to learn about cloud computing and the data center, VoIP systems and the impact of big data on enterprise networks.

Many people in this field already have a lot of the technical background they will need to meet the new challenges. But some will undoubtedly need additional training in areas such as wireless network design and testing, and nearly everyone involved in network design and implementation will need some type of additional learning in order to get up to speed.

Regardless of how contractors get training or how much instruction they receive, the point is they need to be knowledgeable in understanding these technology trends even before they begin the network design process. If they are designing a network that uses fiber, for example, they will need to know the potential impact of having too many connections between the two ends of the network.

In general, structured wiring network professionals need to understand the design implications of each of these trends and be able be to incorporate that into their cabling jobs. A lot of times they can do this by getting really close to the vendors that provide turnkey solutions, and rely on that as their point of safety. But that’s not the best kind of designer, because that can box the client into vendor-specific solutions, which is not always the most cost-effective approach.

With proper training and certification, contractors will be able to deliver the kinds of network design, testing and implementation that their clients are expecting. If they understand the technology and design implications of the trends in the industry they will be able to design networks with an open architecture that can take advantage of interoperable systems.

BICSI provides information, education and knowledge assessment for individuals and companies in the ITS industry. BICSI telecommunications distribution design courses serve as a career path for those seeking advanced knowledge in this area. The RCDD is the Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) certification.

Those awarded with the RCDD designation have demonstrated their knowledge in the design, implementation and integration of information technology systems and related infrastructure.

The stakes are high, and so are the potential benefits. If contractors are able to write better specs and designs and enable a smoother implementation, that will result in fewer callbacks and redesigns. From a competitive standpoint, gaining a reputation for creating better designed networks and more successful deployments will likely lead to more clients and more business.

 

A number of solutions on the market can help contractors and installers address the challenges of a changing networking landscape.

For example, Fluke Networks offers site survey tools that allow contractors to simulate a wireless network before buying a single access point. They can import a map of their site and add virtual access points, virtual walls and other features, and determine the correct quantity and placement of access points needed to meet certain performance criteria. RF spectrum analyzers can help detect, identify and locate RF interfering devices that cause over 66% of all wireless LAN problems. Performing a site survey and RF frequency sweep can reduce deployment time, minimize the need for re-work, and reduce overall deployment and implementation costs.

Another offering from Fluke Networks, LinkWare, gives network professionals the ability to manage test results data from multiple testers with one PC software application. It makes project setup easier by helping them quickly organize, edit, view, print, save or archive test results by job site, customer, campus or building. They can merge test results into an existing LinkWare database and then sort, search and organize the results by data fields or parameters. Any data uploaded to a computer with LinkWare ensures that the results stored came from the testers' memory.

Fluke Networks MultiFiber Pro Optical Power Meter and Light Source is the industry’s first MPO fiber trunk tester that validates the performance of all 12 trunk fibers in a single test, and reduces testing time by nearly 95%. MPO fiber trunks are the backbone for 10 Gbps, 40 Gbps and 100 Gbps high-speed data centers—the fastest growing segment in the industry. It takes an average of 6.5 minutes to set up and test each of the 12 fibers in an MPO trunk, but the MultiFiber Pro reduces that time to approximately 20 seconds (14 seconds for set up, six seconds for testing). For the average data center with 1,600 MPO trunks, the MultiFiber Pro tester can save contractors more than 155 hours of labor and $17,000 in costs, assuming an average burdened labor rate of $55.

Fluke Networks OptiFiber Pro OTDR is the first OTDR built from the ground up for enterprise fiber testing. OptiFiber Pro is focused on reducing costs while enhancing productivity and improving network reliability.

It has the industry’s only smartphone interface. The DataCenter OTDR configuration eliminates uncertainty and errors that occur when testing data center fiber. The products ultra-short dead zones enable testing of fiber patchcords in virtualized data centers.

 

Related Resources

Fluke Networks provides many resources to help our customers solve (Guide to Contract Installers and Installation) challenges. Some require a simple registration. See a complete listing of webcasts, white papers and application notes for other topics.

Whitepapers:

Troubleshooting Your Industrial Network
Ethernet is rapidly spreading across a wide range of industrial environments. This standardized, plug-and-play technology is easy to install and it works 90% of the time. But when it doesn’t, it is not so easy to understand why. This paper explores some of the key troubleshooting causes & issues for industrial networks and what can be done to quickly recognize, locate, and solve them.
Ethernet in Harsh Environments
While there are many similarities between corporate and industrial Ethernet networks, there are also crucial differences. The standard corporate Ethernet cannot simply be "teleported" into an industrial environment and succeed. This article discusses the unique issues that can arise when you deploy Ethernet in an industrial environment and how to avoid production downtime caused by these issues.
Finding Your Way in the Maze of Industrial Ethernet Standards
If you are an industrial automation control engineer or technician embarking upon the design and installation of an industrial network, you will quickly confront a bewildering array of standards written by a host of international, regional, national and trade organizations. This white paper will give you some historical perspective on what has caused such a proliferation of standards. It presents an overview of the primary standards organizations you should be familiar with and how they relate to one another (if at all).

 

External Resources:

Open DeviceNet Vendors Association
A global association whose members are comprised of the world’s leading automation companies. ODVA’s mission is to advance open, interoperable information and communication technologies in industrial automation.

 

Product Solutions:

DSX-5000 CableAnalyzer™
Accelerates every step of the copper certification process
SimpliFiber® Pro Optical Power Meter and Fiber Test Kits
Simple-to-use fiber-loss tester with advanced time-saving features. Companies can choose from various kits with configurations to meet fiber verification, inspection, and cleaning needs.