In the 1980s technology really started to take off. We were taking the advances made in computing over the last twenty years and improving on them at a seriously fast rate. With these technology advancements systems were getting updated regularly to keep up with business drivers.
Cabling in the 80s was much like a buffet on the Las Vegas strip. You weren’t quite sure what you were getting but the host guaranteed you that what was about to happen was going to be the best thing in the world. Every time a vendor did an install it would be different then what was currently in place. Different vendors did things different ways so that you were often stuck only being able to do things the way the vendor intended for you to do them.
When you upgraded technology the cabling system would be set up specifically by whomever you hired as a vendor. This locked you into a specific vendor and made it difficult to grow. In a world driven by MACs (moves,adds,changes), it was hard to work around what a previous incarnation of your cabling may have been and often times a new design would be necessary.
In 1991, with technology increasing rapidly and the majority of layer one installs floundering like a two legged dog on a frozen pond, the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) came swooping in like Superman to a bank robbery. They published the “Commercial Building Telecommunications Cabling Standard” (or for folks not fond of syllables the TIA-568). The first strike in the war against cabling anarchy had been struck.
With these standards, professionals were able to start cabling buildings according to a set standard. It became easier for companies to simply look for vendors who were adhering to standards. This allowed for more flexibility and a guarantee that the design coming in was going to work for the customer. If you were following standards, your system would interact with other devices with no problems.
The TIA-568 remains the standard for cabling procedures in buildings. It covers best practices, recommended topology, distance limitations by media, backbone cabling vs. horizontal cabling, as well as the definitions of cabling elements that are used on a daily basis. All spelled out into a standard volume.
The TIA released the TIA-942 in 2005. This standard focused on the minimum requirements for data center infrastructure. With technology rapidly increasing in data center environments, cabling again began to go the way of the wild wild west. Because there were no standards in place, the quality of data center cabling just wasn't where it needed to be. It wasn't uncommon that people would find themselves having to do way more work then they should and the end result wasn't pretty.
Enter the standards. Now the 942 covers a ton of topics in the data center including file storage, web hosting, power management, disaster hazards, etc. The cabling piece is actually a small part of the overall standard, but it remains a very vital overlooked piece in data center infrastructure. Much like the veins of a circulatory system, the proper data center cabling acts as the lifeline of your system. The best way to protect yourself and make sure you have an expandable modular design is to follow these standards.
The definition of a standard is “a level of quality or attainment.” Make sure you are striving for standards in any environment that matters.
How well do you understand today's fiber optic cabling standards? Download our free white paper Conflicts in Data Center Fiber Structured Cabling Standards to learn more.