With fast data center and LAN deployment critical for meeting customer demand for information anytime, anyplace and on any device, the old saying, “time is money” holds more weight than ever before.
At the same time, today’s evolving construction environment means that those actually doing the deployment need to do whatever they can to cut labor costs.
Consequently, our industry is abundant with fast installation and time saving claims. Let’s take a look at the drivers.
While data centers and enterprise LANs were once viewed as supporters of a business model, today they are the business model. Virtually all business is now accomplished via the network, and companies are forced to keep up or fail.
With the constant demand for new applications and services from both internal and external customers, businesses are looking for any practice that allows them to get systems up and running faster and bring new technologies to market faster.
In the shrinking construction market, today’s network installers are often forced to bid on projects at reduced margins while still ensuring superior performance and reliability. With material costs set, labor is typically the one and only area that can be adjusted to bring down the bid. Plus, coming in under budget and ahead of schedule can go a long way in outlasting the competition.
With some of the latest construction management initiatives, it’s also no longer just about staying on schedule. Becoming popular for large complex projects like hospitals and universities, the integrated project delivery (IPD) approach developed by the American Institute of Architects to increase value to owners requires all stakeholders to pool their risk, increasing profits when projects come in under budget and losing money when they don’t.
While labor savings can be realized across many aspects of a data center or LAN deployment, termination has long been an area for consideration.
Consequently, pre-terminated cabling systems are on the rise in data center environments due to ease and speed of deployment, especially for high-speed data center fiber links that often require factory-terminated performance and connector types. However, field termination remains the more popular choice for copper, both at patch panels in the data center and work area outlets in the LAN.
Terminating copper cable involves stripping the cable jacket, separating pairs and conductors, seating each of the eight conductors to the proper IDC tower, and punching each wire down to make the connection and cut off the excess conductor. With this process taking anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes per jack, a project with 5,000 terminations can mean a minimum of 400 labor hours in termination time alone—and that doesn’t include the labor required to re-terminate the approximate 5% of the jacks that typically fail after testing.
Punching down is really the only step in the termination process where labor savings can be gained. It is also the step that causes the most hand fatigue, especially if you consider that a project with 5,000 terminations means punching down a total of 40,000 times.
Punching down also introduces some inconsistency—no one person is going to punch down each conductor of a twisted-pair copper cable with exactly the same amount of force and accuracy each time—especially as hand fatigue worsens. Termination inconsistency also means more time troubleshooting and re-terminating failed connections after testing.
Thankfully, punch-down tools have come a long way. Belden’s new Rapid Termination Tool for KeyConnect modular jacks punches down and cuts all 8 conductors at once using an ergonomic squeeze action. This delivers consistent, high-quality terminations that reduce hand fatigue and the need for troubleshooting and time consuming rework—reducing the average 5% of re-terminations to 2% or less.
Remember, the time it takes to troubleshoot, re-terminate and retest takes a lot more time than terminating a connector that passes the first time around. In fact, the Rapid Termination Tool can cut total termination time by up to 50%. That means networks can get up and running faster and installers can stay under budget and ahead of schedule—and ahead of the competition.
Mike Salvador is a 28-year industry veteran, living the challenge of operating efficient data centers, optimizing the performance of network devices and delivering highly available, highly agile, low-risk data centers. Mike served as Belden’s technical solutions manager from 2012 to 2015.