LANs (local area networks) are everywhere. From voice and data networks to building management systems, they’re bringing traditionally separate, standalone systems together under one network. Instead of having to manage multiple disparate networks for each system, a LAN can serve as the platform that supports a variety of low-voltage building systems, from data sharing and internet access to all-purpose connectivity.

Today, we’re moving into what I like to call the “LAN 2.0.” Through the Ethernet network and its parent structured cabling infrastructure that form a LAN, enterprise IT systems can be centrally managed and ultimately more efficient. That is the promise of LAN 2.0.

Whether it’s over copper or fiber, LANs are becoming pervasive.

LANs: The Early Days

The first LANs were designed to allow computers to exchange data files. Networking and cabling infrastructure were used to allow millions of computers and users to communicate back and forth.

Today, Ethernet over twisted pair cabling and WiFi are the most common connections in local area networks. But early LAN cabling was based on coaxial cable. In 1984, the first IEEE 802.3 standard for Ethernet over twisted pair wiring (StarLAN) used Category 3 cable to illustrate the potential of simple unshielded twisted pairs. Shielded twisted pair was used in IBM’s token ring LAN implementation. This eventually led to 10Base-T and its successors, as well as structured cabling – the basis of today’s commercial LANs.

IoT - The New ConvergenceLAN 2.0: Where it All Comes Together

The LAN has come a long way since its creation. Take a look at the technology and systems coming together on one. These different applications are converging to create a ubiquitous LAN.

  1. Voice and Data Networks. The merging of voice and data was the first movement we saw toward the ubiquitous LAN. The same cable and connectivity were used in the same rooms and pathways. With the advent of VoIP, voice and data truly merged at the networking level by transmitting voice data packets from one IP address to another over the internet.
Collaborating with Wireless Devices
  1. Wireless Networks. Evolving from a standalone, ancillary service for conference rooms, lobbies, etc. to an integral part of an organization, wireless has also joined the LAN movement. This has allowed the LAN to not only connect mobile users and users stranded at their desks, but also to connect fixed devices like wireless access points, IP cameras and HD monitors. As of this year, WiFi, wireless, wired LAN and wireless LAN have become equal in terms of performance. Wireless LAN is now equal to wired LAN in terms of switch ports as well. 
  1. AV Systems. Audio-video systems started out as separate networks, and are now merging with the LAN. It makes sense when you consider that AV systems, such as digital signage, require the use of a LAN to move real-time, media-rich content and high-quality images.
  1. IP Security. Security is increasingly important, and surveillance cameras are being installed building- or campus-wide. IP cameras have become an integral part of an organization’s security plan, so it’s a natural evolution to include security systems as part of the LAN architecture.
  1. Building Management Systems. These systems are the most recent addition to the LAN. They control and monitor ventilation, lighting, power, fire and security systems – just to name a few. Becoming part of the LAN ties together the distinct devices and systems within a facility.

More Coming...

Now that we’ve covered the applications coming together on the LAN 2.0, stay tuned for another post soon that will cover cabling infrastructure required to support the LAN’s ever-expanding role.

If you have questions about what the future holds for the LAN, or how voice, data, wireless, AV, security and building management systems converge on one network, contact us at 800.BELDEN.1 or www.belden.com/contact-us

Also, be sure to check out our white paper, "How You Can Optimize Passive Optical LAN through Structured Cabling."