Managing horizontal cabling supporting an ever-increasing number of intelligent peripherals at, or accessed from, the workplace can be a challenge for a company's IT personnel. Challenges can be particularly vexing in today's open offices where cubicles can be moved or workstations added or changed almost on a whim in order to respond to new business requirements. "Fortunately, standards guide the design of horizontal cabling systems in open offices," says Mark Bassil, co-founder and vice president of MAiSPACE, a Mt. Olive, NJ, based manufacturer of modular office furniture systems. These are embodied in the TIA/EIA-568-B.
1 standard issued by the Telecommunications Industry Association/Electronic Industries Association. These practices focus on the use of multiuser telecommunications outlet assemblies and consolidation points. They respectively serve multiple users in a furniture cluster allowing the bulk of horizontal cabling to remain intact during reconfigurations, and permit extending the horizontal cabling into individual office workstations. "A clear intent of TIA/EIA TSB75 was encouraging innovation among suppliers in order to simplify and lower the cost of moves, adds and changes (MACs) in today's technology-packed offices," Bassil says.
"When applied using appropriate cabling and connecting hardware, the standard can yield impressive savings in money and time in environments where MACs are a way of life and where network reliability is a key concern among IT infrastructure managers." Bassil cites as an example a high-technology company were staffing grew 3 to 110, sparking a need to replace a hodgepodge of used furniture with an integrated modular office furniture system more worker friendly to technology-intensive software development. "In this company it was not uncommon to see three computers per employee," says Bassil.
"This ratio was exceeded for personnel working on new network development, some of whom had multiple networks operating in their cubicles, each supported by a structured cabling system." To accommodate this high computer density, the company looked for a modular furniture system delivering a minimum of four (4) Cat-5 connectors at workstation wall plates, and absorb increased Cat-5 wiring density for both voice and data applications when called for. Cost was also a concern, but not at the expense of a system that was rugged and attractively designed. For these and other reasons, the company sought a modular solution fully compliant with standards governing horizontal cabling ? including TSB75. "Reliability was another key requirement," Bassil says, "Employees were involved in software development where an idle network means no work gets done." MAiSPACE was selected to supply the office furniture system because according to the company no other supplier remotely approached its cable management criteria, including storing and managing slack.
Most simply described, the design places consolidation points within the modular panel framework. These are constructed as a series of interconnect brackets. While connections are concealed for esthetics, removing panels (tiles) allows convenient access to the cable consolidation points to perform reconfigurations during MACs. From this point, solid factory-terminated and tested modular plug cable assemblies are routed within the integral cable pathways of the furniture system to the information outlets. "Space within the modular framework has been provided for cable service loops to support future relocation efforts," Bassil says.
"This helps alleviate the problem of cables always being 'two inches short,' a not unfamiliar situation when workstations are moved." According to the client, the design delivered a solution that virtually future-proofs its open office configuration with a zoned infrastructure that will support the most demanding of its networking requirements. To further facilitate MACs cable runs were numbered with their unique supporting hardware ? such as room, rack, panel and port ? as opposed to the location of the work station outlet.
"This helps smooth furniture relocations and recognizes the impracticality of identifying cables by workstation locations that may change," Bassil explains. "Each cable is identified and numbered to the consolidation point, then each horizontal cable between the consolidation point and workstation outlet is identified and tagged. The faceplate is likewise labeled and will retain its identity (back to the panel and port) until a future move may change its physical connection to a new consolidation point." The complete system is comprised of 118 standards-compliant cubicles for software developers, engineering, technical support and administration personnel.
In addition, 30 hard-walled offices have been outfitted with MAiSPACE furnishings. Added features are whiteboard panels in each workstation cubicle to encourage group interaction, and solidly constructed components that bear up under the weight of several computers and support equipment.
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