Updated: Nov 28, 2022
Have you ever heard the term network convergence? Have you wondered how a converged network will benefit your company? As an RCDD (Registered Communications Distribution Designer), I live and breathe cabling and come across this topic on a weekly basis. As an RCDD, I have spent years learning about equipment room sizes and locations, optimum cabling solutions including pathways, EMI mitigation, grounding and bonding, rack layouts, and many other technical aspects. To be honest, with the way technology is trending, almost everything lives on, or relates to structured cabling, including voice/data networks, lighting and systems. Perhaps your eyes are glazing over already, or you feel overwhelmed? Don’t worry, my goal, by the end of this summary, is to put your mind at ease and hopefully answer any questions you may have.
What is a converged network? In layman terms, a converged network utilizes a single network for voice, data and video instead of utilizing separate networks for each of these services. What does this mean? From an Owner’s perspective, instead of having multiple vendors for internet, telephone, security, etc., all can be co-located under a single umbrella. Imagine a single point contact to alleviate all issues at hand, regardless of the problem? Maintenance costs can also be reduced as the need for technical and physical resources is minimized by utilizing a single converged network approach. Side note, by utilizing virtual local area networks (VLANs), various systems can be segregated onto their own network utilizing a common backbone cabling solution.
You may ask yourself, what are the advantages? In my opinion, there are several reasons why network convergence is becoming the new standard for businesses and should not be overlooked.
For one, easier network performance management. With converged networking, the entire network is designed for efficiency and scalability, thus enabling businesses the ability to add new services and functionality in a more cost-effective way. Network performance can be monitored from a single platform; on-site or off-site. This allows for streamline management and the ability to identify and address issues prior to becoming large problems.
Secondly, cost savings due to simplified cabling and hardware infrastructure can be achieved. Significant cost savings can be obtained by cabling for a single system compared to multiple systems.
The physical space required for hardware and equipment can be minimized, thus allowing for additional leasable space, if applicable. Cost savings can also be achieved when adding new services to the existing infrastructure, as installation is simplified in comparison to installing a separate network or service.
Lastly, intelligent management of energy resources is another plus! Maintaining and operating all property systems via a single network can help minimize technical and physical resources required. Elimination of both power and maintenance cost redundancies can also be achieved by utilizing a converged network approach, thus reducing the overall environmental impact. Given the current state of the earth, in my opinion, everything we can do to help reduce the impact on the environment must be achieved at all costs! In this case, costs can actually be reduced, and environmental impact minimized, which is a win, win!
You may ask yourself is there anything we can do to help prepare for a converged network? What should we be thinking about?
Fiber, fiber and more fiber. What type of fiber optic cable should we be installing; plenum rated, riser rated, single mode, multi-mode? If multi-mode, which multi-mode fiber optic cable is the right choice; OM3, OM4, OM5, etc.? How many fiber optic strands are required? Can we utilize a single fiber optic cable to send/receive data, or do we require a pair of fiber optic cables? What type of fiber optic connector should we be thinking about? Are there pros and cons with the various fiber optic connector types; ST, SC or LC? Should redundancy and diversity be considered? Should bi-directional fiber optic transceivers be considered versus traditional fiber optic transceivers? Eyes glazing over again??!!
Do we have Tenants in our building(s)? Do the Tenants have their own services or are they part of the base building services? If individual services, is there an opportunity for services to be provided by the base building at an agreed upon rate?
How much space is required? Are there vertically stacked riser room that could be utilized to house network and systems equipment? Could these riser rooms be utilized for vertical cabling pathways while maintaining diversity if redundant fiber optic cabling has been included?
Is redundancy recommended or required? Both from a cabling and power perspective. Should diversity be considered? Emergency and/or UPS power required?
These are just a few questions that will help drive the converged network discussion. Through learning and years of experience, these are questions that we answer on every project. We worry about the details, so you don’t have to.
In my opinion, network convergence is all around us and something we should all start thinking about. Preparing for the future now will only lead to success all around!