Nearly all Network Certification organisations rely almost exclusively on the tools used to perform the job. For example, if you are a Network Security Engineer and you are responsible for designing and building firewalls, you will typically use firewalls and other tools to build and test the firewall solution.
Similarly, if you are a System Administrator and you are responsible for managing the network, you will typically use tools such as Network Configuration Mappers and SNMP Utilities to manage the network.
Very few tools have the ability to cover all required aspects. The best tools cover a specific aspect of networking. When we say ‘best’, we don’t mean ‘most economical’; we mean ‘most comprehensive’.
For example, Network Engineers might maintain a Cisco Networking Desktop or a Microsoft Networking Experience. In many cases, the tools used to perform these functions are not updated to support the latest technology.
Nowadays, almost all Network Certification training providers offer Network Upgrade and Configuration/Manegementing, using tools such as Cisco Networking Experience, Microsoft Networking Experience, and so on.
In these tools, every aspect of Networking has been standardised, including standard network diagrams, network topologies, and more.
This can be problematic when considering the fact that software can be sub-optimal in some ways. It’s not the tools that are the issue, it’s the way the tools are being used. Unfortunately, most organisations don’t have the luxury of hiring certified engineers to use the tools, so the certification process is left to the professionals.
It has also become one of those operations where the target is constantly moving. Standards are revised to accommodate higher speeds, bandwidth expands, loss budgets shrink, and cable testing technology advances, all of which create a need for improved testing devices. It’s unlikely to become easier anytime soon. Here are four things to look for in a cable certifier if you haven’t taken a close look at the testing-device landscape recently.
- Operating Cost
- EF, Category 8, IoT:
- Distributor Support & Aftercare
Like almost any kind of smart device these days, the core technology and firmware built into cable certifiers are intrinsically expensive. In exchange you get (mostly) amazing math, graphics, storage, data analysis, reporting, and communication. How do you maximise the value of your investment in devices and still have what you need to handle your next call? One way is to look at modularity.
A system should be designed in such a way that it can be divided into smaller systems that are easier to implement, but also integrate with a larger system environment.
It’s important to know that not all certification companies test different kinds of cable. However, it may not be simple to locate one that offers a range of interchangeable adapters, connectors, and reference cables. Using less-expensive components to distribute some of the device cost is a good idea.
Using an extremely intelligent universal base unit with adapters for single-mode, multimode fibre, MPO/MTP fibre, or copper, WireXpert by Softing exploits this principle. The multimode adapter is also compatible with the newer encircled flux (EF) standard and includes a set of modally transparent test reference cords to ensure EF launch conditions.
This product was specifically designed to work with all types of UB and LC fibre systems, regardless of the cable type or configuration. With an adapter on one end and the WireXpert on the other, system integrators can test and monitor their fibre network from one location and view network performance and condition at a glance.
WireXpert is also interoperable with most other multi-mode fibre devices, provided the correct mode is selected using the connect button. For example, the MTP fibre adapter can be connected to the Softing multi-mode fibre terminal, and then connected to the other end of the fibre with a MTP coaxial cable. The Softing multi-mode fibre terminal can then be connected to the other end of the fibre with an MTP fibre adapter.
The soft fibre cable is formed from an extremely flexible polyamide (Nylon) material. This polymer has excellent mechanical properties and can be used in applications that require extremely low-k (low friction) conductive coatings. The flexibility of the material allows it to be used in a wide variety of applications, including cable TV and data communications. The polyamide fibre is used in the manufacture of medical and electronic cables, as well as in high-end luxury goods.
As a result, end users do not need to purchase an additional EF/MPO/MTP fibre kit, and the manufacturer can offer a full fibre product range at a lower cost. WireXpert by Softing also offers a hybrid function, which allows it to be used with both fibre and copper. The SoftingTM platform enables all types of networks, both wired and wireless, to be enhanced with modular, single- and multi-mode, high-speed connectivity.
Modularity is fine as long as it helps you manage operating costs. Deploying universal testers lets you reduce the number of more-expensive single-purpose testers in your fleet. But there are at least two other factors to consider.
Universal testers may be more expensive since they offer more functions, and they may be more difficult to maintain and repair since they have more features.
Another consideration is how well the universal tester fits your process. Modular testers may be more flexible if you have a process that requires testing at various stages. Single-purpose testers may be more efficient if you have a process that doesn’t require testing at every stage.
First, it limits the risk of a one-time testing failure. If you have a large software development effort, you will likely encounter some bug that was not caught during the initial testing. Universal testing allows you to rapidly add more expensive but more accurate test cases to prevent these types of problems.
Second, if you frequently change your software, universal testing provides a more accurate view of your code’s current state. This helps you avoid the trap of writing code that is not used.
Not all certifiers are created equal when it comes to the capabilities of remote and local units. In fact, a smart/dumb pairing is fairly typical. This is less of an issue if you typically work with a partner.
Otherwise, be prepared to keep walking back and forth to the local unit to troubleshoot and analyse test results. Our remote and local units are virtually identical, making one-person jobs much quicker and easier. Regardless of how things go onsite, interchangeability like this will always help technicians find ways to save time.
EF, Category 8, IoT:
In order to correct for the intrinsic variability of launch conditions in multimode fiber certifications, the EF standard (IEC 61280-4-1) was implemented a few years ago.
EF is now more important than ever because consultants, engineers, and manufacturers are specifying loss budgets that are tighter than conventional standards. The industry has progressed. If you are not EF-compliant, you are already losing an important tool for achieving certifications and winning business.
An EF-compliant controller can prevent up to a 50% reduction in the amount of energy lost through a process. We are at a point where it is more important to achieve an EF-compliant product than it is to win the business. The stakes are high, and it is not enough to just know the correct way to do it. You must do it the right way.
It does not matter if you are a manufacturing company or an engineering firm. If you do not have a process in place to protect against process failures that can lead to costly product failures and warranty voids, you’ll face damages.
The Category 8 standard recently being ratified has made it possible to test frequencies above 2,000 MHz. The 40-Gbit data centre is a reality, and testing above 1,200 MHz has become necessary. Most testers in the field only test up to 1,200 MHz, and contractors hope to upgrade some of their units as newer versions are released.
However, even if a company elects to go with a newer model, it’s still important to perform thorough testing to keep the unit performing at its peak. If a test point is only capable of testing up to 1,200 MHz, for example, it may not be able to identify all the possible issues a new unit is causing. Contractors are often required to upgrade their equipment during the course of a contract, and it’s important to keep track of which systems will be upgraded and which will need to be retested.
The WireXpert 4500 is available now and can test frequencies up to 2,500 MHz, making it the first Category 8 tester on the market.
It is also the only Category 8 product that can be used for Wi-Fi certification, as well as the only tester capable of accurately measuring the performance of the latest Wi-Fi technologies, such as 5G, for both client and access point interfaces. The new WireXpert 4500 also offers a number of new features, including a new probe design with a longer probe arm and a new feature that allows it to be connected to a phone or tablet via a USB cable.
It can also test LTE, W-CDMA and GSM networks. The WireXpert 4500 is a powerful tool for network engineers. It can do everything a regular multimeter can do, but it has more functionality and more options. It offers full diagnostic functionality to analyse and prevents issues.
High-speed enterprise networks, industrial automation and the Internet of Things are generating and consuming more data than ever. As additional platforms and protocols come online, network architecture grows more diverse. RJ45 connections, for example, are universal for copper, but certain industrial applications use M12.
Fiber connector types include FC, SC, LC, ST and MPO. With all the variety out there, you’ll want a tester that can be upgraded over time with adapter options for patch cord testing, VNA, M12 and MPO.
Distributor Support & Aftercare
With all that’s riding on network certification, contractors just can’t afford to be caught short with outdated, substandard, or failing equipment. And none of it is cheap.
You can buy popular cable certifiers for a pretty good price at the same online store you get your music. But what will the price be next month or next year? And what about accessories? Buying direct is a great way to manage costs for some things. Maybe not for cable certification equipment and supplies. You can’t expect to get anywhere near the same level of service and support you would when you buy through distributors.
Repair, calibration, loaners, accessories-all of these additional necessary expenses can be managed far more effectively through manufacturer and distributor service and support packages.
In a nutshell: Stay nimble by looking for modular certifiers that let you maximise your equipment deployment.
Look to manage operating costs with certifiers that make the task more efficient and convenient. Maintain headroom with future-friendly equipment; it’s hard enough to keep up, and it’s even harder to catch up. And don’t ignore the value of service and support. Distributors are much more interested in your success than the online music store.
It’s critical to maintain a healthy relationship with your distributor, and that starts with maintaining a healthy relationship with the manufacturer. Stay in touch and be sure to let the manufacturer know if there are issues that need to be addressed.
Ti2 is currently very focused on working with its global partners to secure stock and avoid long delay times in delivering products to their customers. Together with our trusted partners, we are here to provide solutions.
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