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Member Spotlight: Fluke Networks

Following is an interview with Jason Wilbur, Vice President and General Manager of Fluke Networks, discussing the NBASE-T Alliance and technology.

What was the motivation for joining the NBASE-T Alliance?

Fluke believes that NBASE-T™ solutions will become pervasive due to the strong need for enterprise networks to get the most out of their networking infrastructure.  As a company that has tested and certified literally billions of links, Fluke Networks has joined the NBASE-T Alliance to ensure the performance of NBASE-T solutions and drive forward its extensive heritage in the design of premises data cabling standards. Together, Fluke Networks and the NBASE-T AllianceSM will enable end users to deploy NBASE-T solutions with confidence.

How does Fluke Networks intend to enable the NBASE-T market?

As a leading provider of cable testing equipment, we expect to play an integral role in ensuring that NBASE-T solutions can be seamlessly deployed in the enterprise.  Network cables are central to the overall performance of the network, and our equipment is designed to test key metrics that ensure network cabling operates as it should.

What products can you discuss publicly today?

Our DSX-5000 tester is the first and only field tester to provide balance and mode conversion measurements.  These measurements impact the ability of the installed cabling plant to deliver data and power.  Cabling that doesn’t meet requirements can fail entirely, or worse, perform intermittently, resulting in costly downtime and lengthy troubleshooting.  The DSX tester can not only certify that cabling provides required performance, but can also pinpoint problems when the cabling doesn’t perform the way it should.

How are your products used to enable NBASE-T system deployment?

Our DSX-5000 tester allows customers to certify that their cabling meets the performance requirements needed to connect NBASE-T systems in environments that use Category 5e, 6 and 6A cabling.  We recommend that customers certify and test their links before installing NBASE-T hardware to ensure their links will work properly.  Because our tester can perform the necessary tests in less than ten seconds, there’s really no excuse for not doing this, and it can save hours of headaches and troubleshooting down the road.  Customers with installations previously certified to operate in Category 5e, 6, and 6A environments should have no problems with their NBASE-T migration.  Regardless, having a tester handy during the migration process can help troubleshoot any problems that might come up as the result of changes to the installed cabling after certification.  These changes can include moves, adds, changes or accidental physical damage.

What is your company’s role in IEEE standardization of NBASE-T technology?

Fluke Networks is an active contributor to the 802.3bz Task Force for 2.5G and 5G BASE-T. We are primarily concerned with the link segment definition and making sure that key parameters are specified to ensure robust operation.

What do your customers tell you about NBASE-T technology and/or their need for improved performance without upgrading cabling?  Are you able to quantify what percentage of your customers have resisted moving to 10G due to cabling costs?  In other words, how large is your market opportunity for NBASE-T solutions?

For several years now, Fluke Networks has been certifying existing Cat6 installations for 10GBASE-T traffic and this has proven to be very valuable for many of our customers. Certification of existing Cat6 and Cat5e cabling for these new BASE-T applications should prove to be even more valuable due to the relative numbers of installed links and increased demand for high performance.