Ethernet engineers have complicated work. Upgrading equipment, meeting budgets and deadlines, and ensuring maximum uptime all land in their wheelhouse.
There’s no question that since 1985, there’s been a lot of progress made when it comes to network speed. This year, 400GB ethernet is set to be ratified.
And this is on a platform that many considered to be past its prime.
In reality of course, ethernet as a technology is still on the rise, its growth being fueled by developers in some surprising industries.
But first, let’s take a look at some of the latest developments. Then we’ll get to those exciting new uses of ethernet technology.
New Standards Are on the Way
Last March, the IEEE Standards Association announced the approval of New Ethernet Applications, an IEEE-SA Industry Connections (IC) Program activity. Their goal is to quickly identify and address standards development requirements to support the growing list of broader uses of IEEE 802.3.
As more industries get involved the calls for standards-based Ethernet solutions get more insistent. The chair of the New Industry Applications IEEE-SA IC project, John D’Ambrosia, is currently collaborating on the 802.3cg standards.
This meeting-of-the-minds will address the need for a clear and focused roadmap for the near-term future. With so many technologies leveraging Ethernet and benefitting from recent improvements, additional considerations are necessary.
In short, since there are a wider range of products relying on Ethernet, the need for new standards is growing. Look no further than the standardization related to 2.5 Gb/s, 5Gb/s, and 25 Gb/s Ethernet.
The following are among the key goals of the 802.3cg collaboration:
- Assess emerging requirements for the development of Ethernet standards
- Identify gaps not currently addressed by IEEE 802.3 standards
- Facilitate building industry consensus towards proposals to initiate new standards development efforts
How this collaboration shakes out? We’ll have to wait and see. But we’re excited to see momentum taking the industry in this new direction.
What’s Fueling the Growth?
Ethernet is a great technology to leverage in order to lower operating costs. It’s one of the many reasons it’s being leveraged across a wider range of industries than ever before.
In manufacturing and design, for example, the LED lighting boom has been substantial. It’s brought about the development of both bulbs and systems that emit a more natural type of light. The benefits of this lighting are many, and can include better:
- Well-being and morale
- Energy cost-savings
Providers like Philips have directed increasing amounts of revenue and resources into the development of these technologies.
That is how we as an industry have gotten to this moment.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the verticals and technologies are that now have the opportunity to shape the discussion and formulate these additional standards.
New Applications of Ethernet Technology
This broader and more varied IEEE 802.3 scope includes (NG-ECDC) Industry Connections Next Generation Enterprise, Campus, and Data-Center activity. Next generation IT includes greater scalability, self-analyzing features and as with all Ethernet applications–cost effectiveness.
Study of these features has led to the 802.3cg a Standard for Ethernet Amendment: Physical Layer Specifications and Management Parameters for 10 Mb/s Operation over Single Balanced Twisted-pair Cabling and Associated Power Delivery.
In a nutshell, the team is identifying areas that represent growth opportunities in the following areas.
1. Ethernet technology in the automotive industry
Driver assistance by way of rear view cameras is one place Ethernet solutions are already mainstream. Car audio and video systems, wireless access points, security systems and diagnostics are all features that ethernet technology either enables or enhances.
Last but not least, the computerized systems that enable driverless technology are connected by (and dependent upon) Ethernet.
Smart cities are both connected and sustainable. The goal of the smart city, is to make the most of lighting, heating and cooling, and provide increased security through deployment of poe remote cameras in public spaces.
The Top 10 US Sustainable Cities include New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle. Part of that sustainability is judged by how well the city supports the people who live there. It’s about quality of life and Ethernet is definitely playing a role in that quality.
Ethernet is also helping bring innovation to the datacenter.
Engineers are turning to this power and data solution for a whole host of purposes. These range from linking servers, network virtualization, virtual machine migration, video on demand, the IoT.
The draw is clear. Big data delivery without the increased power consumption. We recently covered hyperconvergence as well, an exciting innovation in the space.
While putting together a more inclusive set of Ethernet standards, collaborators must consider a few key items. Of paramount importance, are the implications of the autonomous technologies being implemented in the driverless car.
How much of the IoT will become robotic? How many autonomous devices will be in our homes?
Make no mistake, the number of connected and powered devices will increase in the future. Just take a look at the meteoric popularity of the Amazon Echo. An ethernet connected home is no longer relegated to the realm of the science fiction author.
We can’t wait to see what’s next, and what new standards help pave the way to greater advances.
If you’re currently working on an Ethernet project and would like some help choosing the right device for your customer, reach out. We’re always happy to help.
Managed switches are on the rise, and showing no sign of slowing down. Their uses are many, but one fast-growing industry where managed switches truly shine is the PoE lighting vertical.
We’ve been building and providing top-notch equipment for the network professional and installer community for over 21 years. So it should come as no surprise that we’re right in the thick of things when it comes to managed switches.
We’re proud to showcase our proprietary managed switch, the VX-GPU2626. Taking aim directly at the Cisco 3850, the VX-GPU2626 delivers the same quality at a fraction of the cost.
But don’t just take our word for it. PoE lighting industry expert Cliff Wilson of GENISYS was kind enough to share his thoughts as well.
Let’s Talk Specifications
The VX-GPU2626 is an L2+ Managed UPOE Switch with 24 ports. UPOE (Universal Power over Ethernet) is basically PoE on steroids.
It means that the power provided can get up to 60 watts per port. UPOE also enables better functionality with L3 features like a static routing.
The L2 layer is optimized for better data transfer between adjacent nodes on the same LAN.
It also offers 2 Combo GbE RJ45/SFP ports and an RJ45 Console port. The unit includes two 1100W power supply units. If you need backup power supplies we have an additional power supply units available for purchase.
The VX-GPU2626 high HW performance and environment flexibility make it ideal for SMBs and Enterprises alike. Management simplicity, an intuitive user experience, and a lower total cost of ownership make for a compelling package.
The embedded Device Managed System is designed to be extremely easy-to-use. Managing and installing a variety of devices couldn’t be simpler. IP phones, IP cameras, high power wireless APs and LED lighting systems are all on the menu.
Feature-Rich Ethernet Switch for Enterprise-Class
The VX-GPU2626 has a bevy of other benefits that are particularly well suited for enterprise clients.
One of the most appealing is a comprehensive suite of security capabilities. These features include IP source guard and an access control list (ACL) to guard your network from unauthorized access.
The ACL allows traffic blocking to occur at the switch level, thus further securing sensitive areas of your client’s network (servers, etc).
Another tangible benefit is the ease of use. The VX-GPU2626 is simple to install and configure. If you have to have someone in-house install the unit, they’ll be able to plug-it into your network without a Masters in IT or an Electrician certification.
Last but not least, troubleshooting is even made easier through our intuitive Device Management System (DMS). Our DMS facilitates remote device management. Admins can check on any number of data points, anytime, anywhere.
That’s pretty helpful when a network administrator needs to check on something in the middle of the night. Now they won’t need to leave home to get the lowdown.
- L2+ Managed features provide easier manageability, robust security, and Quality of Service (QoS).
- Built-in Device Management System (DMS)
- DHCP Server
- IPv4/IPv6 Management
- PoE Port configuration and scheduling
- Dual hot-swappable 2200W power supplies
- Support Universal Power over Ethernet (UPOE), 60W, standard
- IEEE 802.3az EEE Energy Efficient Ethernet standard for green Ethernet
The complexities are handled when you choose the VX-GPU2626. You just need to plug it in.
Energy Efficient Design and Cost of Ownership
The VX-GPU2626 leverages the latest technology to lower energy consumption. Thus its total cost of ownership (TCO) comes in substantially lower than Cisco’s 3850, while still maintaining IEEE 802.3az compliance.
UPOE not only jacks up the power output of each port, but it also enables the use of many power saving features that the latest IP devices offer. Power scheduling, custom PoE configurations and the like are all possibilities to consider.
At the end of the day though, the truth is in the numbers.
Cisco’s 3850 comes in at an MSRP of around $6k. That doesn’t include the support contracts that you may be required to purchase as well.
Our VX-GPU2626 only MSRPs for $1750. Not too shabby.
Considering that the PoE lighting industry relies on scalability, and cost is measured by the port, let’s take a look at the numbers. Our device costs ~$70/port, while Cisco’s is closer to $250/port.
So when engineers are speccing a PoE lighting project, it starts making a lot more sense for them to consider our much more affordable solution for scaled lighting installations.
This of course compounds with the substantial savings of going with PoE lighting in the first place. The efficiency of PoE truly shines when it comes to these installations.
Simply put: a regular AC power wall jack needs to have an open line of 120W at all times. PoE on the other hand, only delivers power as needed. PoE lighting is considered up to 99% efficient, while AC power is only around 60% efficient. For those of you that are curious, here’s a paper that does a deep dive on the subject.
We’re excited to be helping with so many PoE lighting installations, and we know that the VX-GPU2626 will continue to be a frontrunner in the space.
So when you find yourself pitching an upsell to a client, be sure to consider the substantial cost-savings of choosing our managed PoE switches.
If you have any further questions on how to pair the VX-GPU2626 with other parts of a PoE lighting installation (or any other network type for that matter), be sure to give us a call.
Over the past 10 years you’ve probably heard a lot of banter about Bitcoin. If you’re the curious type, I’m sure you’ve already done a deep dive on how it all works.
But for the uninitiated, it can actually still be quite confusing. This despite how much information is freely available today.
So just what is a Blockchain? What’s a bitcoin?
Well, at it’s most basic level, Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency. Meaning, it’s an entirely digital form of currency.
What many originally believed to be nothing more than a fad, has proved to be quite lasting and noteworthy. It’s even, dare we say it, revolutionary!
As the general public has become increasingly educated about the benefits of cryptocurrency, they have started to earnestly invest in it. Not only that, but it’s actually becoming quite common for people to use bitcoins to buy all manner of things. From dog treats and beer, to plane tickets and even luxury residences.
Recently, it’s worth noting that there are many more players in the cryptocurrency game than just Bitcoin. Other currencies have begun to pop up, like: Ethereum, Zcash, Litecoin, and Ripple to name a few.
The situation is the same with these digital currencies. What’s most exciting to us, is not necessarily the currency itself, but the blockchain!
To many, the blockchain is the breakthrough that has the potential to truly revolutionize the world and business.
In a recent TedX talk, Don Tapscott explained this revolutionary technology in a very digestible manner. It’s well worth the listen.
Tapscott is a digital strategist and has just written a book: The Blockchain Revolution. In it he defines the blockchain as an ingeniously simple, revolutionary protocol that allows transactions to be simultaneously anonymous and secure by maintaining a tamperproof public ledger.
Tamperproof transactions… online? Sounds almost too good to be true. Especially in light of the recent Equifax breach.
Let’s take a closer look at how blockchain technology was developed.
How Blockchain Began
After the big bubble burst in 2008, an anonymous person (or people) calling themselves Satoshi Nakamoto (a pseudonym) wrote a paper that laid out the protocol for a new form of digital transaction using cryptocurrency. More specifically, Satoshi Nakamoto is responsible for designing both bitcoin and the first blockchain database.
The goal of the database was simple enough. Enable people to perform safe transactions without the need for an intervening 3rd party (think big banks or credit card companies).
And the blockchain database can accomplish just that. There’s no need for an intermediary like a bank, the government, or payment company.
It enables users to send and receive money securely in seconds. Consider the benefits…
- Heavily encrypted
Bitcoin itself fluctuates quite a bit, and is essentially an investment driven opportunity. Blockchain on the other hand, has turned out to be a rock solid foundation for business.
Think about it like this. If you have a smartphone and a wireless access point, you can get instant access to the wealth of human knowledge thanks to the internet. That is essentially what blockchain can do for money and business.
Blockchain does for money, what the internet did for the democratization of information.
Blockchain Is a Digital Ledger
Blockchain assets are distributed across a vast, global ledger.
When a transaction happens, it’s posted around the globe on millions of computers at once, and not through a centralized 3rd party.
Every 10 minutes a new, time-stamped block gets created that captures all of the transactions that took place within that previous span of time.
It’s a networker installer’s dream come true! Millions of computers linked through one vast network. Fascinating stuff.
Things that intermediaries are required for with other types of transactions, are completely handled by the blockchain approach.
- Authentication / Identification
- Clearing payments / Settling
Blockchain does all of that, and it’s much more secure because of its decentralized redundancies.
The problem with centralized entities is that they can get hacked.
Because millions of decentralized, time-stamped blocks are recorded simultaneously across the globe, hacking that poses a substantially more difficult challenge.
Last but not least, it’s worth noting that when you are transacting through blockchain, a smart contract takes place.
How Smart Contracts Work
Traditionally, businesses and people who want to buy things like a house or new car would need to do so through a broker or dealer of some kind and put all of that information into one system.
Fees for those services are typically spread between buyer and seller. The third parties themselves can make a pretty penny through this process. International money transfers, for instance, can cost up to 10 percent of the amount being sent!
As an alternative, Ethereum blockchain transactions have something called a smart contract built in.
A smart contract is simply a software program that automatically stores and executes the terms of the contract while the financial transaction is taking place. It’s considerably less expensive than the alternative.
This added piece of the puzzle is at the heart of why intermediaries aren’t needed. It also ensures safety for both parties involved in the transaction since both will retain a copy of the smart contract.
The chronology of things transacted are stored on blocks and can be accessed at a later date.
What Has This Meant for Banking?
Change happens slowly on such a large scale, but we can already see some industries where blockchain has begun to disrupt the status quo.
One advance taking place in the networking space is a collaboration between IBM and Samsung. It’s a decentralized network of IoT devices called Adapt. Aimed at eliminating the need for a centralized hub, devices will be able to communicate directly to one another.
Capabilities of Adapt include updating software between devices, managing and troubleshooting bugs, and actively monitoring energy use.
That project is still in the early stages, but the potential is truly amazing.
It doesn’t mean we won’t have a need for ISPs of course. But it does mean that the greediest third party providers may not be able to hold quite as much sway.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Honestly, it’s anyone’s guess.
Much like the early days of the Internet, things are moving fast. But it’s mainly on the backs of a small group of technology specialists, who are laboring to figure out how to make this budding resource available to a larger audience.
It’s not unlike the early days of the internet honestly. People are fast learning how they can use this technology for both personal and professional advantage.
Wallets, cryptocoins, and software programs are rolling out at a rapid pace. It’ll be exciting to see where this technology goes in the coming years.
For now, know this: all of these computers will need to be connected to each other. And that, is a world of opportunity for those of us in the networking business. So buckle up!
As always, we’d love the chance to help you put together the perfect network for your clients. Reach out to our support team to learn more or get started!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware that much of the South Eastern seaboard was recently devastated by Hurricane Irma.
While we all wish we could live in a world without natural disasters like these, we have to plan for their eventual occurrence. Being prepared and having the infrastructure in place to ensure civilian safety is of paramount importance.
There are a number of ways that these disasters (and their coverage) can be made a whole lot safer. Remote camera systems with reliable ethernet equipment are pretty high up on that list.
Take hurricane Irma for example.
There was no shortage of “on-the-scene” live reporting during the hurricane, and some of it was actually quite dangerous. If you didn’t catch it, Jim Cantore was in person when the eyewall passed through Fort Myers, and it was tough to watch. Even though the storm had dropped closer to a Category-2 hurricane, one brutal gust still nearly carried him clean across the parking lot.
It’s not hard to see why news networks like having live reporting during these events. One axiom of good journalism is the “Show don’t tell” principle. Viewers would much rather watch an event unfold than get a second-hand report from an eyewitness.
But maybe there’s a happy medium that can be reached with more effective remote camera technology.
Remote Cameras Make Storm Coverage Safer
There’s no doubt that remote cameras can save lives. But the use-cases continue to surprise even us here at Versatek.
We saw some ethernet-driven remote cameras cover plenty of the action during Irma, and it’s clear that it had an impact.
One good example of this, are the images gathered by remote access cameras in Tampa Bay. Winds were so strong that the water had been pushed out of an enormous basin.
Other remotely placed cameras allowed both media and rescuers the opportunity to monitor violent “hot spots” before opting to send people into harm’s way.
Quartz, for instance, offered appreciative readers a list of live feeds where they could watch from the safety of their computers. While much of Florida had no power, family members were able to keep tabs on locations where family members had hunkered down.
Remote weather footage isn’t the only place camera access is simplifying life.
Private Business Security Footage Sharing
It’s not just the weather channel that can benefit from remote camera setups. Law enforcement agencies have leveraged these resources as well.
In Florida, 2 specific Palm Beach law enforcement agencies are reaching out to security-camera owners to tap into this extended visibility to fight crime.
In an article in the Sun Sentinel, the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and Delray Beach Police have initiated separate programs to make getting crime scene video and footage from areas around the scene easier.
Both groups have asked local businesses with security cameras for “prior permission to access feeds and footage directly from their departments as needed.” That means they’ll be able to gain added visibility to monitor crimes in progress without having to track people down.
Both programs are voluntary of course.
Law enforcement agencies around the country have sought arrangements like these for sometime, so it’s nothing new. Some of you may remember that investigators in Boston took advantage of local security camera footage to track down and apprehend the Boston Bomber.
“‘It is common throughout the country to see cooperation between businesses and police,’ said Caitriona Fitzgerald, state policy coordinator at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which is based in Washington, D.C.”
As you might expect, this pilot program does have its detractors. Privacy advocates are particularly nervous.
“‘But,’ Fitzgerald continued, ‘there’s a big difference between that video being held by a private business … or law enforcement being able to access that video at any time.’”
Digital privacy advocates, like the ACLU will no doubt monitor outcomes from these alliances to ensure things are done properly. On a high note, digital evidence is making straight-forward crimes easier to prosecute.
We’ll have to see how this pans out, but we expect to see agencies and businesses working together. The goal being a symbiotic relationship where law enforcement is a little easier, and business security is more robust.
The best part about this technology, is that it’s not as expensive as one might think.
This is primarily due to the fact that there’s no need to install a power source. PoE cabling handles that part.
And what’s even cooler, is that the 100-meter (~300-foot limitation) is easily extended through the use of PoE injectors and Coax Extenders.
Of course, remote camera installations aren’t the only type of setup that can benefit from these recent advances. Our ethernet equipment is equally well-suited to power and enable VoIP phones and remote access networks.
The applications are many, and the benefits just as plentiful. PoE technology continues to change the game on a regular basis and we’re excited to be right in the middle of it all.
For more information on the technology you’ll need to set up remote access security cams, or any other PoE use-case, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! We’d love to help.
Since our January 2017 article, Autonomous Cars Are Reshaping the Way America Does Automotives, a lot has happened. We here at Versatek, have been following the developments carefully, especially since we’re playing a participatory role in a few exciting pilot projects with automakers.
Though still in its early stages, the autonomous car industry may be poised for mainstream breakthroughs sooner than you might think.
We fully expect early adopters to be posting pictures on social media of their hands off the wheel in the next couple of years. There will also be no shortage of tech writers and experts sharing their enthusiasm for autonomous cars across all sorts of mediums. In short, it’s going to be quite a show.
So, how far down the road are autonomous car manufacturers and service providers in their steady progress toward full adoption?
Autonomous Fords and Domino’s Pizza Delivery
Believe it or not, some Michigan pizza enthusiasts have already started getting their Domino’s delivered via self-driving cars. The New York Times, The Hill, and Wired each published articles pointing to a rollout of a driverless car pizza delivery collaboration between Ford and Dominos, which is also headquartered in Ann Arbor, MI.
“Domino’s pizza plans to start testing deliveries,” said the Times, “using a self-driving Ford Fusion sedan outfitted with enough sensors, electronics, and software to find its way to customers’ homes or offices in a section of this city 40 miles west of Detroit.”
Customers will then go out to their driveways or curbside and meet the car. Next they punch in the last four digits of their phone number into a tablet, and the rear window will lower.
“Nobody really knows what’s going to happen,” said Dennis Maloney, chief digital officer for the pizza delivery giant. “There’s no human interaction. What happens if they approach the car from the wrong direction?” This is just one of many questions.
But trial by fire is often the best way to get a feel for how technology works in the real world. So the plan went forwards.
Of course, there’s a bit of a catch.
For safety reasons, a live driver will be seated in the driver’s seat. There are a few reasons, primarily that if an automotive or electrical malfunction were to occur, having a driver present would reduce the risk of any catastrophic harm occurring.
In the background as well, Ford engineers will be carefully monitoring everything coming in from the electronics and computers during the experiment.
Ultimately, we’ll have to wait and see just how valuable or important the pizza delivery experiment will be. But make no doubt, it’s an indication of things to come. Autonomous cars are on their way, and their applications may easily exceed what you first thought.
While Ford has come to driverless vehicle development a bit “late”, this is definitely a step in the right direction. They’re currently aiming for a full production release sometime in 2021.
The Latest Tesla Upgrades
As driverless cars are a new approach to driving, some think the innovation should not stop there. How these cars are built also needs a little bit of a rethink!
One surprisingly innovative feature the Tesla released in June 2017 is the “Hardware 3” camera and radar technology. This technology can upgrade models produced from October 2016 onwards, and help open the door for a purportedly full self-driving solution.
According to Engadget, the Tesla S and X production units already have a hardware suite sufficient for full automation. All that’s required is a software update. Thus every HW 2.0 or later car should still be able to achieve full autonomous driving in the near future with non-hardware upgrades.
It’s worth noting that detractors claim this upgrade does not deliver on the promised full self-driving capabilities. The argument being that it is a solution “dependant on extensive software validation and approval”
Of course, most jurisdictions still do not allow autonomous cars to drive without human guidance in the first place. So for these municipalities, the point is a bit moot.
Passage of the SELF DRIVE Act
In a separate story, the U.S. House of Representatives just sent a bill to the Senate allowing autonomous vehicles on regular roads. Engadget reports that the SELF DRIVE Act unanimously passed the house in a bipartisan victory.
This should allow for much faster progress on the legislative front and is a big win for the autonomous car industry on the whole. This act gives manufacturers in the midst of ongoing research and development the opportunity to prove that self-driving car technology is safe.
SELF DRIVE (Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research In Vehicle Evolution Act) gives research teams the ability to test an initial 25,000 cars that do not meet https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/3388/text current safety standards, and up to 100,000 vehicles per year for the next 3 years driving on regular roads. Safety standards that apply to cars with human drivers–that include things like steering wheels–don’t necessarily apply in the instance of computer driven vehicles.
Reuters reports that under the bill, the onus is on the automakers to secure permits and submit their findings to regulators. Self-driving car makers will continue to do their research and testing on a state-by-state basis.
Stay tuned to see what happens in the months to come, we’re expecting more big news!
Who Else Has Jumped on the Bandwagon?
As you may or may not already know, it’s not just automakers that are diving into the driverless car revolution. A number of other big-name companies and startups are dipping their toes in the water as well.
One reason being the promise of safer roadways with the potential for less human error is going to actually save lives.
Here are a few companies moving on driverless technology.
Not surprisingly, Amazon is one company looking to deploy driverless-trucks in the “last mile” of their supply chain infrastructure. As their manner is, Amazon is aiming to change the future of freight transportation.
“We may debate whether it’s 5-years or 10-years away,” says Matt Parry, Senior Vice-President of Logistics, Werner Enterprises, “But moving from Level 1 to Level 5 (the latter being a fully-autonomous vehicle), is absolutely something trucking companies welcome.”
One unexpected scaleback in the driverless industry comes from Apple. Apple was once embroiled in project Titan, which was going to be their next big thing. A fully fledged driverless car project, manufacturing and all.
The tech leader says his company will expend their resources providing technology to help other manufacturers develop their driverless models.
NXP BlueBox Autonomous Car System
NXP Semiconductors is set to outperform NVidia and other competitors with its plug-and-play, open-source Linux based technology.
It’s actually one of the few, fully automated Level 4 products ready to take the market. It definitively sets NXP apart as an innovator in the driverless space.
Level 4 is only one step below fully driverless. The BlueBox has everything in one package. This approach is in lockstep with the general trend of late. Technology companies in all sorts of industries are looking for novel ways to create one-stop-shop solutions for complex problems.
After all, who wants to deal with the hassle of building custom integrations if it’s not necessary?
Expect to see many more breakthroughs in automated technologies over the coming months and years. We’re particularly excited to see what innovative supply chain business models will arise.
The driverless car is just another example of how connected devices are transforming both how we live and how we work.
We’re proud to be a part of this technology wave and will be covering it further as we move forward. So keep your eyes peeled for more breaking news about autonomous cars and other developments pertaining to the Internet of Things.
Net Neutrality has been a hot button issue for the past few years, and things have only been heating up over the past few months.
Of course, like many controversial news items, the truth may be slightly different from what you’ve been told. We’re not here to decide which side of the argument is valid, but we do want to take a closer look at the most valid points each side has made in recent months.
One thing is certain… comprehensive consumer protections need to be put in place. On that point everyone seems to agree.
As you’ll soon see, the argument isn’t really over whether or not the consumer should be protected from profit-focused ISP giants. In reality, it’s more about who will grant and determine those protections. Further, at issue is who will be tasked with keeping a watchful eye on the aforementioned grantor.
But first, let’s take a look at where each side stands.
Proponents of Net Neutrality
Those in favor of net neutrality have long been arguing that the fees for internet access should be the same regardless of your intended use of the internet.
In short, whether you are using email, downloading music files or watching movies from your favorite streaming media service, your monthly fee shouldn’t differ. Further, as long as you’re not breaking any laws, your bandwidth shouldn’t be throttled by your ISP.
Last but not least, is the argument concerning companies that provide services over the internet. Net neutrality defenders posit that smaller providers and companies should not be passed over if a competitor is a higher bidder for “premium” download speeds.
In short, advocates of net neutrality believe that the Internet should be freely and equally available for any and all.
Those Against Net Neutrality
The opposition mainly consists of ISPs, networking hardware companies and pro-market supporters. Their primary concern is that net neutrality stifles business growth.
They argue that the money gained from higher rates and exclusive partnership deals would open the door for much-needed investments in the country’s network infrastructure. In turn, this would improve services and speeds for end consumers in the long run.
Another concern opponents of net neutrality have voiced, is that the percentage of bandwidth required to stream video and music services is disproportionately large.
In their latest Global Internet Phenomena Report, Sandvine reported that Netflix consumes a stunning 35.2% of broadband in North America alone. And that doesn’t include any peer-to-peer activity.
One can see where the ISPs are coming from in light of this surprising data.
What Could an Ideal Situation Look Like?
According to the FCC, there are 3 basic rules that must be obeyed regardless of the outcome of the net neutrality fight. Let’s take a look at each in turn.
Internet Service Providers must maintain records and publish performance reports.
2. No “Unlawful” Blocking
The issue here is of course, what constitutes “lawful” blocking and what doesn’t.
Even the government will be under public scrutiny as to why the need has arisen to block a website. Certainly, nobody will be able to take money to block competitors including the competition for an ISP.
3. No Slowing of Internet Speeds
An ISP may not slow Internet speeds for those who are paying for High-Speed Internet. You can drive a bus through the loopholes here and it clearly needs some refining. Balancing data delivery is a critical issue for both sides.
So what has been done up to now to make this vision a reality? What has been put in place to control traffic on the Internet highway?
To give you a context, here’s the historical progression of Internet access rights up until the present day.
FCC codifies its Net Neutrality “principles”
2008: FCC rules that Comcast is liable for interfering with peer-to-peer file transmissions between users of BitTorrent
2010: A 3-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals overturns the above 2008 FCC ruling.
2014: The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit strikes down the FCC’s Open Internet Order in the case of Verizon v. FCC.
2015: A government commission approves new and stricter net neutrality rules. Providers like Google, Facebook and Netflix expressed concern at possible FCC overreach. Congress clarifies issue of reclassification.
2016: The one and only formal net neutrality complaint is filed against Verizon.
2017: FCC gets new leadership and new government leadership sparks efforts to undo the “utility” reclassification of the Internet. This would remove sole regulatory power from the FCC.
Many would argue that the Internet has certainly taken on the importance of a utility in our day to day lives. After all, we do now rely on it for business needs, personal habits, and everything in between.
Who’s Watching the Watchdog?
What’s easy for both sides of the privacy argument to lose sight of, is that the battle is really over who gets to be in charge.
The FCC historically has wanted to maintain full control and keep the FTC out of the picture. By reclassifying the Internet as a utility, that is exactly what they got. But is someone watching the FCC?
If the “utility” classification were removed, the FTC would be back in the picture. They would then have a hand in monitoring and penalizing businesses for unfair play. This would (in this case) likely include bandwidth-throttling smaller competitors.
So What Do Policy Makers Advise?
If net neutrality remains classified as a “utility,” things will undoubtedly be safer for consumers. But it leaves the industry subject to the judgment of a few insiders for things like pricing and service availability.
On the other hand, if it’s moved back into the private realm, there is the possibility of much greater investment in infrastructure and service improvements. That being said, consumers will be at greater risk as protections could end up being quite scarce.
Larry Downes of the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy thinks there is a third alternative: make Net Neutrality a matter of federal law.
He argues that if we went this route, there would be a healthier balance between the FCC and FTC. That way, each commission could function as a check and balance on one another to prevent overreach.
Will this simple suggestion of taking an alternate route and steering net neutrality down the federal law road actually take place? At this point in time, your guess is as good as ours.
No matter what pans out, this has been a fascinating debate to watch unfold over the past few years. Here’s hoping that cooler heads prevail and a productive path forward is reached with concessions from both sides.
For decades, when we’ve imagined an optimal IT operation, we envision wall after wall of pristine servers. The system admin is holding a clipboard and except for the hum of these trusty servers, all is silent.
Businesses that wanted proper data security and redundancies often had to invest in their own facilities to house these server banks.
Then along came Salesforce. And it changed the game.
Instead of requiring businesses to build out (or lease) an entire IT operation to get servers and software licenses, all that was required was an agreement. The business owner pays Salesforce monthly and Salesforce handles all of the hardware and software provision off-site.
This streamlined, maintenance free (for the customer) system made business owner’s lives infinitely easier.
Included in the service were software updates, data backups, and server replacements–and all for about the same cost as an onsite model would provide–without paying for staff to manage it.
Salesforce stays up-to-date and causes virtually no hassle as far as management was concerned.
Following in their footsteps, thousands of other companies have since released their own “as-a-service” products like
- Software as a service
- Platform as a service
- Infrastructure as a service
And thus, the hardware-centric IT model of the past transitioned into a service-based model.
What is Hyperconvergence?
Hyperconvergence is the process of server integration that supports this new server-room and as-a-service delivery model.
It’s simplified. It’s pared down.
Hyperconvergence handles all of the separate components of the traditional server room and melds them into fewer devices. The ultimate goal is to reach a one piece hardware solution.
Think an entire server room designed into a single device (via either circuitry or software). Think “the cloud”!
Physical Requirements for Cloud-Based Solutions
Keep in mind that the cloud does actually require physical technology.
Somewhere, somebody has to maintain the server farm. An important part of the service, though, is that that very same responsibility lands with someone else.
It’s a one-stop-shop. Let someone else think through the hardware logistics.
As the customer, I just want to get in and get out without spending too much money. I have a whole laundry list of other priorities that are critical to the success of my business.
So what is a hyper-converged server exactly? What could it mean for your clients? Let’s find out.
Anatomy of a Hyper-Converged Stack
Techtarget defines Hyper-convergence as:
“A type of infrastructure system with a software-centric architecture that tightly integrates compute, storage, networking and virtualization resources and other technologies from scratch in a commodity hardware box supported by a single vendor.”
Hyperconvergence is essentially a 3rd generation level of convergence, where greater numbers of devices have been consolidated into one.
It pre-integrates all of the necessary components of server stack. These include
- Computing capacity
One of the many reasons why Hyper-converged technology is so appealing is that it eliminates the need for manual integration.
As you can imagine, this saves a lot of time. There is very little needed in order to get one of these units up and running.
How Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Benefits Companies
Keep in mind that the cloud industry is still relatively young. Experts are still ironing out some of the kinks, and security has definitely been a very public concern.
Fortunately for clients, it’s not necessary to go all-in on either avenue. The vast majority of companies currently leveraging cloud technology have “hybrid enterprises”. Meaning, some of their infrastructure may be on local hardware, while the rest lives in the cloud.
All of that said, there are some great advantages to cloud technology and we expect to see more and more businesses push all of their requirements into the cloud.
Here are some of the main benefits your company can expect from making the switch to a hyper-converged or cloud-based stack.
Faster workload deployments
Because so much of the work is done for you, many systems can be brought up the same day. Some even on the spot.
Again, there are no physical setup demands. The work has already been done off-site. You no longer need to supply physical components needed for installing (for example) an email server. Some systems even make it easy to migrate your data from your old server into the cloud.
More efficient operation
Automated systems have built in global and industry compliance and document management capabilities. These allow substantially faster bring up.
Hyper-converged stacks eliminate waste and requires less employee time, freeing up key team members to manage other priorities.
Fast recovery during disasters
Backup systems in multiple locations around the globe secure data. If one server goes down in one location, 2 others in separate locations are still going to be up.
Private cloud infrastructure
Actual servers at the private cloud-as-a-service provider location, are dedicated of course. That means that your company is the only one housing sensitive data on that physical device. Therefore there’s no possibility of other server tenants hacking into your data and security is improved.
With the steady move towards cloud-based infrastructure, the entire IT silo is having a bigger and bigger say in businesses on the whole.
Salesforce for example not only supports the Sales Department, it also supports Accounting.
Decision makers need more input than ever from digital specialists. Making the right choices can be overwhelming due to the number of systems available. This is where IT professionals are most valuable.
And let’s not forget that the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution is still well under way, and only going to continue growing.
Of course, there is still a serious and growing demand for on-site installations of various networking hardware that will work in tandem with the cloud-based server capabilities.
We’ll be keeping our finger on the pulse of this growing trend and how it can best be leveraged by installers and business owners alike.
Imagine signs at the DMV that look like large screen TVs. The programs aired are aimed solely at helping you (and every other unfortunate stuck in the waiting room) to pass the time.
The screen not only shows who’s number will be called next, but it’s also giving you updates on the local sports news, and maybe a video tutorial on how to tune up your vehicle before the weather changes.
Or imagine a riveting video wall presentation for your next corporate meeting. It’s full of great animation, graphics, and sound that has the audience dancing in their chairs. Feedback from attendees is that you and the folks in the C-Suite look like tech wizards. Sound enticing?
All of this, and a whole lot more, is possible with the marrying of digital signage and Power over Ethernet.
The technology has recently hit the mainstream, and we’re getting a lot of requests and purchase orders.
So, what is it exactly that makes this new technology so appealing? Ease of use and fast setup!
Let’s take a look at the technology involved, the types of content available, and some of the different display types you can use.
What’s in a Digital Signage System
A digital signage system has 3 basic components:
- Content manager
Your content manager is the hardware unit that holds your software. It’s worth noting that you can also purchase software-only or cloud-based solutions. In these instances, the majority of the system is integrated with the software so you can plug and play. The PC is where you’ll manage and control the system.
Most of these systems, regardless of their hardware (or lackthereof) will enable some fairly granular controls. These include the ability to grant varying permissions to different people in your organization, and delegate system control to their personal computers directly.
What Content Does the Software Support?
First of all, any content you can format on slides will also work on digital signage software.
That means you can use it for presentations in any of your meeting rooms without the clunkiness of a projector. All you need is a display screen with an ethernet connection. That way you can connect it to your content management system or the cloud.
A few ideas of things you can use digital signage presentations to enchance
- Schedules for all day meetings
- News and weather in waiting rooms
- Surveys and other interactive content at event kiosks
- Relevant social media feeds
As you can see, the possibilities are almost endless. In fact, any form of useful content you can present on a computer screen, can also be shown on a digital sign. Better yet, you can have that content popup at specific times and dates using more advanced scheduling features.
What Types of Displays Support the Software?
Pretty much any modern display will support the software!
You could install a single television in a waiting room. You could also opt for groups of monitors placed strategically around a large event venue. Video walls and even tablets and smartphones can be used if the circumstances are appropriate.
This leaves it almost entirely up to your imagination.
First, establish the needs of the people to whom you want to show the content. Then start planning about what display hardware would be best to serve it up.
Convenience and Ease of Use
Digital signage combined with ethernet provides a pretty powerful package. One of the highest impact benefits is the logistical convenience.
Installers can string Ethernet cable to literally every corner of a building. As long as there’s an Ethernet switch and a power injector for cable lengths over 300 feet, an outlet won’t even be required!
You know what that means? No electrician required. That can save installers and the client a big chunk of change.
You’ll only need an installer and an IT administrator or facilities professional to handle the display setup.
How Digital Signs Make Marketing Easier
As early as 2010, retailers like Macy’s began devising interactive ways to engage customers. In turn, they knew the data they gathered would help them better understand how shoppers best enjoyed their stores.
One of these innovations, involved an interactive way for shoppers to see themselves in certain apparel items without actually needing to try on the clothes in a fitting room.
Using a 72-inch display with interactive capabilities, shoppers immediately had a convenient way to see their virtual selves in the clothing they were considering buying.
Restaurants can also make exciting use of interactive screens. From promoting seasonal menu items to reception desk message boards, the possibilities run the gamut.
Airports and car rental agencies can use PoE digital signage to display flight information and updates, daily deals, weather advisories, and traffic conditions.
The best part is… all of this can be automated from the desk of any approved content creator within your organization.
Digital signage can be a good fit for pretty much any type of industry or business model. It can work in both public and private settings.
- Schools & universities
- Gas stations at the pumps
The only limitations are how imaginative your content providers are.
Most of the software packages come with pre-made templates, and it’s easy to plug your brand creatives and messaging into the ready-made presentations.
One software developer estimates a total of 2 hours labor time. That’s from when you first download software to the point of use. If you have particularly intuitive end users, it will probably take even less time.
Here at Versatek, we offer a complete package of Ethernet technologies to support your move to digital signage. Check our Power over Ethernet page for a complete list. We’ve linked a few below for your convenience:
As always, feel free to reach out to our analysts if you have any questions on how we may assist you with setting up your digital signage infrastructure.
WiFi is excellent. We all love it. But underneath any good wireless network, lies some serious cabling.
The question is, which will be better for any given scenario? Fiber or copper?
Ethernet has certainly been in the news lately. From applications of LED lighting to advanced IP camera technology, there are no shortage of applications for ethernet cabling.
Copper cabling such as Ethernet, is the cheaper of the two, making it a low cost alternative with a bevy of possible applications. But sometimes a high-cost option like fiber is required.
What emerges as you learn more about the two options however, is that there really isn’t much of a war at all.
In fact, each solution has its fair share of pros and cons. With unique benefits and limitations to each technology, it hardly seems like they’re competing technologies at all.
Fiber is great for faster speeds, security and data delivery over super-long distances. But on the flipside, it’s brittle, a bit unwieldy, and much more expensive.
Copper is getting faster, but it has some notable limitations with regard to distance. In its unshielded form, it can also be prone to interference.
So what’s the best choice? That’s easy, and I bet you guessed the answer… It depends.
If you’re connecting an ISP to a node or street cabinet, then fiber’s your baby. Glass is great for outdoor applications and you can transmit a lot of data over incredible distances with fiber cabling.
However, once you’re actually at the cabinet or close to the roofline of a home or building, the choice becomes more nuanced. This is where ethernet copper cable is giving fiber a run for its money.
One of the main reasons comes down to cost savings.
HDBaseT and HDMI (both 1-cable solutions) come into play here as well. Frankly, these solutions deliver great performance at substantial savings. Copper also cuts down on the need for additional power sources.
Fewer cables and less supporting installations? It’s easy to see why ethernet is still a popular choice.
So, you can probably tell that it’s not always a clear choice. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits and drawbacks of each.
But don’t get too hung up on the debate… if we’re being honest, many installations will require you to use both types of cable anyways.
Origins of Ethernet and Fiber Optic Cables
Ethernet was originally developed by Xerox. Developed in the 1970s, it went commercial in 1980.
The origin of fiber optic cable technology is a bit more drawn out. In fact, one of its first uses was when NASA sent it to the moon for use in television cameras in 1969.
Both of these cabling solutions have been going strong for decades. So from a historical perspective they’re on equal footing.
Issues with Interference
Unshielded twisted copper cable has challenges with interference. It can be caused by a number of sources ranging from bluetooth and RF to transformers and microwaves.
The solution for twisted pair copper installations is simple. Use higher grade, shielded ethernet cables like Cat 5e, Cat 6 and 7.
We also recommend pairing shielded cable with shielded connectors for best results. The added protection makes a difference. With HDBaseT and HDMI on the rise for home use, microwaves are a consistent factor.
Electrical interference is not a problem with fiber optic, but fiber does experience its share of interference as well. It’s called Intersymbol Interference and it arises from light pulses interfering with each other. This happens because light sources are not completely monochromatic.
But like shielded ethernet, fiber optic has a high percentage of reliability. So both cables types ultimately have an achilles heel, but manufacturers are improving quality all the time.
Fiber definitely wins for sheer speed, but applications can often neutralize the argument.
With current end-user data requirements, terabytes per second aren’t really an issue when you’re just trying to send a signal from the living room to the kitchen.
Here are some current breakthroughs that are shaping the performance levels to come for each cable type.
Breakthroughs in Copper Technology
Ethernet was once as slow as 10 Mbps over 100 m. It pushes data over electrical current. With the 802 IEEE Alliances, speeds now reach 2.5 and 5 Gbps, and are currently on track for 10 Gigabit Ethernet.
VDSL2 technology has further changed the ballgame. VDSL2 uses up to 30 MHz of bandwidth to provide speeds of up to 100 Mbps both downstream and upstream within 1000ft over a single pair of twisted copper.
So former limits are expanding exponentially. VDSL2 also paved the way for G.Fast. Test labs are currently reaching speeds of up to 150 Mbits over 500 m loops. Keep your eyes peeled for this tech to start rolling out in the UK soon, and stateside subsequently.
What’s driving this movement is primarily consumer popularity.
The market can count on consumers continuing to rely on ethernet devices. Accordingly, manufacturers are appropriately motivated to spend money developing their products. This leads to further R&D, and thus the cycle begins anew.
Here are the most common copper cable types for reference:
- Cat 5e – The “e” stands for “enhanced” and these cables are produced under more stringent parameters. These are slightly better than straight Cat 5 cable.
- Cat 6 – Costs more than Cat 5, but it also supports higher bandwidths than the Cat 5 and 5e products. Last but not least, these cables are shielded.
- Cat 6a – The “a” stands for “augmented” and these have the capability of sustaining higher speeds over greater distances.
- Cat 7 – Supports up to 100 Gbps over a range of 15 m *Not recognized by the TIA/EIA*
As you can see, current technology is stretching the dimensions of twisted copper capabilities. For specific ground-breaking products, you can check out our VX-160 Series SFP modules and more here.
Breakthroughs in Fiber Optic Technology
Fiber Optic technology falls into 2 categories: single and multi.
Single Mode uses laser light to send signals over long distances. Diodes send signals over Multi Mode cables for installs that cover shorter distances.
Single mode fiber can reach distances 50x greater than multimode can accommodate but it’s worth noting that it’s more expensive.
Multi mode fiber – the short distance version, typically reaches up to 10 Gbits/s over lengths of up to 600 m or 2000 ft.
Speeds aren’t only increasing in the ethernet camp. As recently as 2014, researchers were able to achieve data speeds of a staggering 255 Terabytes per second (Tbps).
“A joint group of researchers from the Netherlands and the US have smashed the world speed record for a fiber network, pushing 255 terabits per second down a single strand of glass fiber. This is equivalent to around 32 terabytes per second — enough to transfer a 1GB movie in 31.25 microseconds (0.03 milliseconds), or alternatively, the entire contents of your 1TB hard drive in about 31 milliseconds.” – Extreme Tech
To give you some perspective, the most efficient single-fibre links reach their capacity at around 100gbs. Do the math.
According to Extreme Tech, 255Tbps could supercede the net total of all traffic flowing through the entire internet during peak hours. Wow.
That’s a lot of data reaching its destination at light speed.
Fiber optic is definitely a great choice. In fact, in the previous administration there was an initiative to cable up the country using fiber optic.
Sadly, the powers that be ran out of cash. So, it was back to square one. This failure does not reflect upon the technology’s features, but rather its cost. Until manufacturers find a less expensive way to produce it, it’ll most likely continue to be used sparingly.
Money talks. Market philosophy walks.
Ultimately the best decision is up to property owners. And, the best solution will be defined by the one capable of delivering the best installation at the lowest cost possible.
Customers know their budgets and their needs.
By staying up to date and educating customers, you can both deliver excellent results and earn repeat business from improved customer loyalty.
Knowledge is power. If you have questions of the technologies you need for either application, please reach out to our analysts!
Last week the Washington Post announced a White House pledge to spend a massive $1 trillion on a road, waterway, and airport infrastructure overhaul initiative.
For most people and industries, infrastructure repair is nothing but a headache. But for some specific verticals, it means big business. So for those of us that bid on government contracts, we’re going to be busy in the coming years.
If you haven’t yet thought about how you might go about capturing some of this cash, this is the time to start.
Expanding your clientele to the public sector isn’t always as hard as you may think. You just need a roadmap. A guide if you will. Something that can walk you through the process step by step.
In this article, we’ll highlight the first crucial steps you’ll need to take in order to start making bids and landing government contracts for network installs.
Let’s dive in!
Step One: Check the Small Business Administration Website
The small business administration website is loaded with information, training, and access to mentoring. There’s so much good info on there that you could honestly go down the rabbit hole for hours on end.
So to cut to the chase, here’s a link to the government contracting process overview they’ve pulled together. If it seems like too much information, that’s okay, don’t fret. They provide links to tutorials on each page that give additional context and should help make everything crystal clear.
First, you’ll need to find your NAICS Number.
NAICS stands for North American Industry Classification System. You’re probably going to qualify as a 238210 under the NAICS 2017 industry code. It’s on the census.gov website. But if you’re unclear, you can call them to confirm:
https://www.census.gov/eos/www/naics/2017NAICS/2017_NAICS_Manual.pdf, Page 135
As a small business contractor, you can work for Uncle Sam on a particular job in either of 2 ways…
1) as a prime contractor working directly with the government
2) you can subcontract for a prime contractor to get in the door
Regardless of which path you choose, you’ll still need to qualify as a small business and register as a government contractor. Here’s the page where you’ll get started.
Follow these three steps to determine your eligibility:
- Enter your industry number [NAICS]
- Enter your business size
- Get a determination result
Assuming your business qualifies, next you’ll need to set up a SAM profile.
Step Two: Register on the System for Award Management (SAM) Portal
This is where things get interesting. You’ll probably want to dust off that resume to help with this step.
Start with some research. You can go online to see how other bidders have set up their profiles.
In short, this is not the time to be shy. But do be mindful and only include relevant experience you/your business has.
Afterwards, the system will give you a DUNS number. You apply for that number.
Make sure you have your taxpayer ID handy before you start this part of the process. The DUNS number is a unique 9-digit number for each physical location of your business. Don’t worry, it’s free to obtain.
Think of your SAM profile as a business promo of sorts. It’s not too far off from the purpose a landing page would serve on your website.
You want to put your best foot forward. Highlight skills and experience from the standpoint of the agencies you’ll be working for.
It usually takes about 3 days for new profiles to upload and populate in the system. So sit tight, and check in on day 4!
Note: SAM also enables automatic payments once you’ve been awarded a job. Very convenient!
Step Three: Check the IFB portal for Requests for Bids
The final, and perhaps most important step, is to look for requests for bids and to actually start making bids yourself!
The IFB site provides step by step instructions on how to write your own bids.
If you want to save yourself some frustration (and who doesn’t), download “bid packages” from the specific agencies you’re going to submit bids or proposal to.
Each bid will contain particulars, so pay attention to the details.
All of this seems like a lot of effort, but don’t get discouraged. It can be well worth the time and energy invested. In fact, most of the contracts are worth over $100k! So, like we said, put your best foot forwards!
Where Do You Go From Here?
To be fair, this article barely scratches the surface of government contract bidding. It’s a complicated process that includes a noticeable learning curve.
That being said, at it’s most basic level, the process can be explained as follows:
- Read the Small Business Administration GuideSmall Business Administration Guide.
- Set up a profile in the System for Awards Management.
- Check the Invitations for Bid page of the Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) government website.
- Start bidding!
Remember, the U.S. Government is currently gearing up to spend some serious cash on infrastructure.
If you want to obtain your share of the incoming work installing network equipment, the time to get familiar with the process is now!
As always, we’re more than happy to answer questions about the networking equipment and to help spec out the perfect configuration for your client (whether it be a private business or a government agency).
So don’t hesitate to reach out!