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Miles Of Cabling

Intel’s X-Lab: Tomorrow’s Network Happens Here
Miles Of Cabling

A lot of the X-Lab’s testing is done in different ways over various segments of cable. The lab contains cabling from seven manufacturers spanning 14 cable types. Pete said that he stopped doing the math at seven miles and two tons of cable, “just because…it’s a lot.”

Intel has to look at so many varieties because they’re constructed differently, and so have different characteristics. The group needs to ensure that its products will work over whatever is commonly installed. “We don’t have every manufacturer in the world in here,” said Pete, “but we asked the cable distributors who is the most popular and widely deployed, and that’s what we got.”

As you wonder at all of that cabling, think about your feet. In particular, think about your feet dragging across a carpet, then touching the light switch with your fingertip. Friction followed by static electricity buildup and discharge, right? Now imaging snaking those miles of cables through walls and crawlspaces, the friction causing electrostatic buildup on the cabling jackets. What do you suppose might happen when someone goes to plug that cable into a patch panel? Maybe nothing…or maybe not.

“I was a cable discharge skeptic until we actually pulled cables into the lab and I got zapped by a cable, “ says Pete.” Guys were working next door to us, pulling cable through conduits and onto racks and trays. So you pull the cable, you plug it into a port—well, the switch is going to provide a passive ground for that charge. We’re verifying the immunity of a networking device—a port—to that type of a discharge. It’s different than the typical ESD testing we do anywhere else in Intel or at any semiconductor company. Those involve looking at the movement of people, like across a carpet, or the movement of machines building up a charge as they operate. But this is a special type of ESD that really only appears in the networking world.”

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