Rising copper prices boosting networking costs

The commodities boom is making cabling more expensive, squeezing IT budgets. Sandra Rossi reports

With copper prices soaring and showing little sign of stabilising, network cabling companies have been forced to adjust cable prices upwards.

Copper prices have tripled over the past four years, rising more than 59% between January and May alone, according to the London Metal Exchange (LME).

Bob Carlson, vice president of global marketing at cabling provider Siemon, says organisations face difficult network infrastructure decisions as a result of these increases.

“It is a well-established best-practice to install a future-proof cabling plant capable of supporting the next generation of application speeds,” he says.

“The total cost of ownership on 10Gbit/s-capable cabling is far better than lower-performing options. While these full-lifecycle savings hold true even with increasing copper prices, the up-front costs can act as a deterrent.”

Organisations are under pressure to balance long-term costs with current expenditures and rising copper prices have led some companies to explore fiber-to-the-desk alternatives, he says.

Although fibre can provide a future-proof option, he says, it’s not capable of supporting the growing demand for Power over Ethernet applications, and the cost of fibre electronics remains prohibitively high for horizontal applications.

Adding fuel to the debate, Gartner recently released a report questioning the value of Gigabit Ethernet.

IT and network professionals will toss away more than US$10 billion (NZ$15 billion) on Gigabit Ethernet LAN gear over the next two years that would be better spent on technologies designed to support increasingly distributed workforces, according to Gartner.

“The majority of network designers continue to be caught in traditional design practices,” says Mark Fabbi, Gartner networking specialist.

“They continue to spend money on bigger and faster core networking technologies at their headquarters and large locations that don’t actually serve the user population.”

He says most corporate applications — even videoconferencing and VoIP — do not require more than a few hundred kilobits per second of bandwidth.

“Astute network managers will focus their attention on the upper layers of the stack, and look to security, data control, application optimisation and mobility services as key features that will benefit the organisation far more than installing Gigabit Ethernet for all desktops,” Fabbi says.

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