20 March 2024

Consolidation point or “Toward the goal in two steps”

By 1991, the first versions of the standards were published::

  • TIA/EIA-568 «Commercial Building Telecommunications Cabling Standard»
  • TIA/EIA-569 “Commercial Building Telecommunications Pathways and Spaces”»

It is with these two standards that structured cabling systems began their life. A convenient, flexible, easily expandable and, in fact, quite simple idea for organizing computer and telephone networks very soon became a de facto standard. And its victorious march through offices and buildings began.

Currently, the basic standards for structured cabling systems form the ISO/IEC 11801 group of standards in six parts (2017).

The structured cabling system has more than thirty years of life behind it. During this time, it has gained experience in living in offices and buildings. The main phases of its life cycle have already become clear: idea, concept, design, installation, operation, modernization, {overhaul, operation, modernization}, disposal.

It turned out that it’s the horizontal link that has the most difficult “fate” in all of the structured cabling system. It must reach a specific “target” port in the building.

The difficulty is that the “target” port is not stable (neither in location nor in time of appearance):
• during design, the number of ports and their placement are repeatedly changed, the layout and purpose of the premises are changed;
• the designed “target” port, thereafter often changes its original location at the construction stage;
• new “target” ports may appear in a premise just before it is put into operation;
• requests for new ports constantly arise during the operation and modernization of premises;
• from time to time new engineering systems (applications) “enter” the building; their equipment also requires connection to a computer network and they need ports;
• some ports are lost or cease to exist over time.

There are thousands of ports (“targets”) in the building. How to keep track of everyone? How to foresee the emergence of each? And how to get to each of them?

Over time, an understanding has come about how “target” ports behave and how horizontal links can reach them more economically and safely. The solution to how to get to the elusive “target” port gradually crystallized.

The accumulated experience about the life of a structured cabling system of a building is reflected in the standards:

  • ISO/IEC 11801-6 «Information technology. Generic cabling for customer premises. Part 6: Distributed building services».
  • TIA-862-E «Structured Cabling Infrastructure Standard for Intelligent Building Systems”.
  • ANSI/BICSI 007-2020 «Information Communication Technology Design and Implementation Practices for Intelligent Buildings and Premises»

Now the structured cabling system of commercial buildings is created using a zone topology. Zones are served by consolidation points.

Reaching the goal in two steps

Get to your goal in two steps.

We do not know the exact coordinates of the target location, we only know the outlines of the zone where the target is either located or may appear. We first get to the zone within the boundaries of which the target may be or may appear, position ourselves, create an intermediate camp and wait until we have information about the coordinates of the target. And we are already moving towards the goal from the position of the intermediate camp.

And we are already moving towards the goal from the position of the intermediate camp.

There is no discovery of America here – it is more effective to approach the goal in two stages. There are many examples of this in history, literature and in many fields of activity:

1. Book “Treasure Island”. How does the crew of a sailing ship land on the island?
The ship approaches the island.
The boats are being lowered.
They take boats to the island and begin to sift it through.

2. How did American astronauts land on the moon?
The spaceship reached the Moon.
Entered its orbit.
The landing module is separated.
The lander lands on the surface of the Moon.

3. How does a leopard hunt?
Carefully and secretly approaches the herd of antelopes.
Freezes in ambush.
Waits for a target to enter the affected area.
Dash, chase, attack.

4. Airplane. How does a passenger get to his destination?
The plane reaches the airport.
A passenger gets off the plane.
The passenger finds a bus or car.
The passenger gets to his desired destination.

Dozens, or even hundreds of passengers fly to a specific airport on a plane. From the airport of departure to the airport of destination, passengers fly together in one group, and then from the airport each passenger has his own route assigned. Each passenger has his own ultimate goal. The plane is not interested in where exactly its individual passenger is going, it only delivers him from one airport to another. The destination airport is not interested in the final destination of the passenger’s journey, it only accepts him and provides him with the opportunity to move on.

Towards the goal in two steps with a consolidation point

There are thousands of ports in a building, these are the targets that need to be reached from the distribution nodes. But we don’t know their exact coordinates. We only know the zones where they can be and how many of them are expected there. And here the consolidation point helps a lot in dealing with the unknown, as well as the practice of achieving a goal in two stages.

A consolidation point divides a horizontal “link” into two parts

A bundle of several dozen cables goes from the floor distribution node to a specific consolidation point. And then, after the consolidation point, the bundle breaks up into separate cables. Each end segment of a horizontal “link” has its own target end point (a port on a subscriber socket or a connected device). The bundle is not “interested” in where the continuation of its cables will go further after the consolidation point. The consolidation point is also not “interested” in when and where new cable sections from it will go next.

A consolidation point (illustration by Commscope)

If there is a consolidation point, the horizontal “link” consists of two cable sections.

The first cable segment goes in a bundle from the distribution node to the consolidation point. This segment is a constant part of a link..

The second cable section goes from the consolidation point to the port on the subscriber socket or to the connected device. This cable segment is a variable part of a link. At first it is not there, it has not yet been laid. Then it appears, and after a year or ten years it can be dismantled. And then a new cable section can be laid from the vacated port of the consolidation point to another location, where another type of device may be connected (e.g. a computer had been previously connected, and now it can be a video camera or a wireless access point). Or four cable sections for single-pair Ethernet would be laid from the consolidation point port with four sensors or BMS controllers connected to them.

A horizontal link consisting of two parts significantly increases the flexibility and efficiency of SCS. And this flexibility and efficiency is given to the link by the consolidation point. A consolidation point can be compared to an “elbow joint” of a human arm. When we look at an arm with a working elbow joint and compare it with an arm that cannot bend – it becomes clear to us that they have different capabilities. However, this can only be understood by someone who has lived all their life with an arm as straight as a stick, and suddenly the elbow joint starts working and the arm begins to bend.

No one ever knows exactly who, when and where will want to connect to a structured cabling system (neither at the design stage, nor at the installation stage, nor at the stages of operation and modernization). Those wishing to connect to a structured cabling system continuously appear over time.

The consolidation point is prepared for such uncertainty; she is ready to accept everyone into her area of responsibility.
The consolidation point is prepared for such uncertainty; it is ready to accept everyone into its area of responsibility.

Article created by RJ45
Literary editor Eugene.P
P.S. Thanks to colleague Ivan for discussing the topic.
P.P.S. This illustration was created by artist Peter Zakharchenko
especially for this publication.