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Cloud Computing Connectors: Beware of Counterfeits

Counterfeit connectors will create a lot of chronic thunderstorms in corporate clouds

If you are a corporate executive contemplating adding some applications in a cloud computing network, be very aware of the vendors as well as your own internal system architects and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) when they start talking about cost-effective networks, cheaper components and saving you money.

What many network pseudo-experts don't know is that you don't build cheap networks. There are no "Fire Sales" on quality, especially when it comes to network infrastructures. Like anything else, you get what you pay for when it comes to buying the pieces for your network just like when you buy the parts for your car or materials for your house.

Counterfeit Connectors - A Billion Dollar Industry
There is a growing concern from those in the cabling industry regarding counterfeit and non-compliant components being brought into the country.

Did you know that a connector needs to have a certain amount of gold on it to ensure the connectivity? That's right - gold, not copper. Each connector that is on either end of a cable needs to have 50 microns of gold on it in order to make a solid path for communications. Some connectors only have three microns of gold. They will work - for a little while.

In addition, the copper has to be solid copper and not a mix of copper and some other metal like aluminum (there are cables that are copper-clad aluminum that just won't work right). When you have a mixture of metals, you will:

  • Create more resistance on the circuit (which will interfere with the signal)
  • Create more heat (again degrading the circuit)
  • Actually create a "battery" that will generate a charge that will also knock out a signal

There have also been some issues with companies adding on a UL (Underwriters Laboratories) label on sub-standard cable so that the buyer thinks it has been UL-approved.

That is a trademark infringement problem for UL, but for those of you who "just bought a great deal on cable for your network," the problems will arise when you can't get more than 10 Mbps (megabit per second) speeds out of that cable that was rated to run up to 1 Gbps (gigabit per second) speeds.

Long ago, I discussed the Four Laws of Networks and got the Fifth one from a student in class. Remember the Five Laws of Networks when you start to build any type of network.

The Five Laws of Networks





Networks Never Get Smaller

They are always being added on to.


Networks Never Get Slower

Who "moves up" to a slower network?


Networks Never Stay the Same

You are constantly adding and changing network nodes.


Networks Never Work All of the Time

Even the phone companies have problems with their networks (you will too). No network is up 100%.


Networks Are Never Cheap

Quality components cost money. 24/7 reliability costs money.


Source: James Carlini

Lawsuit Waiting to Happen
As more bad connectors and inferior cabling become used as part of the building blocks for networks, the reliability of these networks will decrease. Noise, crosstalk and other interference will be prevalent as circuits wear down and connectivity will be degraded or completely lost. Also remember, the higher the speed, the more susceptible you will be to these types of problems.

The only remedy? Pulling out the whole network that you (well, your "trusted" vendor and/or your system architect/ CTO) have built with inferior products and replace it with quality components. Quality costs money, but what are the costs of downtime to the enterprise, intermittent problems, testing and pinpointing problems, and the final cost of replacing the entire cabling infrastructure because you "got a bargain" on the spools of cable and boxes of connectors you bought from Cables 'R Us.

As I've said for years to my clients as well as students at Northwestern University, "There's no such thing as a new $5,000 Rolls-Royce. You get what you pay for."

By the same token, "There's no such thing as a Formula One Yugo. $5,000 doesn't buy you a Formula One car."

•   •   •

Copyright 2012 - James Carlini

More Stories By James Carlini

James Carlini, MBA, a certified Infrastructure Consultant, keynote speaker and former award-winning Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University, has advised on mission-critical networks. Clients include the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, GLOBEX, and City of Chicago’s 911 Center. An expert witness in civil and federal courts on network infrastructure, he has worked with AT&T, Sprint and others.

Follow daily Carlini-isms at

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