What is intelligent infrastructure
Many components of the cabling and networking arena have traditionally not had “intelligence” associated with them. This means the components are passive, not discoverable, and have no meaningful naming or documentation standards attributed to them.
There are traditionally no relationships between networks, cabling, voice systems, assets or third party components (like building management systems) making ownership, support and change difficult to manage. In complex infrastructures common today, the lack of intelligence in this space has led to spaghetti of cabling, poor management information, and costly outages.
Intelligent systems provide real data about the devices they manage. This data may be discovered, externally queried, manually entered but should always be integrated.
Intelligent Patching systems use hardware components (scanners/analysers and interconnect wiring) to provide visibility and control of the cable patching connections in near real time. Their promise is to minimise the effort needed to administer patched environments. They can integrate with IP devices such as cameras, door access, CCTV and intruder alarms. The early demonstrations of a web cam capturing a rogue engineer pulling a patch lead out (that triggered the snap) whetted the appetite of many IT managers. Some systems can be retrofitted onto structured cabling systems; some have to be installed with the cabling system. They mostly rely on an out of band, 9th wire in the patch lead or a micro-switch in the patch panel to manage the connection or disconnection.
The majority of the Intelligent Patching supply market is dominated by cable manufacturers. Each of these systems uses a hardware based solution to monitor what patchcord is where and a database for recoding all the physical assets and their connections. These hardware and software solutions have not moved into market dominance for the following reasons:
- They are expensive.
- They are sold as part of the cabling solution, rather than an end to end asset, connection management and a support tool across the technology disciplines.
- They are sold to the cabling community, rather than to the network/asset management/support community.
- The technology hasn’t always had the necessary robustness.
- As they are out of band systems, it is difficult to tell when they are not working.
- The hardware needs to be refreshed at a significantly greater rate than the cabling.
- Software only solutions are capable of integrating asset, location, and connection information more cheaply and accurately. This has minimised some benefits of patch lead monitoring.
Properly implemented, we believe Intelligent Patching can augment intelligent infrastructure implementations-but Intelligent Infrastructure success isn’t dependant on it and is considerably cheaper without it. Do intelligent infrastructure properly, with or without intelligent patching, and there are significant support and management benefits.
Adding Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) to devices enhances the level of information we can report against and on servers, provides the basis for your capacity management reporting. The system uses SNMP as it is generic to almost all IP devices and provides all of the information required to conduct move and change operations.
We compliment this with WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation) which give us User, Operating System, Applications and a lot more.
Integrating the Asset Module into the system enhances the asset management lifecycle and provides the organisation with the ability to automatically manage the asset from cradle to grave. If the Asset is IP based and in the system, it will automatically link itself into the discovered device, and this link will show the last successful scan and more importantly if the device is still responding.
Missing assets are identified and moved into a reporting container. The system by default records and sends a daily report on all devices which fail to respond to a poll. Visibility and Control are two very important foundations of the product.
Using the system generated link enables the ability to navigate from asset back to discovery and subsequently to other modules such as the Connect module.
For move and change purposes assets can be associated and moved together, as an example a workstation may have one or more monitors associated. These assets can be either associated with the parent for depreciation purposes or can be defined as assets in their own right and depreciation individually.
Using the Connect module moves and changes can be conducted efficiently and quickly. The system not only reduces the time it takes to conduct a move by virtually eliminating any surveys, if deployed pre-wired, the system will also automatically update itself and documents all of the changes for you.
The system can show permanent and non-permanent cables. By default permanent cables are turned off as during a move it is only patch cords which are installed. These are normally used to join the workstation to the User Service Point (floor box) and to patch the comms room end of the USP to the switch port.