White Paper – Server Room Clean-Ups
In many cases within Data Centres, Server Rooms and Wiring Closets, end-users find it difficult to keep control of the Patching Configuration within these facilities. This is mainly due to “Human Element” in keeping these cabling systems in order. Many times, Technicians have the best intentions to keep these systems in the same conditions as they were when first installed, however they are faced with the following challenges:
- There is often very little “Downtime” afforded to MAC’s – Moves, Adds and Changes. Over time, this results in a “Spaghetti Mess” that we often see since Technicians are not given the time to “Neaten Up” because it requires more Time or even Downtime.
- Some Technicians simply don’t have the discipline or the experience to do a neat job.
- The sheer volume of Cabling with some installations takes many hours to reconfigure and organize.
- Lack of Record Keeping or Cable Layout Drawings means that each Network Point may need to be traced to confirm its location. MAC’s are also not updated in the Database, whether Manual or Digital.
- In some mature installations, cables disappear into the Raised Floor and because of the volume of cables, it’s almost impossible to trace.
- Lack of Labels at the Patch Panel and at the User end.
Stay in Control
There is huge value in being in control of your Structured Cabling System and taking the steps necessary to remain in control. The value can be identified as follows:
- MAC’s can be performed much quicker.
- Faults can be repaired in minutes.
- Downtime will be avoided or reduced.
- Management will remain confident that they are in control
If You Have Lost Control… What Next?
If you are in the unfortunate situation where you have lost control or if you are not confident in the Records you do have, what are your options?
The very first process you should consider is to conduct a Structured Cabling Network Audit. This should cover both the Horizontal Copper Cabling as well as the Optic Fibre Backbone Cabling. Network Audits can be a painful process, since it’s a tedious procedure where every cable needs to be identified, traced and recorded.
IT Infrastructure Managers need to feel that confidence that comes from being in control of their Assets. The Structured Cabling System is the Life Blood of the organization that allows communication to flow. They need to know that they can access a “Single Source of Truth”.
“Single Source of Truth (SSOT) is a concept that an organization can apply as part of its information architecture to ensure that everyone in the organization uses the same data when making business decisions. The aim of adopting a SSOT is to provide employees with a federated view of data, which may also be referred to as a single version of the truth or golden record.” (Ref. http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/single-source-of-truth-SSOT)
Organizations use the Concept of Single Source of Truth as part of their Information Architecture or Enterprise Architecture. By implementing this concept, the quality of data increases, less mistakes in communication are made and costs of errors are decreased.
By always storing data in exactly one location it is prevented that inconsistent versions of that data can or will be used by data consumers.
Quality of your Data
When conducting an Audit, an experienced Partner Company should be employed. The Audit will only be as good and the information that is recorded and which should represent the Truth.
Every effort should then be made to counter act the “Human Element” going forward. Each Change Control should include a documentation update on completion of the project.
What Tools Are There to Help Us Stay in Control?
Now that you have concluded your Audit – What Next? One must realize that an Audit is a process of obtaining the Truth. Once you have the Truth, what are you going to do with it?
The Truth needs to be documented. This can be done via:
- Excel Spreadsheets
- Industry Tools such as Infrastructure Management Software
- Intelligent Infrastructure Management (IIM).
Infrastructure Management Software
Intelligent Infrastructure Management (IIM) is a solution for managing network infrastructure that bridges the gap between the physical network layer and logical layers 1 & 2.
IIM enables companies and organizations to monitor and control all network components and provides a full view of each device, including status, physical location and connectivity to other network components.
Using this data, IIM enables to identify critical points of failure in the network more quickly and at a much earlier stage; points of failure that without IIM are often only discovered when they cause downtime. IIM automates work processes such as MACs (moves, adds and changes) and work orders, thus eliminating human error and reducing maintenance costs. IIM also conducts precise provisioning of equipment, optimizing asset management and lifecycle management, and ensuring full utilization of all IT assets – down to the last switch port.
Intelligent Infrastructure Management Software and Hardware (IIM)
In service provider networks, a default behaviour is to block MAC Movement within the OLT as a security measure to prevent spoofing and theft of service threats. In a POL environment however, there will be a need to configure services to allow this movement such as devices using WiFi services and moving between two different WAP’s that are hosted via 2 different PON cards. The MAC movement feature therefore is implemented to facilitate this requirement for POL applications. The administrator may optionally implement the default behaviour as required for 3rd party network services, contractors, or public facing networks in which MAC movement is not desired.
What Can Be Done to Prevent the Spaghetti Mess in the Future?
Although we can not get rid of the “Human Element” of Structured Cabling System, we can provide Components that help Technicians manage the Cabling System better.
- Horizontal and Vertical Cable Management Components
- Angled Patch Panels
- Oversized Racks or Frames
- Overhead Cable Trays or Raceways
- Colour Coded Patch Cords
Raised Floors Should Only Be Used for Airflow. Not Data Cabling!
What Does the Future Hold ?
It is worth looking at new and innovative technologies that have emerged. One of these that has proven that it will receive huge success is “Passive Optical LAN” or POL.
POL has emerged from the Passive Optical Networks (PON) which has been used by the telecommunications industry for the last 15 years. It has been adapted to the Corporate market and has enormous benefits.
Passive Optical LAN (POL) is a new way to structure a Computer Network, replacing traditional Structured Cabling, which consisted of multiple levels of Switch and Router aggregation.
Benefits of POL:
- Cost savings
- Energy efficient
- Easy install and maintain
- Eliminates need for Wiring Closets
- Simplifies network moves, adds and changes
- Increased security
This document was intended to give a quick overview of the need to conduct a Structured Cabling Audit. We have highlighted the need to obtain the Truth and maintain the Truth.
The Truth is only as good as the quality of the Data collected. Once collected, this should be maintained by making use of Industry Standards and Tools. There are tools available in the Market that help Users stay in control.
Passive Optical LAN or POL is a Cabling Technology that dramatically reduces the size of the Cabling Plant. For large networks, this will become the norm.