Network Management Challenges
Leading organisations are increasingly dependent on their IT networks to provide a competitive advantage as well as meeting both customer and shareholder needs. These networks are becoming increasingly complex and are required to support a rapidly increasing number of applications coupled with ever increasing levels of IT service availability. The migration toward ‘on demand’, high availability, converged enterprise networks is providing a considerable challenge to those organisations wishing to reap the undoubted business benefits. It will require significant system downtime reductions to achieve this goal and it is extremely unlikely that improvements of the magnitude required can be delivered by the manual infrastructure management systems and processes widely used today.
Intelligent Infrastructure Management Systems (IIMS) such as SMARTPatch are rightly regarded as powerful tools in the push towards optimum availability through improved management and documentation of physical infrastructure components and connectivity.
Historically IIMS systems were often referred to as “Intelligent Patching” systems and emphasis was placed on their ability to detect the location of patch connections in the MER or Floor Distributor. For this reason, management systems were predominantly utilised and maintained by cabling and connectivity oriented personnel and departments. This in turn led to decisions on the purchase of IIMS being based predominantly on benefits that could be gained dealing with issues related directly to the physical aspects of downtime, troubleshooting and MACs.
Developments in IIMS, particularly the SMARTPatch system over recent years, have produced an ever-developing suite of tools applicable to many areas outside that of conventional cable connectivity. This is not to suggest that we disregard the patch management capabilities, they are still vitally important and provide the 100% reliable base data that is utilised by the newer, more advanced functions.
It may be taking another look at IIMS and considering where the influence of SMARTPatch, particularly when integrated with other Network Management and support tools, could offer considerable advantages to the organisation.
Compliance with Best Practice
The realisation that the 100% availability of IT services would assume ever-greater significance led to the introduction of IT Service Management. Setting the benchmark for ‘best practice’ in service management is ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library), which has been adopted as the de-facto global standard (ISO20000) for IT Service Management.
Many businesses now quote operation to ITIL principles as a strategic aim. Creating such systems and processes based upon a traditionally managed cabling infrastructure is an impossible task as the connectivity and asset information contained within traditional tools and documentation processes, being manually maintained, is inevitably inaccurate, outdated and therefore cannot be safely incorporated into an accurate CMDB. This creates a large degree of uncertainty concerning the physical location and associated connectivity of network devices, services and their corresponding service paths or routes. This severely limits the speed of application deployment and the quality of IT service delivery.
As stated by a spokesperson of the British Computing Society, “How can you manage IT services if you don’t know what equipment you have, where it is located, how it is connected, and the impact of changing it?”
By incorporating infrastructure management tools as part of their cabling strategy, an IT management team can create a platform capable of addressing these problems, providing a 100% accurate, real-time, trusted source of connectivity and asset information that can be incorporated within the core CMDB and consequently, utilised to enhance all associated IT service management tools and processes.
Besides the obvious advantages of reduced truck rolls in support of remote sites and better utilisation of personnel and assets, Intelligent Infrastructure Management Solution SMARTPatch can aid the Data Centre manager to comply with the best practice laid out in the EU Code of Conduct for Data Centres – Energy Efficiency.
“Data centres, housing computer servers for industry, businesses and administrations across Europe, consumed 56TWh of electricity in 2007 and are responsible for almost three per cent of electricity use in the UK. The key aim of the code of conduct is to encourage data centre operators to reduce energy consumption without hampering the performance of such facilities“.
Among a vast series of recommendations are several which require instant and comprehensive knowledge of all equipment and its relationship to connectivity, services and the environment, such as the need to; audit the existing physical and logical estate to establish what equipment is in place and what service it provides, implementation of an ITIL type Configuration Management Data base and Service Catalogue, de-commissioning/power management of under-utilised equipment, optimum use of the power/cooling zones within the centre.
All these could be facilitated by the Intelligent Infrastructure Management Solution SMARTPatch tool set by utilising the detailed real time connectivity database in conjunction with the automated provisioning tool, rack management capability and P-LET Utilisation Module. Integration with intelligent powerstrips and environmental monitoring equipment can ensure that equipment is always placed in optimum positions dictated by real-time data rather than relying on vague, boiler plate figures and other manually collected data.
Since the events of 2001-2, various articles of legislation, relating primarily to the financial sector have been enacted. Whilst the main thrust of the standards and directives, such as Sarbanes Oxley, Basel II, ISO 27001 and 2 etc, has been financial control, auditability, data protection and security, a large proportion of the work entailed to comply falls on the IT function. Many of the requirements demand well controlled and documented procedures for asset management, change control, access control, incident management, amongst many others and requires comprehensive documentation, event logging and notification procedures – all functions that can benefit from the use of automated tools such as Intelligent Infrastructure Management Solution SMARTPatch.
In short, the use of a system to automatically monitor and document all the physical layer components involved with the above eases the workload on the IT function enabling organisations to implement highly effective infrastructure strategies, whilst aiding compliance within regulatory and best practice frameworks.
There has been some confusion in the past about the structured cabling standards and their stance on Intelligent Infrastructure Management Solution IIMS.
EN50174-1 in the latest draft has defined premises as being one of 3 levels of operational complexity and whilst not making Intelligent Infrastructure Management Solution IIMS a requirement, has recognised the capabilities of these systems and added an ‘Enhanced’ level of administration requiring automation of the patch field documentation and service provision.
“The additional features provided by Enhanced administration systems may be required by local regulations regarding security of information technology service delivery.”