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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.

How does it compare to the competition?

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:

  1. They are expensive.
  2. 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.
  3. They are sold to the cabling community, rather than to the network/asset management/support community.
  4. The technology hasn’t always had the necessary robustness.
  5. As they are out of band systems, it is difficult to tell when they are not working.
  6. The hardware needs to be refreshed at a significantly greater rate than the cabling.
  7. 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.
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