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Future Connectivity

13 November 2008

A vision of a unified physical infrastructure is emerging that will align it more to business to increase operational efficiency by managing the interdependence of building systems, factory automation and data centres, as Frank Booty explains

AUNIFIED PHYSICAL INFRASTRUCTURE (UPI) has been launched by Panduit with industry analyst Frost & Sullivan, and supported by analyst group Gartner and Panduit alliance partner Cisco. That’s a lot of clout to back something that’s not a vendor specific product or solution.

Rather it is a vision, evolution or step change in the design and deployment of physical infrastructure, which spans industries across enterprise architecture, data centres, connected buildings and industrial environments.

UPI is touted as being capable of enabling IT to align more to business, increase business efficiency and reduce total cost of ownership of a company’s systems. Panduit, Frost & Sullivan and Gartner believe the UPI vision has already begun and that we will see the principles of UPI in every sphere the physical infrastructure touches. At 50+ years of age, Panduit is an accomplished worldclass developer and provider of innovative networking and electrical solutions.

Underlying these developments is the push from IP communications driving convergence onto the network –that’s voice and data communications, computing, video, power, control and security. Many installers have new convergence challenges coming.

A weak physical infrastructure will cause a single point of failure which will affect all those areas if converged on the network – some 10 percent of downtime is caused by the physical infrastructure which is currently costing businesses between US$20 to US$200,000 per hour on networks with less convergence. This risk – a single point of failure – can be mitigated through deployment by skilled installers of a UPI which will also allow organisations to make use of real-time information to run their businesses.

However, general opinion has it that this concept of unified physical infrastructure is really nothing new and indeed many of the industry participants have their own names for the concept of convergence of building systems and communications systems. At a Cisco Networkers event in Barcelona earlier this year, for example, CommScope referred to this concept as ‘Intelligent Building Infrastructure Systems’ or IBIS, which is the convergence of Building Automation Systems (BAS) and the communications or IT infrastructure. Cisco refers to this concept as technology convergence as part of its Connected Real Estate initiative (top

The need to provide real-time information, manage network applications and control building automation systems through IP networking is also driving increased interdependence between these systems throughput several core enterprise areas, says Frost & Sullivan:

....Building systems (i.e. lighting, access, HVAC) are becoming smarter and more manageable to reduce energy costs, improve climate control and enhance employee security and retention.

....Factory automation systems (i.e. process control, motion control, numeric control) provide real-time information to enterprise business systems.

....Data centres are mission critical data factories delivering applications that need to be accessed remotely with stringent performance requirements.

As the interdependence of these systems increases, a point of failure within any one system impacts the performance of the many and creates risk.

The key to convergence is the integration of individual systems onto a single infrastructure platform that can achieve a high level of interoperability between building systems. In addition to enabling optimisation, convergence of systems onto a single IP infrastructure considerably reduces installation costs of the cabling infrastructure. Panduit estimates savings of between 60 percent and 90 percent in the initial cabling costs alone.

Further cost savings are available through ongoing reductions in energy usage. For example, with convergence of systems in place, scheduling a meeting using Microsoft Outlook will communicate to the lighting system to turn light fixtures on and off and adjust the HVAC system based on the number of people scheduled to attend the meeting. Not only does this enhance the workplace environment but, according to the US Green Building Council, by intelligently managing when and how devices within a building consume power, total energy used within the facility is reduced by up to 30 percent.

Converging BAS onto the IP network stands on its own merits, however, environmental legislation and limiting power use, is likely to accelerate adoption. Panduit expects that intelligent systems, converged on the IP network, and managing the use of a building will be the standard for new-build and refurbishment projects by 2012.

Integrating production, data acquisition, purchasing, quality, logistics, sales, and building automation systems onto a single common infrastructure sounds good – people can improve network efficiency, reduce operational costs and increase manufacturing productivity. In buildings, traditional control systems for lighting, security, HVAC and energy management must now coexist with IP-based voice, data and video communications technologies. While in the data centre, the UPI approach encourages more frequent interaction twixt IT and FM to deliver a physical infrastructure that best fits the demand profile of high density data centre applications.

There are industry standards on BAS cabling, in particular the TIA 862 standard. This document came out of work done by CommScope during its AT&T days, to define cabling for IBS systems. The document accounts for the fact that, at least in the short term, it is not realistic that all of the remote devices (sensors, etc) will be star-wired using 4-pair UTP and as such gives recommendations on how to daisy chain, bridge or serially connect end devices back to their respective controllers.

Panduit (re)emphasises the UPI vision – align, converge and optimise. Can it work? Can it get rid of silos of established but outdated practices? The answer is Yes it can. The further questions and reality relate to timing, inevitable politics and a lot of damned hard diplomacy. Whatever the claims and arguments, the fact is everyone is looking at the future scene – and one in which FM will play a vital role. However, don’t expect it tomorrow.

Living up to its image as a global supplier of network and cabling infrastructure, Panduit is constructing its new corporate HQ in Tinley Park, Chicago, Illinois, on an intelligent building design that will showcase its Connected Building Solution. This enables the convergence of a building’s facilities systems onto a single network for improved control, communication, and management. Occupancy is planned for summer 2009.

The company has a commitment to the environment and sustainability, and intends the new HQ to achieve LEED Gold certification standard to demonstrate reducedconstruction pollution and significant energy savings. The development includes a 23,000 sq. m. facility, in a 21 hectare campus environment.

The HQ incorporates state of the art design and building technologies to enhance its aesthetic appeal and increase organisational effectiveness. Already, Panduit has managed to reduce its internal energy consumption by nearly 29 percent over the last six years.

Panduit claims it is delivering next generation, real time network visibility with zero footprint with a physical infrastructure management system that automates the documentation of physical layer connectivity and provides intelligent patchfield management without need for additional rack space. It…

....helps increase network reliability and availability by providing real-time information of network status

....helps keep a network secure by monitoring and alerting administrators of any patch field changes or potential security risks

....helps improve efficiency by facilitating steps 1-3 in ITIL V3; planning, implementation, and documentation of connectivity moves, adds and or changes

....further helps achieve ITIL compliance with physical inventory location tracking

....allows jobs to be run in parallel for increased time and cost saving, enabling a Red work order can run simultaneously with a Green work order and a Yellow work order. designed for integration into new and existing networks.

Some of this is not new and Panduit still has the constraint that it requires special patch cords with the 9th wire to establish the connectivity map.

Part of PANVIEW iQ is the PANDUIT
Physical Infrastructure Manager Software – a web-based application that enables the network manager to monitor the system remotely and securely. An API built into the software allows integration between the PANVIEW iQ System and familiar thirdparty applications, so that the system slots neatly into an existing network infrastructure.

● Frank Booty is a freelance writer


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