CMS mitigates doomsday scenarios

With fewer than 300 days to go until January 1, 2000, the countdown has begun. Most companies are rushing to finalize implementation of their Y2K plans. The programmer troops have unveiled--and in some cases reunveiled--their handiwork. From the cabling installa- tion standpoint, most software glitches won`t paralyze the equipment in your company. After all, according to some well-positioned industry insiders, the Y2K bug is not a hardware problem, it`s a software problem.

Mar 1st, 1999

Software is the root of, and the solution to, the Y2K problem.

Andrew Poole

With fewer than 300 days to go until January 1, 2000, the countdown has begun. Most companies are rushing to finalize implementation of their Y2K plans. The programmer troops have unveiled--and in some cases reunveiled--their handiwork. From the cabling installa- tion standpoint, most software glitches won`t paralyze the equipment in your company. After all, according to some well-positioned industry insiders, the Y2K bug is not a hardware problem, it`s a software problem.

However, software and hardware are intrinsically linked and the best way to avoid getting bitten by the Millennium Bug is to find the right software to help manage your hardware. That`s the value of cable-management software (cms).

What is cms? Like other "telemanagement" software, it is primarily a database application. Your cms keeps track of cables: their types, specifications, and connections. It also keeps track of cables, racks, crossconnects, patch panels, service outlets, and other parts of the physical cabling plant. This information is supplemented with a library of cable, connector, and other hardware specifications. cms correlates all of the above with departments, functions, and users as well as with the physical layout of your office space. It frequently employs built-in graphics or provides schematic output to architectural drafting software. A good cms system will document procedures for handling repairs, moves, adds, changes, and testing--and will act as a dispatch system for work orders and trouble tickets.

If a Y2K software glitch undermines the functionality of a piece of equipment, cms provides a faster solution to these problems, equipping network administrators with a critical and highly flexible management tool for providing a responsive operation in an increasingly complex environment.

Connectivity-related problems account for more than 50% of all downtime, making accurate documentation of the network and physical layer essential. With Y2K concerns affecting so many areas of the company, those concerns are on the rise.

The utility and functionality of a cms stems from its powerful relational database. With a single screen inquiry, managers can quickly determine how to deploy resources. If a circuit is interrupted, cms can immediately identify everyone impacted by the service outage. As a result, the product incorporates a powerful graphical capability that displays network infrastructure, circuits, and connections as an overlay on existing computer-aided design building plans and network drawings.

cms allows network managers to build a hierarchical model of their information technology (IT) infrastructure, providing a detailed record of the type and location of each network component. Even without the Millennium Bug looming overhead, the software also makes office relocations and network maintenance more efficient and easier to manage and dramatically simplifies troubleshooting, disaster-recovery efforts, and network upgrades.

Saving money

How much money can you save with a cms program? Cablesoft provides the following assessment, based on a recent survey of users. According to our survey, the average network crashes 23.6 times a year, and average downtime is 14.9 hours per crash. Downtime costs between $1000 and $50,000 per hour. Based on these figures, if cms can save you 20% (by showing you where the wires go, what needs to be fixed, etc.), then it is saving you, on average, between $250,000 and $1 million per year.

"Cable networks," observes Peter Pela, president of Cablesoft, "will not be the crux of Y2K problems, but that doesn`t mean they won`t bear any impact. As networks for telephony, [local area networks], and other functions keep growing in size and complexity, fixing a glitch can be extremely time-consuming and costly. Y2K software problems can cause equipment to crash. Poor cable management and bad documentation can slow down an IT department`s responsiveness to correct those problems. That response time can be crucial during a major outage."

Pela advises network and cabling managers to plan ahead for Y2K. "The sheer size of the systems and multitude of interconnects make it hard to keep track of what is connected to what," he says. "As a result of the complexity and general state of the telecommunications closet, mis managers and installers alike have begun to realize the strong need to accurately identify all the hardware and cabling in their systems."

In the event of a significant system crash, cms provides extensive data search, filtration, and reporting facilities. You can search for complex, multicomponent groupings. A reporting engine lets you develop reports on any type of data stored by cms. Reports are displayed on screen and can be printed to paper or distributed by e-mail.

It is the physical infrastructure that carries your business from point A to point B. That infrastructure is frequently taken for granted--until it stops working. As one writer noted, "No matter how finely tuned your car engine is, you`re not going to get to your destination if the road is closed--and the same is true of your network and its cabling."

Andrew Poole is vice president of engineering at Cablesoft Inc. (Tempe, AZ), which makes Crimp IT infrastructure modeling software. For more information, visit www.crimp.com.

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