Automated infrastructure management specifications and applications

Defined in TIA-5048 and adapted from ISO/IEC 18598, AIM systems are designed to contribute to operational efficiency.

1808cimdatacenter Photo 1

Defined in TIA-5048 and adapted from ISO/IEC 18598, AIM systems are designed to contribute to operational efficiency.

In June 2017 the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) published the ANSI/TIA-5048 standard, Automated Infrastructure Management (AIM) Systems—Requirements, Data Exchange and Applications. The standard is an adaption of the ISO/IEC 18598 standard, which bears the same title. The one difference between the two document is that ANSI/TIA-5048 requires identification schemes to comply with the ANSI/TIA-606-C standard.

The 5048 standard defines AIM systems’ functional elements, system requirements, and functional requirements. It also includes functional recommendations. Additionally, the standard identifies intrinsic and extrinsic benefits of AIM systems. It also defines a data exchange framework for AIM systems. A normative annex includes implementation requirements andrecommendations.

Of AIM system benefits, the standard states, “Poorly documented systems are difficult to troubleshoot. AIM systems can provide automated up-to-date documentation that can improve system availability. Easily accessible and current documentation allows organizations to spend less time obtaining information necessary to troubleshoot cabling infrastructure and network problems.” Additionally, “IT asset management is an important part of an organization’s strategy. It usually involves gathering detailed hardware and software inventory information, which is then used to make decisions about hardware and software purchases and redistribution … AIM systems are capable of manually documenting asset information for passive components and have the capability to discover the presence of, and maintain information about, the network connectivity status and derived location of network distribution equipment, e.g. routers, switches, wireless access points [and] end devices, e.g. servers, PCs, IP telephones, IP cameras.”

That portion of the standard also details AIM’s benefits “when linked with other business information and network management systems.” It further states, “Exchange of data between an AIM system and business information or network management system can provide enhanced functionality to both systems.” The standard details how the following systems can exchange data with an AIM system: IP telephony, network management, helpdesk, information security management, energy management, and lighting control.

CommScope recently collaborated with Joinpad to develop augmented reality prototypes for its imVision automated infrastructure management solution. The result, pictured here, is the ability for a network technician to use smart glasses or a mobile device to see cables behind walls or in ceilings.

AIM and DCIM

The TIA-5048 standard also discusses the opportunity for and advantages of AIM interacting with a data center infrastructure management (DCIM) system. “DCIM needs access to real-time data from both the telecommunications infrastructure and the wider data center facilities,” the standard states. “AIM is able to provide the DCIM platform with real-time data information from the cablinginfrastructure.”

AIM can contribute to a DCIM system’s ability to provide operations management, asset and connectivity management, change management, availability management, and capacity planning.

The normative annex, called Implementation Requirements and Recommendations, states that the realization of AIM benefits “requires proper implementation of the system. The system shall be fully configured, tested and operational on the day when a customer is taking over ownership of the system.” It also says that successful implementation incorporates four phases: design, specification, installation, and operation.

According to the annex, system design should be carried out in consultation with the cabling system designer, the customer, other business systems that will use the AIM system, and networkadministrators.

Siemon, which provides detail on the TIA-5048 standard in its Standards Informant blog, offers the MapIT G2 AIM system. Capitalizing on the EagleEye Connect software platform, MapIT G2 “is an ideal way to provide real-time tracking and reporting of network-wide physical layer activity,” the company says.

As the TIA-5048 standard states, AIM systems can contribute to a DCIM system’s capabilities. In July 2018, Siemon announced a partnership with Graphical Networks, which provides the netTerrain DCIM platform. When announcing the partnership, Siemon said, “The netTerrain DCIM platform is a centralized, multi-user, browser-based platform that visualizes the data center right down to the port level or card in a chassis via easy-to-use navigation that renders powerful hierarchical and subcompact data center diagrams. It includes rack, cabinet and floor layouts to visually see cabinet occupancy and manage assets and circuit layouts to provide on-demand display of cabling links between equipment and components.

“Through the netTerrain platform, users can easily configure layouts with integrated access to Siemon’s WheelHouse Advanced Data Center Solutions. Siemon PowerMax intelligent PDUs that deliver real-time monitoring and control of power usage, capacity and environmental conditions also integrate with the netTerrain platform for users to monitor data center power at the device or outlet level.”

Frank Velleca, Siemon’s market manager for strategic projects, commented, “Today’s data centers are more complex than ever before, with thousands of connections linking a wide range of devices, cards and ports all occupying physical space in racks and cabinets and consuming power. We are excited to partner with Graphical Networks and integrate our data center solutions into the netTerrain DCIM platform to help our customers maximize space and capacity, manage assets, lower power and cooling costs, reduce downtime, and properly plan and forecast for growth.”

Augmenting reality

CommScope recently demonstrated augmented reality (AR) capabilities with its imVision AIM solution “so customers soon will ‘see’ what’s going on in their local area networks,” the company said. “The software-based imVision already enables IT managers to monitor and control every aspect of their network infrastructure—from tracking down a stranded switch port to troubleshooting a connectivity issue in a matter of minutes versus hours or days. Located in a data center or IT closet, imVision can remotely show where ports are located and how they are connected back to the main location. Even with this information, however, users may not be able to physically see the port information or actual connection if it is behind ceiling tiles or walls. That’s what the new AR capabilities with imVision will enable, speeding up troubleshooting andprovisioning.”

Ernie Pickens, senior vice president of enterprise solutions for CommScope, noted, “What started as an application for gamers and entertainment has now entered the business world and organizations are beginning to see the value that AR can bring to various industries. Coupling AR with intelligent infrastructure to ‘see’ cables and connections behind walls and in ceilings is just the first of many uses where we believe customers will find value.”

The company recently collaborated with Joinpad to develop functional AR prototypes based on use cases that are typically performed during cabling-administration tasks. The tasks covered implementation of moves/adds/changes, troubleshooting cabling connectivity, and maintenance work on cabling infrastructure in the ceiling. The prototype applications, which work on mobile devices and on smart glasses, enable users to experience the benefits of AR technology, CommScope said.

Advancing maturity

Reichle & De-Massari (R&M), which offers the R&MinteliPhy AIM system, recently authored a paper titled “The Maturity Model for Automated Infrastructure Management.” In it, the company spells out five levels of maturity for the use and administration of AIM. “The Maturity Model progresses from level one through level five,” R&M says. “It highlights the manual management tools of level one, and the reactive tools of level two. Critical advances come at level three where standardization and consolidation of processes and information sources are found.” R&M calls the third level “proactive.” “Advanced visibility of network connectivity in every rack is featured at level four [service-oriented]. Level five [optimization] illustrates the monitoring and management platforms that can provide an optimized service delivered system.”

R&M continues, “Progressing through the levels of the Maturity Model provides insight into how to gain control over all aspects of a network infrastructure while reducing both risks and costs. For example, achieving level five will result in the elimination of stranded capacity and an end-to-end analysis of network infrastructure due to automated monitoring and work order management. Visibility and real-time access at every rack will give the power to plan for the future of the network.”

The paper describes each level and lists three ways by which an organization can move to the next level. For example, three ways to move from level one “manual management” to level two “reactive management” are:

  • Abandon the paper notes to label the cable destination in favor of simple digital documentation tools that provide a better overview, such as cabling tables listed in Excel worksheets and rack elevations or network plans drawn with Visio stencils;
  • Put the documentation files on a shared folder to grant colleagues insight into the current state of the networkinfrastructure;
  • Implement a process to update this documentation after a change.

After the level-by-level descriptions, R&M explains that organizations “must recognize that they might be far along the model in some areas but lagging behind in others. For example, a data center might be able to create clearly defined work orders at an advanced level, but when an issue arises, staff may be troubleshooting for hours—even days.

“A good motivation for moving an area up from a lower level is that the non-optimal area may be negatively influencing areas already farther up the model.”

It also offers some pointers on choosing a performance monitoring platform: “It’s important to find one that comprehensively covers all parts of the physical infrastructure. When moving through the levels, it is important to take full advantage of the various functionalities and capabilities of the AIM system implemented. Moving up one level can take as little as a couple of weeks. During this process, organizations can implement functionalities on their own or take advantage of technical help from systemsspecialists.”

As cabling standards go, ANSI/TIA-5048 Automated Infrastructure Management Systems is not overbearing. A few dozen pages in length, it is easily navigated by a system specifier, designer, installer or owner. But the specification’s relative brevity belies the positive impact that a thoroughly planned and executed AIM system can have on an organization.u

Patrick McLaughlin is our chief editor.

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