Fibre for facilities management

Facilities departments need to support fast-moving business and IT processes, whilst also improving and innovating security and accommodating fast changes in IT and their own business areas... How can this be done in a safe, coordinated and managed way? By Andrew Cliffin, Manager Public Networks, Western Europe, R&M.

Largely driven by the fast rise of innovations such as mobile computing, Bring Your Own Device, wireless connectivity, Internet of Things, Big Data and Cloud services, way we work and engage with our work environments is rapidly changing.


As more people work from home, in public spaces, or in transit, they expect the same level and quality of connectivity they have in the office. As they increasingly bring their own devices to work, they expect the same hassle-free connectivity they have at home. This requires increased flexibility and enough bandwidth, which can be provided by fibre. However, fibre can provide other benefits, too…


Converging networks


Until fairly recently, discrete groups of in-building resources were devoted to one particular function: telephony, internet, LAN, security, building infrastructure, data... However, we’re currently seeing integrated pools of computers, storage and networking resources increasingly being shared across multiple applications, enabled by highly efficient, policy-driven processes.


Deployment of converged networks helps reduce power consumption, improve cooling efficiency and enable the introduction of further energy-saving measures. Ventilation in computer rooms, for example, can be smaller and more efficient. Valuable space can also be saved, which ultimately improves energy consumption. The latest generation of cabling also has an improved noise ratio, and therefore requires less power for noise cancelling.


Thanks to convergence, users can make the most of increasingly sophisticated system intelligence. It can provide enormous efficiency increases, from a technical and business perspective, centralising management of IT resources, consolidating systems, boosting resource utilisation rates and lowering costs.



Energy Efficient Ethernet and Power Over Ethernet


Fibre also enables the introduction of Energy Efficient Ethernet, according to the IEEE 802.3az standard. When a link is idle, power consumption of physical layer devices is reduced. This is done by placing part of the transmission circuit into low-power mode without impacting data transmission. An EEE-defined protocol enables Ethernet devices (in LPI mode) to keep operational parameters updated. This preserves link stability and avoids disconnections. When the link is required once again, it is simply ‘woken up’ after a predetermined delay.


Power over Ethernet (PoE) is also facilitated with network convergence. This combines power and data transmission in a single cable, allowing for extensive use of powering devices using data cabling. The original PoE standard was introduced a decade ago and supported up to 12.95 watts, but with the introduction of PoE+ in 2009, up to 25.5 watts is supported. PoE can now power devices over long lengths of data cable.


New monitoring and management options


In today’s dynamic, increasingly complex and fast-growin environments, troubleshooting or making infrastructural changes on the basis of incorrect, out-of-date or unreliable documentation is not unlike walking a tightrope without a safety net. What’s more, manual fault-finding or cable tracking is no longer a viable option.


Automating well-chosen managing and monitoring tasks can play an important part in achieving (close to) 100% uptime. There are several solutions, which might appear to overlap, or even seem interchangeable, but there are marked differences. Making the wrong choice will only result in additional costs in the (near) future, so it’s worth examining these. To determine which type of solution best suits your needs, you need to know exactly what these needs are. Companies should first list the business requirements they wish to meet by implementing a monitoring and management solution. This should include infrastructural and environmental considerations and future growth plans.





Supporting security


Fibre and infrastructure management tools can also prevent the misuse of data as well as support physical security. Besides enabling management and configuration of all privacy and security components,  role-based management and security can also be enhanced and improved. Up-to-date overviews of network layout and performance afforded by fibre plays a crucial part in finding weak spots and planning improvements and upgrades.


Choose wisely!


However, many ‘tried and tested’ products might no longer work in a new integrated system. This has consequences for suppliers and end users. IT support staff may also be required to integrate new solutions and platforms into existing environments. They might even have to start from scratch with an entirely new suite of products and applications. Besides the speed of your connections, the quality is important, as well as the interoperability between different manufacturers’ hard- and software. Getting it right is vital - oversights are costly and time-consuming to fix after the fact - but this requires much more than comparing spec sheets!


Networks and connectivity need to be evaluated as a key physical infrastructure component. That means knowing where you are, where you want to go and what it will take to get there. Compliance with industry standards needs to be closely examined and you must determine whether the network is capable of supporting current needs and future business initiatives. Fibre’s greater data throughput and lower latency also results in higher availability and significantly better overall network performance. Ensuring your network lives up to a high standard, making it future proof and allowing it to support multiple generations of active equipment, could simply require no more than investing 1% extra on the total budget.

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