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Industry Insights

Fiber’s Future: Dynamic and Software Managed

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 | by Yann Morvan

In today’s data centers, you typically have network architectures based on 3-tier (Core/Aggregation/Access) and spine & leaf, with topologies including Top of Rack, End of Row & Middle of Row. Although these architectures are widely utilized and they do have their benefits, there are many challenges:

  • CAPEX/OPEX LIMITATIONS: Large number of switches/more active equipment (CAPEX). Power and cooling costs are high (OPEX). Moves, adds and Changes (MACs) are labor intensive (OPEX).
  • LABOR INTENSIVE MAINTENANCE: Technicians must be on-site to carry out any MACs. It is time consuming to locate/isolate problems and take corrective action.
  • HUMAN ERRORS: The technician must be on-site to carry out MACs, so there is a potential for human errors, which can be extremely costly in downtime.
  • MANUAL NETWORK LABELING & DOCUMENTATION: Labeling, documentation and asset management is a labor intensive process that requires careful attention and record keeping. There is also potential for human error. Often one key person becomes responsible. If that person leaves the organization, there is a significant network knowledge gap.
  • ASSET MANAGEMENT: Manual “book-keeping” is labor intensive, and sometimes overlooked or ignored. Again, there is potential for network knowledge loss due to personnel changes.
  • CONNECTION SPACE CONSTRAINTS: Space is at a premium. There is a constant need for higher densities and a great risk for “outgrowing” physical space.
  • EXPENSIVE NETWORK MONITORING: Today, network monitoring is accomplished through the use of tapped cassettes. Not only are they expensive, but they also require on-site labor to physically connect the cassette to perform diagnostics.
  • MORE BANDWIDTH/LESS LATENCY: With speeds constantly increasing, it is an uphill battle to keep up with the increasing amount of traffic on the network.
  • VARIOUS POLARITY METHODS: The TIA provides guidelines around different methods for polarity, and each of these methods requires particular types of components. It is a labor intensive process to map out port-to-port polarity, and careful consideration is needed for asset management.
  • CONSTANT MACS WITH UPGRADES AND MIGRATIONS: Constantly trying to keep up with the network changes is a very manual and labor intensive process today.

There is now a better way to design your network and leverage your fiber infrastructure, which will greatly reduce or completely eliminate the limitations listed above. It is called the Glass CoreTM, and it is a solution from Legrand and powered by Fiber Mountain. With the use of the Glass Core’s optical cross-connects, and intelligent patch panels in each server cabinet, combined with the power of software orchestration and management, you can now leverage your fiber physical layer and truly create a dynamic and managed fiber connectivity.

With this solution, a data center manager can achieve the ultimate scalability using ultra-high density 24-fiber MPO connectivity with ample room to grow, all at the click of a button. 
The software-based management eliminates "manual” book-keeping and significantly reduces the man-hours needed to complete moves, adds and changes. You can also perform maintenance and manage assets from anywhere in real-time. 
With software-driven MACs and asset management, the potential for human error is greatly diminished. No need to map ports or use expensive testing equipment or tapped cassettes for diagnostics. You can now get a live look at your network from the software, no matter where you are in the world. 
If you want to add bandwidth or reroute data in layer one, you can do so with the click of a button. You have automated network re-configurability, and you can reserve and provision parts or all of your network. It is a tremendous advantage to be able to perform MACs anywhere in the world, in real-time, without the need for a technician to be present on-site.

With the Glass Core solution, your most dramatic cost savings will come from not having to use very expensive passive optical tapped cassettes, modules and panels. This capability already comes built into the software now managing your fiber infrastructure. 

You can also drastically reduce your labor cost associated with MACs; or nearly eliminate downtime due to human errors. Keep in mind that the average cost per minute of downtime for a data center is $7,900/min according to a 2013 study by the Ponemon Institute, and that’s a 41% increase since 2010!
How about the potential to optimize the highest operating cost of running a data center: power and cooling for your switching equipment? Imagine if you not only had less equipment to cool, but you could design an architecture that better isolates the equipment that needs power and cooling.
The glass core solution brings clear benefits to a vast array of data centers. For hyper-scale data centers, this solution greatly simplifies the management of what can be an extremely complex network, whether it is in one site or multiple sites across the globe. For colocations, it provides easier configuration and set-up using software, which means faster deployment and less mistakes. 
For any data center, it is highly complementary to the switching layer. The intelligent patch panel is in fact a great solution for port replication because the software is able to pull information from the switch itself, and replicate its status visually on the panel with LEDs.
In summary, with the Glass Core solution, your network physical layer and devices are now discoverable by software. By connecting to the orchestration software, it provides accurate topology mapping and usage of your entire network, including port identification. This can be very valuable especially in ultra-high density environments where it is very difficult to label the ports because of physical space limitations. The software offers remote real-time network topology changes and has the potential to give you a full audit trail of any updates. You also have real-time visibility to available ports, being able to reserve or provision them when needed.

This new architecture approach combines software orchestration and management (or Software-Defined Networking) with fiber connectivity and physical infrastructure. It is the future for data centers across the globe to leverage the benefits of a dynamic and managed fiber connectivity layer. It will become the building block to enable rapid changes, on a massive scale, with greater visibility whenever you need it, while delivering the ultimate in network management and OPEX savings.