TE Quareo delivers OSI 7-layer managed connectivity
By Khoo Boo Leong 26-Mar-2012
The humble network cable now holds the key to eliminating network downtime and saving hundreds of thousands of man-hours in data center infrastructure maintenance and installation thanks to TE Connectivity's patented Quareo connection point technology.
These benefits will be crucial as enterprises and service providers virtualize and increase the density of data centers in their move to cloud computing and provisioning cloud services.
At the technology's core is the Connection Point ID (CPID), which includes a chipset integrated into the connectors of TE's copper and fiber network cabling solutions. The chip allows for a MAC-like ID that tracks, authenticates and builds a connections database from the data center to the desktop.
"That unique ID built into an EPROM chip within the connectors at both ends is like a birth certificate for the individual patch cord," said Tim Takala, Technical Director for the Asia Pacific region at TE's Enterprise Networks Division. "For example, the ID could specify a 1 meter, blue, Cat6 patch cord. If I were to plug the patch cord into a network to fulfill a work order, the IDs embedded at both ends will confirm whether the correct cord has been used."
"The patch cord with the unique ID is now an asset," Takala added. "To fulfill a work order, the technician has to plug in the asset with the unique ID that was assigned to that port. And if someone unplugs the port, it does a port count so we know how many times a port has been used or the plug has been inserted."
The technology addresses issues of unplanned network downtime that frequently occurs in the physical layer and data breaches that go undiscovered and uncontained for weeks or even months.
Can't fool the plug
For instance, it detects man-in-the-middle attacks. "It alerts the network management folks that indeed, the network was disconnected and even while your logical connection is back up, there is something else in the middle so you might want to stop the switch port and check the traffic," said Kamlesh Patel, TE's Director of Product Management, who is driving the Quareo solution globally.
Unlike other solutions that manage Layers 2 through 7, Quareo enables standard network management policies to be applied to the physical layer. With the CPID, the system auto-discovers and maps physical layer connection points and pathways, feeding vital information to upstream network management systems.
That means network and data center connections are automatically documented with no human interpretation. This is significant because an estimated 70% of a technician's time is typically spent documenting network activity and roughly 60% of costly data center downtime is caused by change, human error and network failures attributable to network cabling.
"You can easily pinpoint the location of the fault in the network, down to the rack, the panel and the port," said Takala. "We have customers who are price conscious and opted to pay the additional expense for Quareo because they understand the ROI and longevity of the solution. The network may look great on day one but to maintain it takes a lot of work."
The ability to automatically explore, discover and map the connections of the network is driven by the Infrastructure Configuration Manager (ICM) software. ICM responds immediately to changes in connectivity and automatically records the physical layer cabling connections and devices.
"ICM manages not only the Quareo portion of the network where we have CPIDs and the ability to assign work orders but also integrates with your existing environment," said Takala. "You can enter information on your legacy network into ICM and use Quareo within that existing network."
"You can assign work orders for adding [routers, switches, servers, storage, phone systems, power systems and even cooling systems] within the facility," he said. " It's ubiquitous as to the sort of equipment supported and how it manages the different devices. And it is backward-compatible with TE's AMPTRAC ninth wire system."
TE offers APIs and an SDK to allow Quareo to be integrated with other active management systems like Tivoli, HP OpenView or CiscoWorks.