What is intelligent infrastructure management (IIM)?

Image of a circuit board IIM solutions provide the missing link between real-time network management tools and the traditionally passive structured cabling infrastructures that connect network devices together.

An IIM provides two material benefits to any business:

1. Increased productivity and efficiency of IT service management processes

The principle objective of an IIM is to provide an environment of improved productivity that allows the business to be more agile whilst providing a more robust IT infrastructure and improved service availability. 

A professionally implemented IIM solution provides the following:

  • Intuitive tools that de-skill and automate the change management process.
  • Elimination of change management errors - increased service availability.
  • Improved fault resolution times. 
  • Common information shared by multiple departments, thus avoiding duplication of effort and inaccuracies.
  • Automated, 100 per cent accurate documentation.
  • Real-time asset tracking. 
  • Power reporting tools.

2. IT forensic support

In addition to the productivity benefits, an IIM solution provides valuable forensic information from the event log that supplements the tracking of IT policy violation.

Using the unique ability of an IIM solution to identify the actual location of an IT asset in real time, IT managers can physically pinpoint an offending device within seconds of an incident occurring.

The types of business benefits available with IIM vary from case to case, depending on the type of business as well as the business cycle the customer finds itself in. Some of the benefits will be realized from day one, like efficient network management.

Others will be realized as the customer confronts IT challenges created by events such as merging disparate IT systems or technology refreshes. IIM offers a way to future proof IT service management processes.

The key attributes that define an IIM solution are:

  • Automated patching
    Sensing techniques monitor the patching fields and provide an accurate map of the connectivity and constantly monitor changes in real-time.

  • Infrastructure database
    A powerful relational database details the entire physical infrastructure from buildings and rooms, cabinets and patch panels to interconnecting cables. The automated patching information is mapped onto the database to provide a real-time view of the network's physical connectivity.

  • Integrated IP device discovery
    By including the automatic detection of IP based devices the IIM solution provides a unique view that is not available from traditional network management or service desk applications. By correlating the connectivity of the discovered device via the automated patching, the IIM system can determine the exact location of the device and position it onto a CAD floor plan.

  • Alarms and events
    All changes to the infrastructure are recorded in an event log for future or immediate reference. Based upon user-defined criteria, alarms are generated and passed to other applications, typically for unauthorized activities.

  • Integration with third party applications
    An IIM solution is intended to interact with existing network tools to create as comprehensive a picture of the network as possible.

  • Data sharing
    One of the most powerful benefits is the capability of tying together related data from multiple 3rd party applications. This provides a comprehensive single source of information and ultimately eliminates the need to manually correlate information from two or more locations.

For example: How does the service desk quickly identify, locate and rectify the fault?

The user could be anywhere within the building or campus and may not provide an accurate description of their location or fault.

With IIM, the service desk simply asks the user for their extension number. The IIM system can immediately locate the problem desktop on the CAD floor plans and from the database, get a precise understanding of what devices are involved and their associated configuration.

If the service desk resets the switch port and still cannot PING the problem device, the IIM system allows the service desk to trace out the circuit to ascertain whether the device is physically and correctly attached to the network.

If the physical connection is good and the switch port has been reset and the user still has a problem, the issue must lie on the desktop. Consequently, an engineer can be quickly dispatched to the correct desktop location with the quality of information necessary to rectify the fault as effectively and efficiently as possible.

In a traditionally managed environment the service desk would generate multiple trouble tickets and issue them to the network, cabling and desktop service teams. These teams would all work to identify the fault.

This is obviously is very inefficient both with respect to resources and in user downtime. Once the fault is identified and an engineer needs to be dispatched, the service desk has to rely on inaccurate documentation or user description to direct the engineer to the correct location. All of which can lead to unnecessary truck rolls and increases user downtime.

In instances where qualifying the physical layer is part of the incident management process, an IIM system can reduce the service desk mean time to resolution by over 40 per cent, providing the potential for huge savings in terms of IT resources and lost business output.

Data passing

Third party applications benefit from viewing location based information that supplements their own data.

Data that can be forwarded from an IIM is the result of a physical event. These system generated events occur either as a result of a process completion such as work order created, completed, closed or from connectivity alarms caused by an unauthorized circuit disconnect.

Entries from the event log are commonly sent to 3rd party applications in SNMP, email, Syslog or SMS formats and communicate relevant information about the physical event such as time, date, port(s)/service(s) affected and location.

An example of this is an erroneously disconnected patchcord creates an IIM alarm that is forwarded to an IT service desk application such as CA Unicenter, Remedy or Tivoili.

IIM solutions integrate data via various means including API, ODBC, SNMP, Syslog, Email, SMS.

January 2006