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At a recent tech
conference, I stumbled upon a number of IP-video surveillance vendors
showing off their wares. The convergence of traditionally analogy
physical security systems with the Internet protocol world should
improve efficiency by operating disparate systems over a single
network. However, these vendors insisted that their installations would
require running a separate IP network.


Strange as this may
sound, it does follow the conventional wisdom of network cabling of the
last 20 years. Each new IP-enabled system would require a wholly
segregated cable network to support their respective power sources,
switches, repeaters, drops and end points. Businesses of all sizes have
absorbed the costs of running more cable and installing more drops
because cabling has been seen as a secondary consideration in network
design and implementation, as well as a misunderstood hidden cost.


What every business
now seeks in their IT infrastructure is flexibility and efficiency. The
answer to both of those thorny issues may lie at the very bottom of the
OSI stack: Layer 1 – Physical. 


“Over the last 10
years with convergence, we’ve learned that cabling and infrastructure
greatly impacts the design and operation of the network,” says Dallas
Defibaugh, director of U.S. channels at Panduit. “Just getting a bigger
pipe and pushing more data through doesn’t work anymore.”


Many conventional IT
solution providers may not know Panduit, but it’s a 50-year-old,
privately held manufacturer of everything Layer 1 – cables, RJ45 jacks,
network and power drops, data center cabinets and more. It provides the
Layer 1 products that support everything from Layer 2 and above. What
the folks at Panduit have discovered is that these overlapping and
poorly designed networks are impacting end users’ ability to field and
operate efficient networks.


“The physical infrastructure influences what the network can be used for,” Defibaugh says.


As budget constraints
and cost containment pressures befall end users, they’re looking to
shave spending from every aspect of their network and IT
infrastructures. At the same time, they’re being called upon to squeeze
out greater levels of automation and functionality from the same
networks with few resources. What they’re discovering, Panduit has
found, is that they’re legacy network design—or haphazard network
infrastructures—are hindering everything from applying power and
cooling efficiencies, adding new capacity or reaping automation


Typically, end users
are operating as many as five different overlapping networks: data and
computing, communications (voice, video), facilities control (HVAC),
power and physical security (locks, facilities access control, and IP
video surveillance). Reaping the maximum cost savings, operational
efficiency and utmost agility to meet new business needs requires the
convergence of these disparate networks on to a single wire and
designing the physical layout of the data center to support the
application needs.


“It’s a unified
physical infrastructure that’s architected and implemented on a common
infrastructure that’s capable of support disparate networks that exist
in a single facility,” Defibaugh says. “Why have different pipes for


Converged Layer 1
infrastructure requires greater planning and facilities knowledge among
solution providers. Defibaugh says Panduit is responding to end user’s
requests for better data center and networking design services, and
fulfilling implementations through its channel partners. However, an
industry-wide adoption of Layer 1 convergence will require a knowledge
transfer and capabilities enhancement to solution providers.
Unfortunately, data center and network design is really a black art
that precious few possess.


If you subscribe to
the Layer 1 convergence philosophy, networking solution providers
should invest in data center and network design practices or nurture
partnerships with cabling specialists that can provide smart physical
architecture and implementation services. It’s no longer about building
on top of yesterday’s networks, but building for customers the network
infrastructures of the future.


Lawrence M. Walsh is vice president and group publisher of Channel Insider. He can be reached at