Automated Documentation

Solution Briefs

Introduction

Driven by accelerating demands for more compute, storage, bandwidth and agility, the industry is building new data centers (and upgrading existing data centers) to be bigger, denser and more interconnected. In recent years, SDN and other virtualization approaches have introduced unprecedented levels of software control to the management of servers and storage, but the physical layer of patch panels, cables and connection points has so far been invisible to software, except through the medium of human technicians manually documenting the connections that make up the physical layer of data center infrastructure.

The physical layer is a persistent roadblock to building the next generation of agile and dynamic networks, but what if it was possible to make the physical layer directly visible to and controllable by software, without the human middle-man entering data into an Excel spreadsheet? What if there was a way to automatically document all the connections in the network and track moves, adds and changes (MAC) in real-time?

The Glass Core™

Fiber Mountain is driving the development of the new physical layer, with a vision of enabling managed, dynamic and secure networks by creating a software-defined layer 1. Fiber Mountain’s Glass Core solution incorporates Intelligent Connection Identification (ICID®) technology with the AllPath® Director (APD) orchestration software to provide software-based visibility of connection points, including automatic real-time documentation of the data center network. Glass Core provides the ability to “step into” your data center and have full visibility of ICID-enabled devices and cables, including connection paths and available cross-connects.

Network Topology and Documentation

Network topologies are typically generated manually or not at all, but a data center using Glass Core solutions will enjoy the automated documentation of the real network topology, based on both ICID and more general device detection. This topology makes it easy to see end-to-end connections, and APD also introduces the flexibility to group and arrange connections as needed.

Alarms

Timely awareness of unplanned changes within a data center allows network operators to detect and respond to physical security breaches and inadvertent cabling errors when they happen, rather than after they have already caused damage and downtime. Glass Core solutions allow data centers to have the visibility and agility to respond to physical changes either via software or by knowing exactly where and when to deploy technicians to make manual corrections. APD’s Alarm notifications include a description of the problem, severity, time of occurrence, device location, port, and even fiber. The combination of automatic documentation with alarms to notify network operators of unscheduled changes such as power supply failures, fiber disconnects and unauthorized re-patching simplifies and speeds up the process of troubleshooting and correcting problems. What could have been an indefinite shutdown or long-term security breach becomes a quick fix.

Audit Trail

Along with Alarms, the Audit Trail functionality of APD protects the data center network by improving awareness of both the current state of the network and the timing and location of all changes that have occurred in the past. This is important for reducing vulnerabilities and for improving regulatory conformance. The Audit Trail provides another layer of visibility by preserving all events that occur in a data center, in a record that cannot be altered or deleted by anyone. The Audit Trail is recorded from the time Glass Core solutions are enabled in the network, and the records can be exported for further preservation, analysis or presentation.

Text Documentation

In addition to providing a visual topology, APD provides a text version of the network documentation. This version highlights all FMI devices and port-to-port connections. This text-based network documentation allows administrators and executives to share a high-level view of their data center equipment and investment, which improves their ability make solid decisions.

Conclusion

Fiber Mountain’s Glass Core™ solutions allow unprecedented visibility and agility within the data center. Real-time, accurate documentation becomes an automated process, improving day-to-day management of data center operations and speeding up the resolution of unplanned downtime, security threats and conformance requests.

Components of Fiber Mountain’s Glass Core:

  • AllPath Director is a centralized SDN orchestration system that provides real-time visibility and control of the network. This orchestration system is unique among SDN controllers because it is not confined to packet processing over a static infrastructure. AllPath Director ‘software defines’ the physical layer.

  • OPX Optical Path Exchange offers 160x10Gbps ports with dense MPO connectors and on-board optics. It has been measured at five nanoseconds port-to-port latency, enabling "bump-in-the-wire" optical switching with multicast support.

  • Sensus intelligent patch panels aggregate and break out duplex LC to MPO trunks. Each Sensus panel features an interactive management module screen that offers local or remote access for improved control and asset management. Two hot-swappable patching modules allow for dynamic breakout configurations.

  • L-Series Fiber Port Aggregators provide LC-to-MPO or MPO-to-MPO aggregation and QSFP breakout. Per-port LEDs and a variety of TIA-5638-D.3 2016-compliant fiber mapping options couple with AllPath Director and OPX to facilitate effective network control and visibility.

  • Super Premium Fiber Optic Cables ensure efficient and consistent data via a high-quality glass core and superior design. Cables equipped with ICID technology can be discovered by AllPath Director to provide visibility and complete control of the physical layer.

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