Five Best Practices to Achieve Converged Infrastructure
Thu 28 Oct 2021
Converged infrastructure and Smart Buildings have been given even greater impetus by various factors over the past year with the pandemic, keeping people away from close contact environments, sustainability, with increased pressure from regulators, investors, and customers for organisations to reduce carbon emissions, and the continuous drive forward of technology. Wireless capabilities can only take a business so far within a building and the requirement for structured cable infrastructure is greater than ever.
Since the 1980s, traditional building automation systems (BAS) were the solution to managing and monitoring equipment in large corporate buildings. While BAS focused on operational and facility management (FM) requirements, they were complex and expensive. In many situations, the complexity, technical design and siloed nature of the systems constrained operator interactions and led to underutilisation.
In the mid-2000s, building energy management systems (BEMS) were introduced as a software solution to overcome the challenges of BAS. The software showcased easy-to-use graphical user interfaces (GUI), delivered equipment KPIs and created opportunities for improvement to energy efficiency. BEMS were a significant development on the journey to digital technologies for FM.
Diagram 1 Smart / Intelligent Building History
Today, IoT smart building solutions open the way to the wider digitisation of smaller buildings previously unrecognised by the BAS market, and the explosion of connected devices over the past five years is a testament to their growing importance. Gartner stated that in 2017, connected business devices, such as PoE, LED lighting, HVAC, physical security and sensors, numbered 1.5 billion devices worldwide and would grow to around 4.4 billion by 2020. All these devices must connect at some point to the network and this load will continue to expand. As convergence continues the demand for PoE (Power over Ethernet) increases and with it, the device power requirements, the latest power specification for PoE Type 4, has reached 90W (power at source), and is compliant with IEEE 802.3bt and uses all pairs to transmit power.
IoT is of great benefit to the expansion of a cost-effective, open, and flexible approach to the digital transformation of commercial facilities. These use data streams from existing technologies and can be implemented with low-cost wireless components. The analytics of IoT smart building solutions are the foundation of the value proposition for investment in commercial real estate. These solutions use data from existing building systems and as well as supplemental devices to provide cohesive and comprehensive views of building performance, breaking down the siloes of individual system automation.
Looking at the trends of building technology (diagram 2), we see increases in all these areas. More devices, with increased intelligence built into the devices and network. More sensors to collect data on occupancy, temperature, and building wellness and then analysing the data to develop actionable information. We are witnessing the convergence on an all-IP network to manage, power, and control all these devices. Data interoperability has given rise to the trend to combine all the information and management onto a single software platform for ease of use and greater insights.
Diagram 2 Trends in Building Technology
With all that is happening in converged infrastructure, it is important to keep in mind key best practices, to maintain a check on infrastructure plans being developed and device decisions that will impact the scope and scale of the capabilities of any infrastructure scheme. At Panduit, we work on five key ‘Best Practices’ for effective converged building infrastructure. These are:
- Invest in the Highest Quality & Most Flexible Structured Cabling
The modern device technology is allowing the reuse of legacy structured cabling in a variety of situations helped by quality cable suppliers offering 25-year warranties. Our recommendation is to invest in the latest Cat 6A cable and in specific situations fibre cable as essential elements in effective converged infrastructure. The next 25-years will see even higher loads being driven through the infrastructure, therefore no organisation can afford to restrict its future data speed or expansion capabilities for the sake of minimal savings at the front-end.
The current Cat 6A cable from Panduit offers a smaller diameter cable and increases cable fill by up to 35% (offering bundles of 8-cables, where competitors manage 5-cable bundles). From Telco Rooms across the network, Panduit Cat 6A cable is lightweight, highly flexible and allows a smaller bend radius to rationalise installation and upgrades.
Diagram 3 Cat 6A Cable Variables
- Optimise the Telecommunications Room
Space is at a premium in every commercial building and, like everywhere else, the Telecommunications Room must be optimised for the capabilities required to cross the network it serves. The strong growth in endpoints requires more available ports within the Telcom Room cabinets. Flexible, higher density, taller cabinet solutions are helping to increase capacity, as are zero RU patching, one-to-one patching and 28 AWG patch cords. This flexibility allows any sized Telco Room or Closet to provide increased capacity for the building systems.
- Plan for All-IP Building Automation Systems
To gain the fastest return on investment and retain occupants, building owners must understand and implement what the market requires from prime office, warehouse, and manufacturing premises. Creating buildings that are easy for occupiers to move into and implement or connect to the BAS is becoming a necessity.
Increased cable density throughout the building requires innovative and space optimised wall cabinets and consolidation point boxes designed to house, secure, and protect cables from human and environmental contamination in underfloor, wall and ceiling areas, whilst remaining easy to access and work on when maintenance and MACs are required.
Network connectivity is allowing organisations to gather data from every attached device and analyse it in various ways to generate insights to reduce energy use, increase safety and security, provide individually programmable environments to maximise the users’ satisfaction and productivity.
Diagram 4 IP-Based Network
The All-IP based networked building will generate masses of data creating the capabilities to be responsive to the changing needs of the owners and building users.
- Make Connectivity Easy – Ease of Device Installation and MACs
The increased number of devices being connected, and the data generated requires new robust and simple to use connectors, such as external Field Term plugs, which now offer straight and 45o angled up or down cable connection, for ease of use, and are available in UTP and Shielded formats. Also, the UTP FieldCord, which offers a Cat 6A UTP cord with an RJ45 plug on one end and a direct TG-style connector on the other, which are becoming increasingly required for direct-connect solutions for plug attached network devices, where the smaller plug size is required. Simple to install and upgrade is an absolute requirement with the future growth of attached devices.
- Room Scheduling Technology
The rush to Zoom and other video conference apps during lockdown has set the precedence for the continued growth in meetings’ audio-visual needs. In the post COVID office touch-free AV, with fully automated meeting spaces will be more in demand. BYOD casting and control can now operate the corporate AV system without dongles or connecting wires. Users can simply scan a QR code to control the room while operating low touch AV with simple to use multiple room setups to reduce the number of people in individual rooms. The technology is here, and without the luxury of on-site AV teams, simple apps and remote monitoring and updates are essential.
Finally, for many building owners and occupants, hard lessons have been learned especially over the past 18-months, and the shift towards converged infrastructure offers the goal of intelligent building environments. Within these new working and relaxing, spaces requirements have changed with a focus on improved engagement, job satisfaction and increased productivity for users (staff and visitors), whilst maximising the space utilisation, energy usage and controlling other resources to help future proof the organisation.