Panduit takes unified physical infrastructure tack

Reaping business agility was a driver behind a Thornhill, Ont.-based engineering consulting firm that consolidated five offices into a single location and adopted a unified physical infrastructure approach.

Bob Brown, specialist with MMM Group’s security and IT division, said the new setup would grant the company that agility by ensuring things like a robust network for data transfer, physical and network security, and better staff collaboration.

But in order to build this infrastructure, said Brown, systems for voice and data, wireless Wi-Fi, building automation, and physical security for instance, would have to be unified in that one location. To that end, MMM Group deployed just recently Cisco Connected Real Estate Solution and a physical infrastructure from Markham, Ont.-based infrastructure technology provider Panduit Corp.

The ultimate goal of this approach, coined the Unified Physical Infrastructure (UPI) by Panduit, strives to eliminate today’s segregated physical and logical systems scattered across the enterprise to allow users to access information from anywhere they want and how they want. That capability, then, said Panduit’s vice-president of global marketing Vineeth Ram, will drive a business’ bottom line.

But specifically, to reap that business agility, an organization must unify its logical systems – power, communication, computing, security, and control. That may prove difficult, said Ram, because “the challenge is, today, those are all siloed.”

But once unified, those logical systems need a robust physical infrastructure to support them. Otherwise, negative consequences like system downtime could greatly impact a business and its ability to be agile, said Ram. “A lot of this can be prevented, a lot of this can be reduced,if we have an intelligent infrastructure.”

But businesses are already feeling the need to unify their infrastructure, said Ram, due to influencing factors like fast-growing IP communications brought on by data centres increasingly running highly mission-critical applications and the need to connect buildings to harness segregated data thereby reducing costs.

But the UPI approach that Panduit envisions, is exactly that – a vision. It isn’t a solution, said Ram, “really this is a phased approach” that might take even ten years for the benefits to be fully realized.

Besides MMM Group, Panduit counts other adopters of its UPI approach, including Vignette, an Austin, Texas-based enterprise content management software vendor that, Ram said, now successfully runs its infrastructure with just two network staff. “So, it’s certainly not a mass market,” he said, “we have some early adopters.”

But according to Doug Raymond, vice-president of measurement and instrumentation with consultant firm Frost and Sullivan, there is “lack of understanding in industry as to why this is important.” And although the banking industry may grasp the benefits relatively better than other sectors, even they are continuing to use non-standard infrastructure.

Convergence of services across any business drives the need for a solid infrastructure, said Raymond, but “right now, though, the infrastructure is at best haphazard.”

Today’s infrastructure, he said, is proprietary, siloed, reactive and error prone that provides only functional data. It should be, he continued, based on open standards, proactive, managed, predictive and provide an organization with real-time information.

And, said Raymond, that new infrastructure supports the green initiatives that many organizations are assuming.

Rick Huijbregts, Cisco Systems’ director of vertical sales in Canada, said the company is taking a different approach, routers and cables aside, to provide value to help business leaders build the infrastructure required today. “It’s not an afterthought anymore,” he said, “it has to be part of your strategic decision making up front.”

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