Building and network infrastructures require digital twins

“Digitalisation of the economy without a sufficient network infrastructure is as like a railway without tracks,” says Andreas Rüsseler, Chief Marketing Officer for cabling specialist R&M AG, in his market outlook. R&M, the globally active Swiss developer and provider of cabling systems for high-end network infrastructures based in Wetzikon, expects to see an increase in demand for integrated solutions for network infrastructures in 2017.

“Cabling with copper and fibre optic systems is still required as the physical foundation for digitalisation – in the same way that tracks are required for transportation by rail. But these days it is more than just a question of cabling,” says R&M CMO Andreas Rüsseler. The building and network infrastructures themselves have to be digitised.
“First of all, the basis of a network needs to have the right dimensions and level of reliability in order to cope with the wide-ranging applications of the future,” says Andreas Rüsseler. He adds that, given the high expectations for the age of the digitised economy, it is easy to forget that network installations are just as necessary as apps, computers, data centres, and the billions of things that are connected to the internet – the Internet of Things.
Rüsseler even believes that the trend toward digitalisation is even making the economy fully dependent on tight-knit, fast, interruption-free network infrastructures. A market study conducted by IT consultancy company Capgemini confirms this trend, revealing that digitalisation is the topic currently at the top of the agenda of more than half of all CIOs. And it looks set to stay there for the foreseeable future.
R&M is now increasingly recommending that planners, investors, and network operators include the physical level of a network, i.e., the cabling, in the digitalisation process from the outset. By this, R&M proposes that a full virtual profile should be stored for each network. The type, function, and status of every connector and cable should be recorded digitally and managed centrally, with control being fully automated via a web application. According to R&M, if this is not the case, it will become impossible to manage the increasing volume of network information and increasing number of network connections brought about by the ubiquitous Internet of Things, cloud services, and the growing demand for bandwidth.
R&M’s main market – the structured cabling market – alone is growing by about 3% every year. Hardware manufacturer Cisco estimates that 50 billion sensors will be connected to the Internet of Things by 2020, while chip manufacturer Intel predicts that, by 2030, some 200 billion items, appliances, devices, machines, and buildings will have an Internet connection. “Someone is going to have to manage all of these connections and devices,” says Andreas Rüsseler. On this basis, R&M is expecting to see growing demand for integrated network solutions based on comprehensive planning that include the technology and software for digitalisation, monitoring, and management, as well as cabling systems.
R&M already has an appropriate solution in the form of R&MinteliPhy. This network monitoring system monitors cabling across all distances and in all magnitudes, and also enables three-dimensional digital representation of the data centre infrastructure. “We are gradually adding software and services to our cabling portfolio,” explains Andreas Rüsseler. R&M is building up the expertise needed to be able to manage and support IT processes relating to infrastructure. The company is also working on further developments, with the aim of making the management of data networks more user-friendly.
R&M identifies data centres as the area where the greatest demand currently lies. “Hyperscale data centres spanning an area equal to football fields cannot be monitored manually. Spatially distributed data centres belonging to cloud providers and other companies also require fully automated infrastructure management that can be managed centrally – known as AIM. This is exactly what is provided by R&MinteliPhy. This level of automation is only possible on the basis of a digital profile of the infrastructure,” explains the CMO. R&M also sees its AIM solution – R&MinteliPhy – as a component of a superordinate Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM) system.
“Without digital planning, stocktaking, and online management of the entire data centre, it is no longer possible for IT providers to present services with high availability. Detailed information and status updates in real time are an absolute requirement,” says Andreas Rüsseler. In this regard, R&M advocates full and continuous monitoring that covers every level of data transmission, from the connector to the application. “What use is there in monitoring the higher layers of a network if somewhere a network connector has been disconnected or inserted incorrectly and nobody has noticed?” asks Andreas Rüsseler.
With reference to market statistics, R&M points out that operational errors and other such faults at the passive network infrastructure level are behind more than half of all data centre failures. The company believes that this problem alone is reason enough for real-time monitoring of cabling to be introduced. Causes of damages, delays, signal losses, and high consumption data can be identified quickly online by referring to the digital profile of a process or infrastructure.
AIM is indispensable from a business perspective, too, in that it makes it possible to view and analyse the life cycle status of assets in use at any time at the click of a mouse. Digital information about the infrastructure therefore becomes a key factor in success, proving essential to long-term value creation, strategic decision-making, and agile reactions to changes on the market, according to R&M. AIM facilitates universal planning, while also simplifying organisation and business processes. The CMO points out that: “These are the exact same areas identified by Capgemini as obstacles standing in the way of digitised IT organisation.”

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