Editor's Note: This is the next installment of a series in which contributors elaborate on each of the five game-changers featured in CommScope's latest Global Enterprise Survey.

Increased productivity and overall efficiency is vital to the survival of every enterprise. This is evident in the uptick of intelligent infrastructure solutions brought to market over the past couple of years. In the latest CommScope Global Enterprise Survey, nearly one third of the respondents indicated the need for intelligent infrastructure; making it one of the top game-changers for the coming years. So, why does it make sense to look at Automated Infrastructure Management (AIM) solutions and work it into the IT strategy? Let's look at some of the factors involved.

The enduring economic conditions have caused a paradigm shift. Organizational survival depends on our ability to effectively cut the fat and drive productivity across the board. The survey shows 61 percent of respondents are actively focused on increasing productivity. This new reality means we now, more than ever, must do more with less. The very definition of insanity is to continue doing the same things and expect different results; hence we must evolve what we do and how we do it. New technology is vital to achieving this. AIM can help drastically reduce the time to establish connections and implement changes to the physical infrastructure – this results in serious efficiency gains within the IT and facility management departments, as well as potentially huge productivity gains across the organization.

Not only do we seek productivity gains, but we must also save on costs where we can. Saving energy and being "green" is important for the corporate image, but let's not forget it can save plenty of dollars. A quarter of respondents to the survey indicated they are actively targeting an average reduction of 19 percent in energy consumption. There are many different solutions available to help achieve this and some examples include: LED lighting, DCIM solutions and initiatives such as Cisco's EnergyWise.

There are challenges of course, such as dealing with equipment that moves around when setting energy management policies. An AIM solution provides the missing link between network or data center management tools and the traditional passive structured cabling that connects network devices. In short, the AIM knows exactly what is connected, how it is connected and where it is located.

It automatically detects and documents any changes to the connectivity information. Taking this accurate real-time connectivity information provided by the AIM and making it available through integration with the energy management platform allows the enterprise to radically optimize energy consumption. This can dramatically improve energy management by using location based energy policies. In dynamic environments it is not unrealistic to expect double, or even triple, the percentage of energy saved using EnergyWise with AIM.

Risk mitigation is another big driver. Auditing is more stringent than before – and eating up a lot of valuable time and resource better spent elsewhere. We still see a huge percentage of outages caused by human error and the survey tells us at least 11 percent of all network changes need to be done again because of human errors. This might be caused by incorrect documentation or patching errors. It costs additional effort to correct and can lead to costly downtime on vital circuits and services. According to the Uptime Institute and Aberdeen Group, the average cost of downtime is indicated somewhere between $100,000 and $300,000 per hour, making risk mitigation a vital area to consider. AIM gives automated and up-to-date documentation of the physical network infrastructure, as well as a more robust change management process through automated work orders and guided patching at the rack. This eliminates the need to do work twice – like the aforementioned 11 percent of all Moves Adds and Changes – and provides a reliable audit trail to help curb the auditing overheads.

Many developments in recent years have increased the uptake and awareness of AIM solutions. This includes software and hardware improvements by several vendors, as well as reduced price premiums. A selection of cabling manufacturers now offers an AIM option. The number of solutions available and the maturing of these offers have led to efforts to develop a standard. Work on an AIM standard started in 2011 within the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) – noted as chapter 13 of the TIA 606-B.ISO/IEC is looking to define AIM as part of an amendment to 14763-2. We should see ratified standards by early 2014. These standards will not only define what makes an AIM, but also will ensure better interoperability between solutions. All this is great news for users as AIM moves to a more mainstream technology. It will be less risky, offer even better value for money and, through integration with other systems, deliver even more benefits.

After several years of postponing and even cancelling IT projects, companies now find themselves in a situation where the projects must be delivered to safeguard the business continuity and underpin growth. As part of the paradigm shift, all projects given the green light are now scrutinized and prioritized according to their positive impact on productivity, risk mitigation and general return on investment (ROI).

AIM solutions are helping to deliver strong, tangible benefits, ensuring very attractive ROI percentages and relatively short payback periods. We all know we need physical infrastructure to operate an IT network and this is seen as an unavoidable cost. By adding AIM intelligence to an enterprise's traditional passive network infrastructure, they can enjoy all the daily operational benefits facilitated by AIM and possibly break even on the whole network infrastructure cost over its lifetime.

About the Author

Charles Le Mahieu

Charles le Mahieu is the business development manager for Intelligent Infrastructure Solutions in the Enterprise Solutions Division of CommScope. Drawing on his experience as IT manager and IT consultant, he has a very clear understanding of the requirements, as well as the demands placed on IT directors and CIOs. Before joining the team in May 2006, Mr. le Mahieu worked for AMF Bowling Worldwide as the IT manager for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region.

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