The Challenges Facing IT Managers
In today’s busy corporate environment the success of the enterprise is dependent on the IT
department’s ability to provide reliable connectivity of critical network elements for their end
users. In financial terms, millions are spent annually on tools that enable the IT manager to
monitor the status of the network, manage network elements, plan and execute work orders, and
trouble-shoot faults. But few of these tools address the issues of the physical plant – the part of
the network that extends from the switch in the data center or telecom room (TR) through the
horizontal plant to the work area outlet at the end-user’s desk. They typically address only a
small portion of the physical layer such as asset record keeping, or managing work order lists.
Some tools have the ability to monitor the state of the patch cord in the TR or data center
(collectively known as “smart patching” systems), but they generally do a poor job of integrating
with commonly-used network management tools. This leaves the IT department with the task of
having to work with separate systems that together give a poor overall view of the state of the
The critical issues regarding management of the physical layer that network managers must deal
o Managing MACs. Whenever humans are involved in activities errors will occur. Moves,
adds, and changes to the LAN cabling network are no exception. This is an especially
critical issue for enterprises with multiple locations - such as retail outlets, bank branches,
and school systems – as it is common for
organizations with distributed sites to rely on
“non-technical” people to maintain the network
locally. This introduces more uncertainty into
the reliability of the work, and makes it more
difficult to trouble-shoot problems when they
o Security. In the IT world items such as network
printers and engineering work stations are
among the more vulnerable assets in the
network. These assets sit out at the end-user’s
office, where they may be vulnerable to unauthorized changes or outright theft. Existing
network management tools monitor the presence of network-connected assets by polling
the ports of intelligent switches in the data center. But this polling is not done in real time
– because of the high bandwidth required to poll all devices, IT managers usually set up
polling to occur on weekends or late at night when network traffic is low. This may mean
that days or weeks can elapse between when a valuable network device is removed to
the time that removal is discovered.
o Rogue devices. Another security issue involves attempts by unauthorized users to
connect into the LAN. A common example may be a well-meaning employee who
connects a cheap router or unencrypted wireless access point to the LAN in order to
“improve’ access to the network. Such rogue devices pose a serious breach of network
security, yet they can go undetected by typical management tools for many hours, days,
or even weeks.
o Trouble shooting. When end-users call the help desk to report that a PC can’t connect
to the network, it is difficult to determine where the fault is. When the issue is due to a
fault in the physical plant (perhaps because of a loose patch cord at the work area, a
broken wire at a jack or consolidation point, or an incorrect patch cord in the TR) there is
little information available for the help desk other than the fact that the end-user’s PC
can’t be pinged. Technicians then have to go out to the site to investigate the problem
and determine its cause.
o Static connectivity maps. When up-to-date information is missing regarding the
physical location of devices there can be serious safety issues. Consider the issues with
deploying Voice over IP phones and emergency 911 services. One of the advantages of
deploying VoIP phones is that it gives the end-user the freedom to take the phone from
his or her desk to another location in the office, such as a conference room, while
keeping the original phone number. But this presents an issue regarding mapping the
physical location of the phone to the phone number. When an emergency call is made,
how do emergency responders know where the call was made from? The records that
typical network management systems keep regarding the physical location of network
attached devices are static and hence may not be up to date when the emergency call is
o GUI Clutter. There are many very useful tools in use today, with each having its own
graphical user interface (GUI), its own deployment scheme, and the need for training of
users. This can lead to sub-optimal deployments, where some users are more familiar
with some tools than others.
Improving Physical Layer Control and Management with the MIIM™
The MIIM Advanced Physical Layer Management solution provides unique features that improve
management of the network and increase productivity:
o MIIM continuously monitors and maps the physical layer connectivity, including the physical cable
plant and attached switch and network devices.
o The MIIM system verifies the continuity of the horizontal cable to the work area outlet. It
detects disconnected or broken connections and can determine whether a break is due to
a bad patch in the TR, a break in the horizontal cable, or a disconnected patch between
the work area outlet and the end user’s PC.
o MIIM compares the as-deployed elements of the network against the as-designed intent, and flags
o MIIM continuously monitors for the presence of devices connected to work area outlets,
even if the device is powered off. Alerts can be configured to notify appropriate persons
of changes in attached devices at the outlet, such as unauthorized disconnects or
attempts to connect.
o MIIM’s event-driven polling of attached devices gives constant up-to-date information for
all network devices connected to all outlets - MIIM always knows what’s connected
o MIIM manages work orders, including scheduling and recording of moves, adds and changes
(MACs), and verifies that the work orders are performed correctly.
o It provides patch guidance for technicians, using LEDs on the patch panels to indicate ports with
pending work orders.
These features give the IT Manager complete management of the physical layer, and unique ability to
address the critical issues:
Improved asset management. MIIM records
information on every device connected to the
network along with the data channel the device uses
to access the network. Documentation of assets
and their physical locations are available in reports.
Updates to the connectivity map made in
automatically and in real time as devices are
connected or disconnected from the network. Switch
ports connected to a physical channel that has no
device attached at the work area outlet can be
identified and reclaimed to improve switch port
utilization. Manual walk-around audits are
Remote management. A single MIIM server can interface with hundreds of users accessing
information about dozens of locations across the globe. The MIIM system is accessible by
authorized users anywhere in the world at any time. For organizations with distributed locations –
whether multiple buildings on a single campus or multiple offices across the globe – MIIM
provides centralized monitoring and control. This gives the network management team up-to-theminute
data on the state of the physical plant for all locations and enables the use of consistent
practices globally, thereby improving efficiencies across the organization.
Enhanced network security. MIIM maintains records of as-built configurations and authorized
connectivity across the network, and continuously monitors the network for status changes in
devices through its Smart Polling capability, ensuring an up-to-date view of the network.
Changes that do not conform to authorized connectivity can be flagged for attention by the
network technician. Examples of unauthorized changes that MIIM can detect and report include
attempted connections of rogue devices and the unauthorized disconnection of valuable devices
such as network printers or work stations from their work area outlets.
Increased productivity through reduced downtime. MIIM’s knowledge of the physical layer
gives the IT manager the ability to determine whether the physical layer is the cause of a network
incident, and if so whether the fault is with the patch in the Telecomm Room, a break in the
horizontal cable, or a bad patch from the work area outlet to the device. This allows the
technician to be more efficient in determining the cause of the fault and initiating the repair
More efficient MAC and work order management. MIM’s work order management system
provides a comprehensive view of what changes are scheduled to occur and who is assigned to
make the changes. Changes can be grouped and organized to maximize efficiency of
technicians. MIIM’s work order management tool includes a scheduling function, so that IT
managers can review, prioritize and assign MACs as appropriate. Execution and completion of
MACs are recorded and all activities are archived for reporting and auditing functions.
Links with other network management tools. Unlike “smart patching” systems, MIIM is
designed to specifically focus on the physical layer, which is the portion of the network that other
network management tools do not handle adequately. MIIM is designed to integrate with these
other tools so that IT managers have a holistic view of the complete network from a single
network management GUI.
Guided patching reduces human error. LED indicators for each port
direct the technician to complete the MAC correctly. Unplanned or
incorrect patch configurations are detected by MIIM and recorded.
Notification of unplanned or incorrect patch configurations can be
configured to alert the appropriate resources to take corrective action.
Management reports. Various reports are available to document the
status of the network, work orders, and the location and status of assets
on the network.
Simple implementation & management. MIIM uses industry-standard
patch cords. This reduces cost compared to “smart patching” systems
that require special “9th-wire” patch cords, and avoids the problem of the
system being fooled by the use of standard cords.
By deploying MIIM as an integrated part of the network manager’s tool kit, significant efficiencies
can be realized that reduce down time, provide greater control over network assets, and reduce
security concerns. MIIM was designed from the ground up with the goal of keeping it simple –
simple to engineer, simple to install, and simple to operate. With no need for special patch cords,
special Input/Output cables, or LCD display screens, and out-of-the-box Integration with other
network management tools, the cost for deploying MIIM is significantly less than the “smart
patching” systems on the market today.