Itracs sensor leads to intelligent wiring

  • Tan Ee Sze (Computerworld)
  • 12 February, 2001 17:30

A Singaporean inventor has come up with a patent-pending system that automatically discovers and monitors port connectivity in data centers and wiring closets. This ensures accurate, up-to-date network documentation without the need for network administrators to manually update moves, adds and changes.

Launched in Singapore last month, iTracs has been described as the "missing link" between the logical layer and physical network layers. It was the result of two years' collaboration between US cable management software company iTracs Corp. ( formerly CableSoft Technologies) and Singapore IT services provider CSA Automated Pte. Ltd.

The iTracs hardware was developed in 1998 by Solomon David, then a manager with CSA. The system includes software from iTracs, where David is now vice president of hardware research and development.

"ITracs is about making wire closets intelligent," said Pete Pela, the company's chief executive officer and president.

The iTracs system includes a sensor strip, a patent-pending iTracs sensor, an analyzer and cable management software. With the sensor strip in place, the system self-discovers connectivity and can analyze the status of active and inactive ports. Currently, some vendors like ITT are baking the sensor strip into their patch panels and hubs.

The iTracs software goes out and collects logical information from the network management system (NMS), bridges the logical and physical layers, and provides the information to the engineer in the wiring closet, explained Pela.

The system is currently integrated with Hewlett-Packard's OpenView and Computer Associates' UniCenter. Integration with other products by Tivoli is expected to be completed in three months' time.

Another component of the system, the iTracs pen, enables network administrators to simply point to a port to trace connectivity and troubleshoot a network problem in the wiring closet.

A typical wiring closet could have an estimated 2,000 ports, which may be connected in any combination.

Traditional methods of troubleshooting involved using a circuit tracer which uses audio signals to zero in on a problem connection.

Currently, iTracs supports RJ45 ports. Work is in progress to develop support for other connector types such as the fiber ST and SC connectors.

The iTracs system continuously analyzes the connectivity at each port and reports back to the software in real time. It can differentiate between authorised and non-authorised changes, and network administrators can choose to trigger cameras, sound alarms, receive e-mail alerts or be paged when any change is made.

The system also tracks asset utilization and gives notice of potential network problems and bottlenecks.

It is Internet-enabled, allowing network administrators to remotely monitor the entire network right down to the physical layer from a desktop anywhere in the world.

The system, which is based on open standards, can be retrofitted on any existing or new network equipment and patch panels. According to Pela, about 500 ports can be retrofitted in a day.

The cost of US$30 per port comes with the sensor, connecting cable to analyzer, as well as the patch cord and software.