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Intelligent infrastructure management systems - market developmentsOctober 2009

Controlling and optimising cable connections can be improved by the adoption of IIMS, but who are the major players and where is the market headed? Lone Hansen sheds some light.

Controls networks in buildings can enjoy greater functionality through the application of Intelligent Infrastructure Management Systems (IIMS). These systems utilise intelligent hardware components and scanners to provide visibility and control of the cabling connections and active equipment, as well as moves, additions and changes in real time.

Figure 1: The number of managed ports by region 2005 - 2007. Source: BSRIA.

The system is capable of maximizing network utilisation via identification of unused ports, identification of network assets and enhanced security by monitoring physical change to the infrastructure. It can integrate with IP devices such as cameras, door access, CCTV and intruder alarms.

IIMS solutions are implemented by deploying intelligent hardware components and scanners throughout the network supplied by the cabling suppliers and software sold either by the cabling suppliers themselves such as HellermannTyton and CommScope (Systimax) or by iTRACS and RiT.

IIMS has become well-known by specifiers, primarily due to the work Comunica has undertaken over the last five years in educating end-users and consultants. The promotional activity undertaken by Comunica increased the interest and demand and other contractors started to focus more on this market segment. Today, the large contractors in the UK all offer IIM solutions as part of their services and most tenders in the financial sector projects include IIMS as an option.

The global and UK market

The global market for IIMS has been growing year on year from 1 million managed ports in 2005 to 2z1 million in 2006 and 2z5 million in 2007 and 2008. This growth is due to:

  • a global roll-out by large key accounts mainly in the financial sector
  • an increasing number of medium-sized projects in Europe, the Middle East and Asia
  • some large airport projects.

The UK was the first market to adopt IIMS to a bigger extent. The penetration level was around three per cent in 2003 and 2004 increasing to around five per cent of all installed ports in 2005, 2006 and 2007. The number of managed installed ports between 2005 and 2007 was 500,000 - 650,000 per year. However, 2008 was not as successful as the previous years, with a decline in the number of installed managed ports to just below 400,000.

The top three contractors in the UK are Comunica, Bailey Teswaine and Computacenter.

The majority of installed managed ports in the UK can be found in the financial sector, mainly in the City of London or the Greater London area, although a number of large clients in other sectors have also been attracted to the benefits offered by IIMS. These sectors are oil and gas companies (BP and Shell), media, insurance, communication and health.

Figure 2: Primary reasons for installing an IIMS in UK data cantres in 2008. Source: BSRIA.

The key IIMS suppliers in the UK vary to some extent depending on large projects. In 2005, Systimax was the leader, but Siemon, Nexans and Brand-Rex were also significant. In 2006, Tyco Electronics almost tripled its sales and Panduit carried out a number of projects for Morgan Stanley (although, in number of managed ports, they were both slightly behind Systimax). In 2007, Systimax dominated the UK IIMS market with more than half the installed managed ports.

The majority of the IIMS market is supplied by three generic suppliers of IIM solutions, such as iTRACS, RiT and CommScope (Systimax). iTRACS has six partners: Corning, Molex, Nexans, Ortronics, Siemon and Tyco Electronics, whereas RiT has eight partners: ADC Krone, Belden, Brand-Rex, Connectix, Furukawa, LS Simple, Panduit and Simon Electric.

RiT supplies its own hardware, while iTRACS supplies software only. A few other suppliers have been offering a different system, such as Panduit from 2008 and HellermannTyton from 2005.

The premium paid by the end-user is typically 15-25 per cent for a fully enabled IIMS system with analysers and software. Most suppliers have global prices, but the price level can vary slightly depending on country or region, and more so in relation to project size and the competition.

Specification considerations

The following factors should be taken into consideration by IT consultants when advising clients:

  • the size of the projects and company
  • the staff churn rate
  • the size of the client's IT department
  • the number of remote sites
  • security issues.

Some suppliers sell the IIMS hardware at the same price as standard hardware with end-users procuring the analysers and software separately. Most end-users will opt for a fully-operational system upfront, while a few end-users will leave the installation of analysers and software until later.

End-users with enabled systems will most likely stay loyal to the supplier. BSRIA is only aware of one project where the end-user has decided to install a different brand of analysers and software.

Payback time can be a driver as well as a barrier. Most clients are willing to accept a one to three-year payback, but very few seem to accept more than three years.

BSRIA carried out a survey in the autumn of 2008 of managers responsible for IT cabling in data centres as part of BSRIA's UK Data Centre Survey (published in April 2009). The survey showed that an increase in performance, efficiency and reliability were the main reasons for installing IIMS in data centres.

The largest barriers have previously been lack of awareness and understanding, but this is diminishing as the consultants and end-users increasingly learn about IIMS. Most installations take place in new buildings or complete refurbishments.

Cost is also a barrier, as is the lack of compatibility between different IIMS offerings as some end-users do not want to be locked into one vendor. The installations have historically been very large corporations, but the typical size of projects has decreased over the last few years and many projects are today only 1,000 - 5,000 managed ports.

As mentioned earlier, the premium on IIMS solutions has been reduced and is in the range of 15-25 percent, but that does not include the post installation training that is required for the IT staff to fully understand the IIM solution and its features. Most of the successful projects, where the solution is fully installed and operational, are with clients who consider the solution as software and allocated the time and effort to implement it correctly.

Lone Hansen is a market researcher at BSRIA covering world markets in IT cabling and associated technologies.