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Q&A With Andy Jimenez

CNS: You are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Anixter Enterprise Cabling Lab, standards development and product research. What areas are you currently concentrating on and what is the lab all about?


July 1, 2012  


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CNS: You are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Anixter Enterprise Cabling Lab, standards development and product research. What areas are you currently concentrating on and what is the lab all about?

Jimenez: The two main initiatives we have going forward in 2012 revolve around data centres and physical security. From that respect, we are looking at the more advanced technologies that customers should be considering.

With respect to data centres, from a technical point of view, everything is driven around supporting the higher data rates – for servers and storage appliances. We’re looking at 10 Gig connectivity to the server as well as supporting 40 and 100 Gig Ethernet on the data centre backbone.

In other words, what are the infrastructure requirements for supporting those higher speeds? From a physical security perspective, the focus is on this whole migration to IP-based security systems.
On the surveillance side it is more about mega-pixel camera technology and understanding the different compression schemes that are out there to help preserve bandwidth on the network as well as standardization. There is the Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF) and its members are developing all of the interoperability standards for both surveillance and axis control. From that point, we are concentrating on advising customers on the appropriate migration strategy.

The tag line we use for the lab is Educate, Demonstrate and Evaluate. Those are the three key tenants we use to deliver our lab message to our customers. From an educational perspective there is a group within our technology organization that sits on numerous standards committees. It allows us to understand the technology roadmap for the markets that we serve.   

As an example, the TIA is developing all of the wiring standards for North America and next-generation cabling systems. For planning purposes, we want to educate customers on what’s coming down the road so that they can plan accordingly. The same applies for physical security advances.

We also have a demonstration room and evaluation room where we conduct testing.

CNS: Prior to joining Anixter you were an engineer at Underwriters Laboratories. How easy or difficult has the transition from a certification organization to a distributor been?

Jimenez: I can’t speak for other folks who have transitioned from test and measurement to distribution, but for me personally it has been smooth. As a UL engineer, it did prepare me for the job that I have here. At Underwriters Laboratories you are exposed to lots of different suppliers, lots of different types of technologies so you really get that broad-based view of the market. That helps in distribution. You always have to be on the lookout for what’s next. What’s the next evolution in technology and innovation in the markets that we serve?

CNS: You are an active voting member of both TIA and IEEE and sit on standards committees on each. What are the key roles of each organization in your mind? 

Jimenez: That’s an obvious question, but it’s not often asked. If you don’t have standardization in place you cannot ensure that there is vendor interoperability, backward compatibility or an open systems architecture. Fundamentally, that is the role standards fulfill is to ensure that there is an even playing field in the market that customers can leverage when they conduct product selections.

Standardization facilitates quality and choice, which gives the customer the latitude to pick a number of different vendor solutions that would meet their particular requirements. TIA is driving all the cabling requirements and IEE is driving all the electronic standards.

CNS: This issue’s cover story is on data centre developments. What are the biggest trends you are seeing in this space?

Jimenez: Obviously cloud computing is transforming the data centre industry. It really started with virtualization and consolidation within enterprise networks, but what is happening in the industry right now is that the economics associated with building your own data centre is becoming cost prohibitive. It’s forcing end-user customers to rethink how they approach their data centre needs.

They have a couple of choices: Build or refurbish an existing facility, go to a multi-tenant type of data centre to house all of their computing requirements or go to a cloud type hosting facility.

It is transforming how customers approach and look at the design of their data centres.

We are also seeing unified fabrics within the data centre – the ability to carry both local area network and storage area network traffic through a converged network using the Ethernet protocol to deliver a multitude of services.

It is not unlike what you are seeing in the building office space with converged voice and data and Wi-Fi systems.

CNS: I understand you conducted a test of your own corporate data centre recently and found some major inefficiencies. Can you explain what they were and how you found them?

Jimenez: We have been preaching data centre best practices for a number of years. Our data centre was built in 2003, which unfortunately was before a lot of these advancements had occurred. Back then, there was not a lot of guidance in terms of how do you construct and design and manage a data centre.

Once we got some knowledge under our belt, we used that practical know-how in combination with a series of advanced software tools. We were able to identify points of inefficiencies and took some practical steps to remedy some of them.

As an example, hot aisle-cold aisle is a common practice, but it wasn’t in 2003. The first thing we did was re-orient the cabinets to hot aisle-cold aisle, we used things like blanking panels to provide better segregation between our cold supply side air and exhaust air exiting the rear of the cabinets and we used return air grills and ducts to better route the exhaust air back to the intake of our computer room air conditioning units.

We were able to increase our efficiencies quite a bit.

CNS: How is the role of IP security changing?

Jimenez: Traditionally, the physical security market could be characterized as being an industry that did not have a lot of governing standards around it. If you look at your structured cabling systems and computer systems, there is a lot of standardization out there.

As we start migrating to more network-based technologies, these standardization efforts are becoming more and more important.

The main value proposition around IP-based physical security is that if you are truly in a standardized open architecture environment  — it’s much easier to tie disparate systems together and communicate with other. A good example is access control and video surveillance. In an analog world, having those two systems talk and integrate with one another is somewhat of a difficult proposition because they are operating typically with different protocols, different ways of communication across the network, different types of cabling and wiring systems.

It’s very messy to do that type of integration, but with an IP-based framework and platform you can leverage the existing infrastructure standard to tie everything together.

Hopefully the work being done in the security world will transfer to building automation. That’s another area that could use some change.

CNS: Finally, what is the Anixter Ready! initiative all about?

Jimenez: It is primarily designed to help the speed of deployment of a project. If you think how products are sourced on a particular project you may have multiple sources to bring it all together. It helps s
implify the deployment process in that Anixter is the consolidation point for the procurement of all the products. We can also do staging and kitting. By doing that we are eliminating non-productive labour by pre-staging the products off site and delivering them to the job site.

On the sustainability side of the equation, pre-staging will also help an organization earn additional LEED points. There is a clause in the LEED document that states if you can provide documentation that demonstrates X amount of recycled waste was diverted from the job site to the recycling facility. You can receive LEED points for that.