Chipset provides more insight into network's physical layer

$12 billion electronics components supplier IDs connectors and cable for more comprehensive policy assignment and enforcement

This week, a $12 billion maker of network connectors and panels will unveil a chipset to provide greater security and visibility in data center networks.

The company, TE Connectivity -- formerly known as Tyco Electronics -- has implemented its Connector Point ID chipset in the Quareo brand of connectors, network panels and data center blade server enclosures and chassis the company makes. Connector Point-enabled products allow network managers to assign a unique ID, similar to a MAC address and Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) tables, to network connection points. This allows products to auto-discover equipment, build a map and maintain a database of physical-layer connections.

This information can be sent upstream to network management software to pinpoint with greater accuracy the root cause of an outage, or to enable more comprehensive assignment of security and compliance policies. It is particularly beneficial in data centers large and small to provide more accurate visibility than MAC or ARP information into physical-layer connectivity between servers, switches and desktops to prevent network downtime and eliminate security gaps for business-critical applications, TE officials say.

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MAC and ARP information tabulate Layer 2 data link and Layer 3 network information, respectively. This information can still be used -- and is necessary -- for discovering and mapping nodes based on the information at those layers. But Connection Point ID does the same for Layer 1 physical attributes, looking at the performance of connectors and cabling.

Together with MAC and ARP data, physical-layer information can provide a more holistic view of the network and its characteristics, TE officials say. It can also be used to apply network, compliance and security policies -- usually applied at the data link and/or network layer -- at the physical layer as well.

The Connector Point ID technology has "a couple of hundred" U.S. patents associated with it, TE officials say. It was invented by M. H. Raza, who is responsible for strategic products in the Enterprise Networks division of TE Connectivity. He managed development of the Quareo line of products at TE, and came to the company from ADC Telecommunications, which TE acquired late last year

Raza had been vice president of ADC's enterprise business. Before ADC, he was vice president of product management at Fujitsu and senior director for IP telephony at 3Com.

"Current network management systems monitor, control and secure Layers 2 through 7," Raza says. "The ability to query, view and manage Layer 1 in a manner that is integrated with current network management policies has not been possible until now."

TE's customers include original equipment manufacturers and their contract manufacturers in the automotive, data communications, industrial, appliance, computer and consumer devices markets, as well as telecommunications, energy and oil and gas. Competitors include Alcatel-Lucent, Corning and Molex.

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