IP and Related Components as Open System Enabling Technology

To make data centers greener, in addition to appropriate technologies we need appropriate operations. Operations consist of IT and facilities. Every data center-related conference I attend talks about the collaboration of IT and facilities. However, collaboration is not that easy. IT and facilities are vastly different in their culture, technologies, and operations. IT is standards based, open, and fast moving. Facilities is mostly proprietary, closed, and slow moving.

This comparison reminds me of the comparison of data heads (data-driven IT) and bellheads (telecom/telephone). Data heads are standards based, open, and fast moving. Bellheads are standards based, not open enough to let anyone write applications on their platform, and slow moving. Yet as we all know, bellheads (telephone companies) devoured data heads (ISPs). In size, political and financial power, number of customers, and access to customers, ISPs were no competition for telephone companies. But luckily for us, IP transferred the innovation and speed of the data head to the bellhead.

IP is a protocol and not a technology by itself, but because it is ubiquitous, many technologies and applications have been developed to make systems open. An enterprise may have a stand-alone data center or a data center within a building. A larger enterprise may have multiple buildings with or without a data center on their campus. Those in charge of energy for the entire campus want a solution to accommodate any kind of building rather than specific solutions for different kinds of buildings. That motivated me to look into building management system (BMS) and building automation system (BAS) to see whether they can be integrated with IT systems via IP.

Typical buildings have several major subfunctions, such as HVAC, lighting, access control, and fire prevention. Yet each subsystem is implemented as a silo with little interaction with the others. This means that each subsystem has its own communications protocol, control, and monitor. Unless you are fluent in all these subsystems, you need an expert in each area. Worse yet, you need some way to integrate all the data collected from each subsystem to present the status of the building and control the building. BACnet and other protocols were developed to solve some of this problem by allowing each subsystem to communicate with the others via a standard protocol. Currently, other than the communications protocols, the rest of the system and the subsystems remain proprietary and dominated by incumbent players like Johnson Controls, Honeywell, Schneider, and Siemens.

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Midrange IP Phone Comparison Guide
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A few years ago, IP started getting attention as a means to make BMS and BAS open. Cisco entered building management with IP as a core. On its side are IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft. Even the incumbents are moving to embrace IP. Johnson Controls published draft documents for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) (a couple of links here) and has several white papers on their site to promote IP as the future system. (links) In the case of data heads and bellheads, bellheads won the war because of their gigantic size and market capitalization. Johnson Controls and Honeywell are big companies. Their market capitalization is $26B and $40B, respectively. However, the Cisco camp is much bigger. The market capitalization for Cisco, Microsoft, and IBM is $108B, $230B, and $180B, respectively. There is no chance that the incumbents will acquire Cisco and the likes.

It is not clear at this point how BMS and BAS will develop, but one thing is clear, and that is the application of IP. Even though the incumbents and the Cisco camp seem to take a different stance towards IP, it will play a major role in opening BMS and BAS in the $20B market. I will start covering building management from the IP perspective.

Zen Kishimoto

About Zen Kishimoto

Seasoned research and technology executive with various functional expertise, including roles in analyst, writer, CTO, VP Engineering, general management, sales, and marketing in diverse high-tech and cleantech industry segments, including software, mobile embedded systems, Web technologies, and networking. Current focus and expertise are in the area of the IT application to energy, such as smart grid, green IT, building/data center energy efficiency, and cloud computing.

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2 Responses to IP and Related Components as Open System Enabling Technology

  1. Hawk
    Hawk December 8, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

    Facilities and IT have been on different wavelengths since I entered this business thirty years ago. Is that the same in other countries, and do you know of anyone bridging those old obstacles. It is surprising that IP has not been more accommodated for energy controls, but those names are also big defense names, and I bet they are pricey. Sounds like the “smart” call center may fix a few extraneous issues too.

  2. Zen Kishimoto
    Zen Kishimoto December 13, 2010 at 12:09 pm #

    Only other country I know is Japan. Like the US, IT and facilities never get along there. I think the real resolution happens when one eats the other. That may not happen any time soon, I guess.

    Similarly, I do not think Cisco will acquire the likes of Johnson Controls any time soon. They care less of HVAC and lighting equipment. But Cisco can eat their lunch in greenfield settings by providing IP-based monitoring and control solutions. I will follow up how BACnet and IP really merge (if ever). BACnet/IP is not exactly a merged protocol, IMHO.

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