Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why TIA/EIA 606-A is a Wonder

In May of 2002 the TIA published TIA/EIA-606-A, the administrative standard for telecommunications infrastructure. To say that I am a fan of this standard is a bit of an understatement. 606-A lays out a consistent method of identifying and labeling physical infrastructure components that can be applied to almost any communications plant, from a single home to a multinational campus. Without going into the details, the 606-A standard defines names by a constructing a string composed of individual chunks of data that build from the specific and gradually expound as far as necessary. The standard details a number of specific examples but the premise is simple. The entire standard builds from this elegant idea.

Again, I’m a fanboy. Committees of volunteers create standards. Multiple opinions combined with multiple points of views combined with multiple points of self-interest. Yet, 606-A comes together with a unified message and a clear set of criteria that is indicative of sole authorship. The standard accomplishes this by never defining the absolute requirements of the naming convention. 606-A communicates naming formats by using variables for each chunk of data that a name should hold. The use of variables sometimes leaves the reader thinking he’s back in high school algebra but the use of variables is what sets the standard apart: ease of adaptability.

I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of the administrative standard. I’m not even sure if I ever completely read the approved standard. I’ve worn out my advance copy many times over. My supervisor handed me an advance copy of the 606-A standard and the rest is history. I’m not sure if he ever read the advance copy.

At first the standard, like most, makes for a boring read. No one writes these documents in an attempt to get on the best seller list. Still, the more I read, the simpler my own professional problems seemed to appear.
• Identify the components you wish to administer
• Name those components
• Label those items with labels that communicate their names
• Write down any documentation you need and associate it with those names

Simple. These few simple principles apply to any form of administration. The rest of the standard deals with appropriate means of naming telecommunications infrastructure. There are some tips on what kind of information a user may want to document concerning their infrastructure but it observes that requested information may vary from customer to customer. This treatise on useful telecommunications information may be useful to the novice but can be skipped by the more experienced.

In short, if you haven’t read this standard, do it. TIA/EIA is working on the next iteration of this standard and by my advance reading, it has none of the advantages of its predecessor. The new 606 standard reads as if it were created by a committee. It allows a number of different options for data center management and in doing so ensure that there is no standard after all. In their defense, attempting to standardize the administration of a data center is as difficult as standardizing the physical layout of a data center.

For now, leave the 606-B until the committee can lock down an appropriate administrative standard. I don’t envy them the task. Reread your copy of the 606-A and make modifications as appropriate.

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