US20120246347A1 - Systems and methods for utilizing variable length data field storage schemes on physical communication media segments - Google Patents

Systems and methods for utilizing variable length data field storage schemes on physical communication media segments Download PDF

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US20120246347A1
US20120246347A1 US13/426,777 US201213426777A US2012246347A1 US 20120246347 A1 US20120246347 A1 US 20120246347A1 US 201213426777 A US201213426777 A US 201213426777A US 2012246347 A1 US2012246347 A1 US 2012246347A1
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information
segment
length
key
field
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Eric W. Sybesma
Jeffrey J. Miller
Laxman R. Anne
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ADC Telecommunications Inc
CommScope Technologies LLC
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ADC Telecommunications Inc
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Priority to US13/426,777 priority patent/US20120246347A1/en
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    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L41/00Arrangements for maintenance or administration or management of packet switching networks
    • H04L41/12Arrangements for maintenance or administration or management of packet switching networks network topology discovery or management

Abstract

One exemplary embodiment is directed to a segment of physical communication media. The segment comprises a physical communication medium, a connector attached to the physical communication medium, and a storage device configured to store information therein using a self-defining variable length data field scheme (such as a key-length-value triplet).

Description

    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
  • This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/467,736, filed on Mar. 25, 2011, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.
  • This application is related to the following:
  • U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/467,715, filed on Mar. 25, 2011, titled “DOUBLE-BUFFER INSERTION COUNT STORED IN A DEVICE ATTACHED TO A PHYSICAL LAYER MEDIUM”, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference;
  • U.S. patent application Ser. No. ______, Attorney Docket No. 100.1176US01, filed on even date herewith, titled “DOUBLE-BUFFER INSERTION COUNT STORED IN A DEVICE ATTACHED TO A PHYSICAL LAYER MEDIUM”, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference;
  • U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/467,725, filed on Mar. 25, 2011, titled “DYNAMICALLY DETECTING A DEFECTIVE CONNECTOR AT A PORT”, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference;
  • U.S. patent application Ser. No. ______, Attorney Docket No. 100.1177US01, filed on even date herewith, titled “DYNAMICALLY DETECTING A DEFECTIVE CONNECTOR AT A PORT”, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference;
  • U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/467,729, filed on Mar. 25, 2011, titled “IDENTIFIER ENCODING SCHEME FOR USE WITH MULTI-PATH CONNECTORS”, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference;
  • U.S. patent application Ser. No. ______, Attorney Docket No. 100.1178US01, filed on even date herewith, titled “IDENTIFIER ENCODING SCHEME FOR USE WITH MULTI-PATH CONNECTORS”, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference;
  • U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/467,743, filed on Mar. 25, 2011, titled “EVENT-MONITORING IN A SYSTEM FOR AUTOMATICALLY OBTAINING AND MANAGING PHYSICAL LAYER INFORMATION USING A RELIABLE PACKET-BASED COMMUNICATION”, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference; and
  • U.S. patent application Ser. No. ______, Attorney Docket No. 100.1181US01, filed on even date herewith, titled “EVENT-MONITORING IN A SYSTEM FOR AUTOMATICALLY OBTAINING AND MANAGING PHYSICAL LAYER INFORMATION USING A RELIABLE PACKET-BASED COMMUNICATION”, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.
  • BACKGROUND
  • Communication networks typically include numerous logical communication links between various items of equipment. Often a single logical communication link is implemented using several pieces of physical communication media. For example, a logical communication link between a computer and an inter-networking device such as a hub or router can be implemented as follows. A first cable connects the computer to a jack mounted in a wall. A second cable connects the wall-mounted jack to a port of a patch panel, and a third cable connects the inter-networking device to another port of a patch panel. A “patch cord” cross connects the two together. In other words, a single logical communication link is often implemented using several segments of physical communication media.
  • A network or enterprise management system (generally referred to here as a “network management system” or “NMS”) is typically aware of the logical communication links that exist in a network but typically does not have information about the specific physical layer media that are used to implement the logical communication links. Indeed, NMS systems typically do not have the ability to display or otherwise provide information about how logical communication links are implemented at the physical layer level.
  • Physical layer management (PLM) systems do exist. However, existing PLM systems are typically designed to facilitate the adding, changing, and removing of cross connections at a particular patch panel or a set of patch panels at a given location. Generally, such PLM systems include functionality to track what is connected to each port of a patch panel, trace connections that are made using a patch panel, and provide visual indications to a user at a patch panel. However, such PLM systems are typically “patch-panel” centric in that they are focused on helping a technician correctly add, change, or remove cross connections at a patch panel. Any “intelligence” included in or coupled to the patch panel is typically only designed to facilitate making accurate cross connections at the patch panel and troubleshooting related problems (for example, by detecting whether a patch cord is inserted into a given port and/or by determining which ports are coupled to one another using a patch cord).
  • Moreover, any information that such PLM systems collect is typically only used within the PLM systems. In other words, the collections of information that such PLM systems maintain are logical “islands” that are not used at the application-layer level by other systems. Though such PLM systems are sometimes connected to other networks (for example, connected to local area networks or the Internet), such network connections are typically only used to enable a user to remotely access the PLM systems. That is, a user remotely accesses the PLM-related application-layer functionality that resides in the PLM system itself using the external network connection but external systems or networks typically do not themselves include any application-layer functionality that makes use of any of the physical-layer-related information that resides in the PLM system.
  • SUMMARY
  • One exemplary embodiment is directed to a segment of physical communication media. The segment comprises a physical communication medium, a connector attached to the physical communication medium, and a storage device configured to store information therein using a self-defining variable length data field scheme (such as a key-length-value triplet).
  • DRAWINGS
  • FIG. 1 is a block diagram of one exemplary embodiment of a system that includes physical layer information (PLI) functionality as well as physical layer management (PLM) functionality.
  • FIG. 2 is a block diagram of one high-level embodiment of a port and media interface that are suitable for use in the system of FIG. 1.
  • FIGS. 3A-3B are diagrams illustrating exemplary embodiments of patch cords.
  • FIG. 4 is a flow chart illustrating an exemplary embodiment of a method of reading information stored on or in a segment of physical communication media.
  • FIGS. 5A-5C illustrate one example implementation of a key-length-value scheme suitable for use in the system of FIG. 2.
  • FIG. 6 illustrates one example of how data is stored on a storage device using the key-length-value scheme described above in connection with FIGS. 5A-5C.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • FIG. 1 is a block diagram of one embodiment of a system 100 that includes physical layer information (PLI) functionality as well as physical layer management (PLM) functionality. The system 100 comprises a plurality of connector assemblies 102, where each connector assembly 102 comprises one or more ports 104. In general, the connector assemblies 102 are used to attach segments of physical communication media to one another.
  • Each segment of physical communication media is attached to a respective port 104. Each port 104 is used to connect two or more segments of physical communication media to one another (for example, to implement a portion of a logical communication link). Examples of connector assemblies 102 include, for example, rack-mounted connector assemblies (such as patch panels, distribution units, and media converters for fiber and copper physical communication media), wall-mounted connector assemblies (such as boxes, jacks, outlets, and media converters for fiber and copper physical communication media), and inter-networking devices (such as switches, routers, hubs, repeaters, gateways, and access points).
  • At least some of the connector assemblies 102 are designed for use with segments of physical communication media that have identifier and attribute information stored in or on them. The identifier and attribute information is stored in or on the segment of physical communication media in a manner that enables the stored information, when the segment is attached to a port 104, to be read by a programmable processor 106 associated with the connector assembly 102. Examples of information that can be stored in or on a segment of physical communication media include, without limitation, an identifier that uniquely identifies that particular segment of physical communication media (similar to an ETHERNET Media Access Control (MAC) address but associated with the physical communication media and/or connector attached to the physical communication media), a part number, a plug or other connector type, a cable or fiber type and length, a serial number, a cable polarity, a date of manufacture, a manufacturing lot number, information about one or more visual attributes of physical communication media or a connector attached to the physical communication media (such as information about the color or shape of the physical communication media or connector or an image of the physical communication media or connector), and other information used by an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system or inventory control system. In other embodiments, alternate or additional data is stored in or on the media segments. For example, testing, media quality, or performance information can be stored in or on the segment of physical communication media. The testing, media quality, or performance information, for example, can be the results of testing that is performed when a particular segment of media is manufactured.
  • Also, as noted below, in some embodiments, the information stored in or on the segment of physical communication media can be updated. For example, the information stored in or on the segment of physical communication media can be updated to include the results of testing that is performed when a segment of physical media is installed or otherwise checked. In another example, such testing information is supplied to an aggregation point 120 and stored in a data store maintained by the aggregation point 120 (both of which are described below). In another example, the information stored in or on the segment of physical communication media includes a count of the number of times that a connector (not shown) attached to a segment of physical communication media has been inserted into port 104. In such an example, the count stored in or on the segment of physical communication media is updated each time the connector is inserted into port 104. This insertion count value can be used, for example, for warranty purposes (for example, to determine if the connector has been inserted more than the number of times specified in the warranty) or for security purposes (for example, to detect unauthorized insertions of the physical communication media).
  • In the particular embodiment shown in FIG. 1, each of the ports 104 of the connector assemblies 102 comprises a respective media interface 108 via which the respective programmable processor 106 is able to determine if a physical communication media segment is attached to that port 104 and, if one is, to read the identifier and attribute information stored in or on the attached segment (if such information is stored therein or thereon). The programmable processor 106 associated with each connector assembly 102 is communicatively coupled to each of the media interfaces 108 using a suitable bus or other interconnect (not shown).
  • In the particular embodiment shown in FIG. 1, four exemplary types of connector assembly configurations are shown. In the first connector assembly configuration 110 shown in FIG. 1, each connector assembly 102 includes its own respective programmable processor 106 and its own respective network interface 116 that is used to communicatively couple that connector assembly 102 to an Internet Protocol (IP) network 118.
  • In the second type of connector assembly configuration 112, a group of connector assemblies 102 are physically located near each other (for example, in a bay or equipment closet). Each of the connector assemblies 102 in the group includes its own respective programmable processor 106. However, in the second connector assembly configuration 112, some of the connector assemblies 102 (referred to here as “interfaced connector assemblies”) include their own respective network interfaces 116 while some of the connector assemblies 102 (referred to here as “non-interfaced connector assemblies”) do not. The non-interfaced connector assemblies 102 are communicatively coupled to one or more of the interfaced connector assemblies 102 in the group via local connections. In this way, the non-interfaced connector assemblies 102 are communicatively coupled to the IP network 118 via the network interface 116 included in one or more of the interfaced connector assemblies 102 in the group. In the second type of connector assembly configuration 112, the total number of network interfaces 116 used to couple the connector assemblies 102 to the IP network 118 can be reduced. Moreover, in the particular embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the non-interfaced connector assemblies 102 are connected to the interfaced connector assembly 102 using a daisy chain topology (though other topologies can be used in other implementations and embodiments).
  • In the third type of connector assembly configuration 114, a group of connector assemblies 102 are physically located near each other (for example, within a bay or equipment closet). Some of the connector assemblies 102 in the group (also referred to here as “master” connector assemblies 102) include both their own programmable processors 106 and network interfaces 116, while some of the connector assemblies 102 (also referred to here as “slave” connector assemblies 102) do not include their own programmable processors 106 or network interfaces 116. Each of the slave connector assemblies 102 is communicatively coupled to one or more of the master connector assemblies 102 in the group via one or more local connections. The programmable processor 106 in each of the master connector assemblies 102 is able to carry out the processing described below for both the master connector assembly 102 of which it is a part and any slave connector assemblies 102 to which the master connector assembly 102 is connected via the local connections. As a result, the cost associated with the slave connector assemblies 102 can be reduced. In the particular embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the slave connector assemblies 102 are connected to a master connector assembly 102 in a star topology (though other topologies can be used in other implementations and embodiments).
  • Each programmable processor 106 is configured to execute software or firmware 190 (shown in FIG. 2) that causes the programmable processor 106 to carry out various functions described below. The software 190 comprises program instructions that are stored (or otherwise embodied) on an appropriate non-transitory storage medium or media 192 (such as flash or other non-volatile memory, magnetic disc drives, and/or optical disc drives). At least a portion of the program instructions are read from the storage medium 192 by the programmable processor 106 for execution thereby. The storage medium 192 on or in which the program instructions are embodied is also referred to here as a “program product”. Although the storage medium 192 is shown in FIG. 2 as being included in, and local to, the connector assembly 102, it is to be understood that remote storage media (for example, storage media that is accessible over a network or communication link) and/or removable media can also be used. Each connector assembly 102 also includes suitable memory (not shown) that is coupled to the programmable processor 106 for storing program instructions and data. In general, the programmable processor 106 (and the software 190 executing thereon) determines if a physical communication media segment is attached to a port 104 with which that processor 106 is associated and, if one is, to read the identifier and attribute information stored in or on the attached physical communication media segment (if the segment includes such information stored therein or thereon) using the associated media interface 108.
  • As shown in FIG. 1, in the first, second, and third configurations 110, 112, and 114, each programmable processor 106 is also configured to communicate physical layer information to devices that are coupled to the IP network 118. The physical layer information (PLI) includes information about the connector assemblies 102 associated with that programmable processor 106 (also referred to here as “device information”) as well as information about any segments of physical media attached to the ports 104 of those connector assemblies 102 (also referred to here as “media information”) The device information includes, for example, an identifier for each connector assembly, a type identifier that identifies the connector assembly's type, and port priority information that associates a priority level with each port. The media information includes identity and attribute information that the programmable processor 106 has read from attached physical media segments that have identifier and attribute information stored in or on it. The media information may also include information about physical communication media that does not have identifier or attribute information stored in or on it. This latter type of media information can be manually input at the time the associated physical media segments are attached to the connector assembly 102 (for example, using a management application executing on the programmable processor 106 that enables a user to configure and monitor the connector assembly 102).
  • In the fourth type of connector assembly configuration 115, a group of connector assemblies 102 are housed within a common chassis or other enclosure. Each of the connector assemblies 102 in the configuration 115 includes their own programmable processors 106. In the context of this configuration 115, the programmable processors 106 in each of the connector assemblies are “slave” processors 106. Each of the slave programmable processor 106 is also communicatively coupled to a common “master” programmable processor 117 (for example, over a backplane included in the chassis or enclosure). The master programmable processor 117 is coupled to a network interface 116 that is used to communicatively couple the master programmable processor 117 to the IP network 118. In this configuration 115, each slave programmable processor 106 is configured to determine if physical communication media segments are attached to its port 104 and to read the identifier and attribute information stored in or on the attached physical communication media segments (if the attached segments have such information stored therein or thereon) using the associated media interfaces 108. This information is communicated from the slave programmable processor 106 in each of the connector assemblies 102 in the chassis to the master processor 117. The master processor 117 is configured to handle the processing associated with communicating the physical layer information read from by the slave processors 106 to devices that are coupled to the IP network 118.
  • The system 100 includes functionality that enables the physical layer information that the connector assemblies 102 capture to be used by application-layer functionality outside of the traditional physical-layer management application domain. That is, the physical layer information is not retained in a PLM “island” used only for PLM purposes but is instead made available to other applications. In the particular embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the system 100 includes an aggregation point 120 that is communicatively coupled to the connector assemblies 102 via the IP network 118.
  • The aggregation point 120 includes functionality that obtains physical layer information from the connector assemblies 102 (and other devices) and stores the physical layer information in a data store.
  • The aggregation point 120 can be used to receive physical layer information from various types of connector assemblies 106 that have functionality for automatically reading information stored in or on the segment of physical communication media. Examples of such connector assemblies 106 are noted above. Also, the aggregation point 120 and aggregation functionality 124 can also be used to receive physical layer information from other types of devices that have functionality for automatically reading information stored in or on the segment of physical communication media. Examples of such devices include end-user devices—such as computers, peripherals (such as printers, copiers, storage devices, and scanners), and IP telephones—that include functionality for automatically reading information stored in or on the segment of physical communication media.
  • The aggregation point 120 can also be used to obtain other types of physical layer information. For example, in this embodiment, the aggregation point 120 also obtains information about physical communication media segments that is not otherwise automatically communicated to an aggregation point 120. One example of such information is information about non-connectorized physical communication media segments that do not otherwise have information stored in or on them that are attached to a connector assembly (including, for example, information indicating which ports of the devices are connected to which ports of other devices in the network as well as media information about the segment). Another example of such information is information about physical communication media segments that are connected to devices that are not able to read media information that is stored in or on the media segments that are attached to their ports and/or that are not able to communicate such information to the aggregation point 120 (for example, because such devices do not include such functionality, because such devices are used with media segments that do not have media information stored in or on them, and/or because bandwidth is not available for communicating such information to the aggregation point 120). In this example, the information can include, for example, information about the devices themselves (such as the devices' MAC addresses and IP addresses if assigned to such devices), information indicating which ports of the devices are connected to which ports of other devices in the network (for example, other connector assemblies), and information about the physical media attached to the ports of the devices. This information can be provided to the aggregation point 120, for example, by manually entering such information into a file (such as a spreadsheet) and then uploading the file to the aggregation point 120 (for example, using a web browser) in connection with the initial installation of each of the various items. Such information can also, for example, be directly entered using a user interface provided by the aggregation point 120 (for example, using a web browser).
  • The aggregation point 120 can also obtain information about the layout of the building or buildings in which the network is deployed, as well as information indicating where each connector assembly 102, physical media segment, and inter-networking device is located within the building. This information can be, for example, manually entered and verified (for example, using a web browser) in connection with the initial installation of each of the various items. In one implementation, such location information includes an X, Y, and Z location for each port or other termination point for each physical communication media segment (for example, X, Y, and Z location information of the type specified in the ANSI/TIA/EIA 606-A Standard (Administration Standard For The Commercial Telecommunications Infrastructure)).
  • The aggregation point 120 can obtain and maintain testing, media quality, or performance information relating to the various segments of physical communication media that exist in the network. The testing, media quality, or performance information, for example, can be results of testing that is performed when a particular segment of media is manufactured and/or when testing is performed when a particular segment of media is installed or otherwise checked.
  • The aggregation point 120 also includes functionality that provides an interface for external devices or entities to access the physical layer information maintained by the aggregation point 120. This access can include retrieving information from the aggregation point 120 as well as supplying information to the aggregation point 120. In this embodiment, the aggregation point 120 is implemented as “middleware” that is able to provide such external devices and entities with transparent and convenient access to the PLI maintained by the access point 120. Because the aggregation point 120 aggregates PLI from the relevant devices on the IP network 118 and provides external devices and entities with access to such PLI, the external devices and entities do not need to individually interact with all of the devices in the IP network 118 that provide PLI, nor do such devices need to have the capacity to respond to requests from such external devices and entities.
  • The aggregation point 120, in the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, implements an application programming interface (API) by which application-layer functionality can gain access to the physical layer information maintained by the aggregation point 120 using a software development kit (SDK) that describes and documents the API. Also, in those embodiments where the connector assemblies 102 include one or more light emitting diodes (LEDs) (for example, where each port 104 has an associated LED), the API and aggregation point 120 can include functionality that enables application-layer functionality to change the state of such LEDs using the API.
  • For example, as shown in FIG. 1, a network management system (NMS) 130 includes physical layer information (PLI) functionality 132 that is configured to retrieve physical layer information from the aggregation point 120 and provide it to the other parts of the NMS 130 for use thereby. The NMS 130 uses the retrieved physical layer information to perform one or more network management functions (for example, as described below). In one implementation of the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the PLI functionality 132 of the NMS 130 retrieves physical layer information from the aggregation point 120 using the API implemented by the aggregation point 120. The NMS 130 communicates with the aggregation point 120 over the IP network 118.
  • As shown in FIG. 1, an application 134 executing on a computer 136 can also use the API implemented by the aggregation point 120 to access the PLI information maintained by the aggregation point 120 (for example, to retrieve such information from the aggregation point 120 and/or to supply such information to the aggregation point 120). The computer 136 is coupled to the IP network 118 and accesses the aggregation point 120 over the IP network 118.
  • In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, one or more inter-networking devices 138 used to implement the IP network 118 include physical layer information (PLI) functionality 140. The PLI functionality 140 of the inter-networking device 138 is configured to retrieve physical layer information from the aggregation point 120 and use the retrieved physical layer information to perform one or more inter-networking functions. Examples of inter-networking functions include Layer 1, Layer 2, and Layer 3 (of the OSI model) inter-networking functions such as the routing, switching, repeating, bridging, and grooming of communication traffic that is received at the inter-networking device. In one implementation of such an embodiment, the PLI functionality 140 uses the API implemented by the aggregation point 120 to communicate with the aggregation point 120.
  • The PLI functionality 140 included in the inter-networking device 138 can also be used to capture physical layer information associated with the inter-network device 138 and the physical communication media attached to it and communicate the captured physical layer information to the aggregation point 120. Such information can be provided to the aggregation point 120 using the API or by using the protocols that are used to communicate with the connector assemblies 102.
  • The aggregation point 120 can be implemented on a standalone network node (for example, a standalone computer running appropriate software) or can be integrated along with other network functionality (for example, integrated with an element management system or network management system or other network server or network element). Moreover, the functionality of the aggregation point 120 can be distributed across many nodes and devices in the network and/or implemented, for example, in a hierarchical manner (for example, with many levels of aggregation points).
  • Moreover, the aggregation point 120 and the connector assemblies 102 are configured so that the aggregation point 120 can automatically discover and connect with devices that provide PLI to an aggregation point 120 (such as the connector assemblies 102 and inter-network device 138) that are on the network 118. In this way, when devices that are able to provide PLI to an aggregation point 120 (such as a connector assembly 102 or an inter-networking device 138) are coupled to the IP network 118, an aggregation point 120 is able to automatically discover the connector assembly 102 and start aggregating physical layer information for that connector assembly 102 without requiring the person installing the connector assembly 102 to have knowledge of the aggregation points 120 that are on the IP network 118. Similarly, when an aggregation point 120 is coupled to the IP network 118, the aggregation point 120 is able to automatically discover and interact with devices that are capable of providing PLI to an aggregation point without requiring the person installing the aggregation point 120 to have knowledge of the devices that are on the IP network 118. Thus, the physical-layer information resources described here can be easily integrated into the IP network 118.
  • The IP network 118 can include one or more local area networks and/or wide area networks (including for example the Internet). As a result, the aggregation point 120, NMS 130, and computer 136 need not be located at the same site as each other or at the same site as the connector assemblies 102 or the inter-networking devices 138.
  • Various conventional IP networking techniques can be used in deploying the system 100 of FIG. 1. For example, conventional security protocols can be used to secure communications if they are communicated over a public or otherwise unsecure communication channel (such as the Internet or over a wireless communication link).
  • In one implementation of the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, each connector assembly 102, each port 104 of each connector assembly 102, and each media segment is individually addressable. Where IP addresses are used to individually address each connector assembly 102, a virtual private network (VPN) dedicated for use with the various connector assemblies 102 can be used to segregate the IP addresses used for the connector assemblies 102 from the main IP address space that is used in the IP network 118.
  • Also, power can be supplied to the connector assemblies 102 using conventional “Power over Ethernet” techniques specified in the IEEE 802.3af standard, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference. In such an implementation, a power hub 142 or other power supplying device (located near or incorporated into an inter-networking device that is coupled to each connector assembly 102) injects DC power onto one or more of the wires (also referred to here as the “power wires”) included in the copper twisted-pair cable used to connect each connector assembly 102 to the associated inter-networking device. The interface 116 in the connector assembly 102 picks the injected DC power off of the power wires and uses the picked-off power to power the active components of that connector assembly 102. In the second and third connector assembly configurations 112 and 114, some of the connector assemblies 102 are not directly connected to the IP network 118 and, therefore, are unable to receive power directly from the power wires. These connector assemblies 102 receive power from the connector assemblies 102 that are directly connected to the IP network 118 via the local connections that communicatively couple such connector assemblies 102 to one another. In the fourth configuration 115, the interface 116 picks the injected DC power off of the power wires and supplies power to the master processor 117 and each of the slave processors 106 over the backplane.
  • In the particular embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the system 100 also supports conventional physical layer management (PLM) operations such as the tracking of moves, adds, and changes of the segments of physical media that are attached to the ports 104 of the connector assemblies 102 and providing assistance with carrying out moves, adds, and changes. PLI provided by the aggregation point 120 can be used to improve upon conventional “guided MAC” processes. For example, information about the location of the port 104 and the visual appearance (for example, the color or shape) of the relevant physical media segment (or connector attached thereto) can be communicated to a technician to assist the technician in carrying out a move, add, or change. This information can be communicated to a computer or smartphone used by the technician. Moreover, the PLI functionality that resides in the system 100 can also be used to verify that a particular MAC was properly carried out by checking that the expected physical media segment is located in the expected port 104. If that is not the case, an alert can be sent to the technician so that the technician can correct the issue.
  • The PLM functionality included in the system 100 can also support conventional techniques for guiding the technician in carrying out a MAC (for example, by illuminating one or more light emitting diodes (LEDs) to direct a technician to a particular connector assembly 102 and/or to a particular port 104 or by displaying messages on a liquid crystal display (LCD) included on or near the connector assemblies 102.
  • Other PLM functions include keeping historical logs about the media connected to the connector assembly. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the aggregation point 120 includes PLM functionality 144 that implements such PLM functions. The PLM functionality 144 does this using the physical layer information that is maintained at the aggregation point 120.
  • The IP network 118 is typically implemented using one or more inter-networking devices. As noted above, an inter-networking device is a type of connector assembly (and a particular implementation of an inter-networking device 138 is referenced separately in FIG. 1 for ease of explanation only). Generally, an inter-networking device can be configured to read media information that is stored in or on the segments of physical media that are attached to its ports and to communicate the media information it reads from the attached segments of media (as well as information about the inter-networking device itself) to an aggregation point 120 like any other connector assembly described here.
  • In addition to connector assemblies 102, the techniques described here for reading media information stored in or on a segment of physical communication media can be used in one or more end nodes of the IP network 118. For example, computers (such as, laptops, servers, desktop computers, or special-purpose computing devices such as IP telephones, IP multi-media appliances, and storage devices) can be configured to read media information that is stored in or on the segments of physical communication media that are attached to their ports and to communicate the media information they read from the attached segments of media (as well as information about the devices themselves) to an aggregation point 120 as described here.
  • In one implementation of the system 100 shown in FIG. 1, the ports 104 of each connector assembly 102 are used to implement the IP network 118 over which each connector assembly 102 communicates physical layer information associated with that connector assembly 102. In such an implementation, such physical layer information is communicated over the IP network 118 just like any other data that is communicated over the IP network 118. As noted below, the media interface 108 determines if a physical communication media segment is attached to the corresponding port 104 and, if one is, reads the identifier and attribute information stored in or on the attached segment (if such information is stored therein or thereon) without affecting the normal data signals that pass through that port 104. Indeed, such physical layer information may actually pass through one or more of the ports 104 of connector assemblies 102 in the course of being communicated to and/or from a connector assembly 102, aggregation point 150, network management system 130, and/or computer 136. By using the IP network 118 to communicate physical layer information pertaining to it, a separate network need not be provided and maintained in order to communicate such physical-layer information. However, in other implementations and embodiments, the physical layer information described above is communicated using a network that is separate from the network to which such physical layer information pertains.
  • FIG. 2 is a block diagram of one high-level embodiment of a port 104 and media interface 108 that are suitable for use in the system 100 of FIG. 1.
  • Each port 104 comprises a first attachment point 206 and a second attachment point 208. The first attachment point 206 is used to attach a first segment of physical communication media 210 to the port 104, and the second attachment point 208 is used to attach a second segment of physical communication media 212 to the port 104.
  • In the particular embodiment shown in FIG. 2, the first attachment point 206 is located near the rear of the connector assembly. As a consequence, the first attachment point 206 and the first segment of physical media 210 attached thereto are also referred to here as the “rear attachment point” 206 and the “rear media segment” 210, respectively. Also, in this embodiment, the rear attachment point 206 is configured to attach the rear media segment 210 to the port 104 in a semi-permanent manner. As used herein, a semi-permanent attachment is one that is designed to be changed relatively infrequently, if ever. This is also referred to sometimes as a “one-time” connection. Examples of suitable rear connectors 206 include punch-down blocks (in the case of copper physical media) and fiber adapters, fiber splice points, and fiber termination points (in the case of optical physical media).
  • In the embodiment shown in FIG. 2, the second attachment point 208 is located near the front of the connector assembly 102. As a consequence, the second attachment point 208 and the second segment of physical media 212 are also referred to here as the “front attachment point” 208 and the “front media segment” 212, respectively. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 2, the front attachment point 208 for each port 104 is designed for use with “connectorized” front media segments 212 that have identifier and attribute information stored in or on them. As used herein, a “connectorized” media segment is a segment of physical communication media that includes a connector 214 at at least one end of the segment. The front attachment point 208 is implemented using a suitable connector or adapter that mates with the corresponding connector 214 on the end of the front media segment 212. The connector 214 is used to facilitate the easy and repeated attachment and unattachment of the front media segment 212 to the port 104. Examples of connectorized media segments include CAT-5, 6, and 7 twisted-pair cables having modular connectors or plugs attached to both ends (in which case, the front connectors are implemented using compatible modular jacks) or optical cables having SC, LC, FC, LX.5, MTP, or MPO connectors (in which case, the front connectors are implemented using compatible SC, LC, FC, LX.5, MTP, or MPO connectors or adapters). The techniques described here can be used with other types of connectors including, for example, BNC connectors, F connectors, DSX jacks and plugs, bantam jacks and plugs, and MPO and MTP multi-fiber connectors and adapters.
  • Each port 104 communicatively couples the respective rear attachment point 206 to the respective front attachment point 208. As a result, a rear media segment 210 attached to the respective rear attachment point 206 is communicatively coupled to any front media segment 212 attached to the respective front attachment point 208. In one implementation, each port 104 is designed for use with a rear media segment 210 and a front media segment 212 that comprise the same type of physical communication media, in which case each port 104 communicatively couples any rear media segment 210 attached to the respective rear attachment point 206 to any front media segment 212 attached to the respective front attachment point 208 at the physical layer level without any media conversion. In other implementations, each port 104 communicatively couples any rear media segment 210 attached to the respective rear attachment point 206 to any front media segment 212 attached to the respective front attachment point 208 in other ways (for example, using a media converter if the rear media segment 210 and the front media segment 212 comprise different types of physical communication media).
  • In the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 2, the port 104 is configured for use with front media segments 212 that include a storage device 216 in which the media information for that media segment 212 is stored. The storage device 216 includes a storage device interface 218 that, when the corresponding connector 214 is inserted into (or otherwise attached to) a front attachment point 208 of the port 104, communicatively couples the storage device 216 to a corresponding media interface 108 so that the associated programmable processor 106 can read the information stored in the storage device 216. In one implementation of the embodiment shown in FIG. 2, each connector 214 itself houses the storage device 216. In another implementation of such an embodiment, the storage device 216 is housed within a housing that is separate from the connector 214. In such an implementation, the housing is configured so that it can be snapped onto the media segment 212 or the connector 214, with the storage device interface 218 positioned relative to the connector 214 so that the storage device interface 218 will properly mate with the media interface 108 when the connector 214 is inserted into (or otherwise attached to) the front attachment point 208. Although in the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 2 only the front media segments 212 include storage devices 216, it is to be understood that in other embodiments connector assemblies and/or other devices are configured to read storage devices that are attached to (or otherwise included with) rear media segments 210 and/or any “auxiliary” media segments (for example, media segments coupled to the network interface 116).
  • In some implementations, at least some of the information stored in the storage device 216 can be updated in the field (for example, by having an associated programmable processor 106 cause additional information to be written to the storage device 216 or changing or deleting information that was previously stored in the storage device 216). For example, in some implementations, some of the information stored in the storage device 216 cannot be changed in the field (for example, identifier information or manufacturing information) while some of the other information stored in the storage device 216 can be changed in the field (for example, testing, media quality, or performance information). In other implementations, none of the information stored in the storage device 216 can be updated in the field.
  • Also, the storage device 216 may also include a processor or micro-controller, in addition to storage for the media information. In which case, the micro-controller included in the storage device 216 can be used to execute software or firmware that, for example, controls one or more LEDs attached to the storage device 216. In another example, the micro-controller executes software or firmware that performs an integrity test on the front media segment 212 (for example, by performing a capacitance or impedance test on the sheathing or insulator that surrounds the front physical communication media segment 212 (which may include a metallic foil or metallic filler for such purposes)). In the event that a problem with the integrity of the front media segment 212 is detected, the micro-controller can communicate that fact to the programmable processor 106 associated with the port 104 using the storage device interface 218. The micro-controller can also be used for other functions.
  • The port 104, connector 214, storage device 216, and media interface 108 are configured so that the information stored in the storage device 216 can be read without affecting the communication signals that pass through the media segments 210 and 212.
  • Further details regarding system 100 and the port 104 can be found in the following United States patent applications, all of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference: U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/152,624, filed on Feb. 13, 2009, titled “MANAGED CONNECTIVITY SYSTEMS AND METHODS” (also referred to here as the “'624 Application”); U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/705,497, filed on Feb. 12, 2010, titled “AGGREGATION OF PHYSICAL LAYER INFORMATION RELATED TO A NETWORK” (is also referred to here as the '497 Application); U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/705,501, filed on Feb. 12, 2010, titled “INTER-NETWORKING DEVICES FOR USE WITH PHYSICAL LAYER INFORMATION” (also referred to here as the '501 Application); U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/705,506, filed on Feb. 12, 2010, titled “NETWORK MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS FOR USE WITH PHYSICAL LAYER INFORMATION” (also referred to here as the '506 Application); U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/705,514, filed on Feb. 12, 2010, titled “MANAGED CONNECTIVITY DEVICES, SYSTEMS, AND METHODS” (also referred to here as the '514 Application); U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/252,395, filed on Oct. 16, 2009, titled “MANAGED CONNECTIVITY IN ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS AND METHODS THEREOF” (also referred to here as the “'395 Application”); U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/253,208, filed on Oct. 20, 2009, titled “ELECTRICAL PLUG FOR MANAGED CONNECTIVITY SYSTEMS” (also referred to here as the “'208 Application”); U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/252,964, filed on Oct. 19, 2009, titled “ELECTRICAL PLUG FOR MANAGED CONNECTIVITY SYSTEMS” (also referred to here as the “'964 Application”); U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/252,386, filed on Oct. 16, 2009, titled “MANAGED CONNECTIVITY IN FIBER OPTIC SYSTEMS AND METHODS THEREOF” (also referred to here as the “'386 Application”); U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/303,961, filed on Feb. 12, 2010, titled “FIBER PLUGS AND ADAPTERS FOR MANAGED CONNECTIVITY” (the “'961 Application”); and U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/303,948, filed on Feb. 12, 2010, titled “BLADED COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM” (the “'948 Application”).
  • FIG. 3A is a diagram illustrating one exemplary embodiment of a front media segment. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 3A, the front media segment comprises a “patch cord” 312 that is used to selectively cross-connect two ports of the same or different patch panels. The patch cord 312 shown in FIG. 3A is suitable for use with an implementation of a patch panel where the front connectors of the ports are implemented using modular RJ-45 jacks. The patch cord 312 shown in FIG. 3A comprises a copper unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cable 386. The UTP cable 386 includes eight conductors arranged in four conductor pairs. The patch cord 312 also comprises two RJ-45 plugs 314, one at each end of the cable 386 (only one of which is shown in FIG. 3A). The RJ-45 plugs 314 are designed to be inserted into the RJ-45 modular jacks used as the front connectors. Each RJ-45 plug 314 comprises a contact portion 388 in which eight, generally parallel electrical contacts 390 are positioned. Each of the eight electrical contacts 390 are electrically connected to one of the eight conductors in the UTP cable 386.
  • Each plug 314 also comprises (or is attached to) a storage device 392 (for example, an Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EEPROM) or other non-volatile memory device). The media information described above for the patch cord 312 is stored in the storage device 392. The storage device 392 includes sufficient storage capacity to store such information. Each storage device 392 also includes a storage device interface 394 that, when the corresponding plug 314 is inserted into a front connector of a port 304, communicatively couples the storage device 392 to the corresponding media interface so that the programmable processor 320 in the corresponding patch panel 302 can read the information stored in the storage device 392.
  • Examples of such a patch cord 312 and plug 314 are described in the '395 Application, the '208 Application, and the '964 Application.
  • FIG. 3B is a diagram illustrating another exemplary embodiment of a patch cord 312′. The patch cord 312′ shown in FIG. 3B is suitable for use with a fiber patch panel where the front connectors of the ports are implemented using fiber LC adapters or connectors. The patch cord 312′ shown in FIG. 3B comprises an optical cable 386′. The optical cable 386′ includes an optical fiber enclosed within a suitable sheathing. The patch cord 312′ also comprises two LC connectors 314′, one at each of the cable 386′. Each LC connector 314′ is designed to be inserted into an LC adapter used as the front connector of a port of a fiber patch panel. Each LC connector 314′ comprises an end portion 388′ at which an optical connection with the optical fiber in the cable 386′ can be established when the LC connector 314′ is inserted in an LC adapter of a port.
  • Each LC connector 314′ also comprises (or is attached to) a storage device 392′ (for example, an Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EEPROM) or other non-volatile memory device). The media information described above for the patch cord 312 is stored in the storage device 392′. The storage device 392′ includes sufficient storage capacity to store such information. Each storage device 392′ also includes a storage device interface 394′ that, when the corresponding LC connector 314′ is inserted into a front connector of a port, communicatively couples the storage device 392′ to the corresponding media interface so that the programmable processor in the corresponding fiber patch panel can read the information stored in the storage device 392′.
  • In some implementations of the patch cords 312 and 312′, the storage devices 392 and 392′ are implemented using a surface-mount EEPROM or other non-volatile memory device. In such implementations, the storage device interfaces and media interfaces each comprise four leads—a power lead, a ground lead, a data lead, and an extra lead that is reserved for future use. In one such implementation, an EEPROM that supports a serial protocol is used, where the serial protocol is used for communicating over the signal data lead. The four leads of the storage device interfaces come into electrical contact with four corresponding leads of the media interface when the corresponding plug or connector is inserted in the corresponding front connector of a port 304. Each storage device interface and media interface are arranged and configured so that they do not interfere with data communicated over the patch cord. In other embodiments, other types of interfaces are used. For example, in one such alternative embodiment, a two-line interface is used with a simple charge pump. In other embodiments, additional lines are provided (for example, for potential future applications).
  • Examples of such fiber patch cords 312′ and connectors 314′ are described in U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/252,386, filed on Oct. 16, 2009, titled “MANAGED CONNECTIVITY IN FIBER OPTIC SYSTEMS AND METHODS THEREOF” (also referred to here as the “'386 Application”), U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/303,961, filed on Feb. 12, 2010, titled “FIBER PLUGS AND ADAPTERS FOR MANAGED CONNECTIVITY” (the “'961 Application”), and U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/303,948, filed on Feb. 12, 2010, titled “BLADED COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM” (the “'948 Application”). The '386 Application, the '961 Application, and the '948 Application are hereby incorporated herein by reference.
  • In some implementations of the patch cords 312 and 312′, each plug 314 or connector 314′ itself houses the respective storage device and storage device interface. In implementations, each storage device and corresponding storage device interface are housed within a housing that is separate from the corresponding plug or connector. In such implementations, the housing is configured so that it can be snapped onto (or otherwise attached to) the cable or the plug or connector, with the storage device interface positioned relative to the plug or connector so that the storage device interface will properly mate with the relevant media interface when the plug or connector is inserted into the front connector of the corresponding port.
  • For ease of explanation, certain processing relating to one or more connector assemblies 102 is described here as being performed by the programmable processor 106 and the software 190 executing on programmable processor 106. However, it is to be understood that all or part of the processing described here as being performed by processor 106 and the software 190 could also be performed by other processors and software associated with each connector assembly 102. For example, all or some of such processing can (but need not) be performed by a “master” processor 117 (and the software executing thereon) where a master-slave configuration 115 is used. Also, a particular connector assembly 102 can also include more than one processor 106 (for example, where required by the port density of the connector assembly 102).
  • Moreover, functionality described here as being implemented in software executing on a programmable processor can be implemented in other ways. For example, such functionality can be implemented in hardware using discrete hardware, application-specific integrated circuits (ASICS)), programmable devices (such as field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) or complex programmable logic devices (CPLDs)), and/or combinations of one or more of the foregoing, and/or combinations of one or more of the foregoing along with software executing on one or more programmable processors. For example, the detection of the insertion of a connector 214 into a port 104 of a connector assembly 102 and/or the reading of information from any storage device 216 attached to the connector 214 can be implemented in hardware (for example, using one or more programmable devices and/or an ASIC) in addition to or instead of being implemented as software.
  • Referring back to the embodiment shown in FIG. 2, information stored on storage device 216 is encoded using a self-defining variable length data field scheme. That is, none of the media interfaces 108 nor processor 106 (nor the software 190 executing thereon), nor any other component of system 100 need have a priori knowledge of the content, length, or the format of the data fields (or other units of data) used to store information in or on the segment of communication physical media 212 (for example, in the storage device 216). Instead, information about the content, length, and/or format of each data field (or other unit of data) is determined from data stored in or on segment of physical communication media 212 itself.
  • For example, in one implementation of the embodiment of FIG. 2, information is stored using key-length-value triplets. In the particular embodiment described herein, the information is stored in a storage device 216 that is included or otherwise attached or associated with the connector 214. That is, each item of information stored in or on the segment of physical media 212 utilizes a key-length-value triplet scheme wherein each key-length-value triplet includes a “key” field that identifies the item of information encoded within the triplet, a “length” field that specifies the length of the item of information, and a “value” field that contains the item of information itself (that is, the payload). Using key-length-value triplets eliminates the need for each item of information stored in the storage device 216 to be the same length, which allows for more efficient use of the capacity available of storage device 216 and other benefits discussed below.
  • FIG. 4 is a flow chart illustrating generally at 400 one exemplary embodiment of a method of reading data stored in or on a segment of physical communication media. The exemplary embodiment of method 400 shown in FIG. 4 can be implemented in the system 100 described above in connection with FIG. 2. In particular, the processing described here in connection with method 400 can be implemented by software associated with each connector assembly 102 (for example, the software 190). The method begins at 402 with determining a field length used to store a first item of information in a storage device 216 in or on a segment of physical communication media by reading data from the storage device 216. As described below, the field length information can be encoded with the item of information as a key-length value triplet or can be encoded in header information stored on the storage device 216. Properties of a key-length value triplet are discussed below. In one implementation of the method 400, the segment of physical communication media comprises a physical communication medium or media (for example, one or more twisted-pair cables or optical fibers), at least one connector attached to the segment of physical communication media, and at least one storage device 216 attached to the physical communication media or medium and/or the connector, as illustrated in FIGS. 2, 3A and 3B. The method proceeds to 404 parsing data read from the storage device 216 based on the field length to identify a data field that stores the first item of information. In this way, the information stored on the storage device 216 itself can be used to figure out how to parse the information stored on the storage device 216.
  • FIGS. 5A-5C illustrate one example implementation of a key-length-value scheme suitable for use in the system 100 described above in connection with FIG. 2. Each key-length-value triplet 500 includes a respective key field 502, length field 504, and value field 506.
  • Each item of information to be stored on storage device 216 is assigned a key that identifies that item of information. This key is stored in the key field 502 of the key-length-value triplet 500 that is used to store that item of information. In one example, for a given segment of physical media 212, a key-length-value triplet with a key of “001” indicates that the triplet stores a serial number (or other unique identifier), a key of “002” indicates a triplet that stores a date of manufacture, a key of “022” indicates a triplet that stores an insertion count value, and so on for each item of information stored on the storage device 216. The length of the key field 502 itself (for example, 8 or 16 bits) is fixed and would be established a priori and known by the various entities in the system 100 that make use of the key-length-value triplets.
  • Following the triplet's key field 502 is the length field 504. The length field 504 indicates the number of bits, bytes, or other units of data that make up the value field 506 portion of the key-length-value triplet 500. The value field 506 follows the length field 504.
  • In the exemplary embodiment shown in FIGS. 5A-5C, the length field 504 comprises a fixed portion 508 having a predetermined length (eight bits in this example) that would be established a priori and would be known by the various entities in the system 100 that make use of the key-length-value triplets. The most-significant bit 510 of the fixed portion 508 of the length field 504 is used to determine how the rest of the length field 504 is encoded. In the exemplary embodiment shown in FIGS. 5A-5C, if the most-significant bit 510 of the fixed portion 508 of the length field 504 is set to a first predetermined value (for example, a logical value of “1”), then the length field 504 comprises only the fixed portion 508 and the remaining bits 512 of the fixed portion 508 of the length field 504 include the length of the value field 506. In this example where the fixed portion 508 of the length field 504 comprises 8 bits, the remaining bits 512 of the fixed portion 508 of the length field 504 can store values of up to 127, which in this example corresponds to up to 127 bytes.
  • In the exemplary embodiment shown in FIGS. 5A-5C, if the most-significant bit 510 of the fixed portion 508 of the length field 504 is set to a second predetermined value (for example, a logical value of “0”), then the length field 504 comprises a variable portion 514 that follows the fixed portion 508. In this case, the length of the value field 506 of the corresponding triplet 500 is stored in the variable portion 514 of the length field 504. Also, in this case, the remaining bits 512 of the fixed portion 508 of the length field 504 are used to store the length of the variable portion 514 of the length field 504. As noted above, in this example where the fixed portion 508 of the length field 504 comprises 8 bits, the remaining bits 512 of the fixed portion 508 of the length field 504 can store values of up to 127, which in this example corresponds to a variable portion 514 that is up to 127 bytes long.
  • FIGS. 5B and 5C illustrate two examples of how the length field 504 of FIG. 5A can be encoded. In the example shown in FIG. 5B, the most-significant bit 510 of the fixed portion 508 of the length field 504 is set to the first predetermined value (that is, a logical “1” value) and the remaining bits 512 of the fixed portion 508 of the length field 504 store a value of “10” (decimal), which indicates that the value field 506 of that triplet 500 is 10 bytes long. In this example, the length field 504 does not include a variable portion 514. In the example shown in FIG. 5C, the most-significant bit 510 of the fixed portion 508 of the length field 504 is set to the second predetermined value (that is, a logical “0” value) and the remaining bits 512 of the fixed portion 508 of the length field 504 store a value of “2”, which indicates that the variable portion 514 of the length field 504 is 2 bytes long. In the example shown in FIG. 5C, a value of “1024” is stored in the variable portion 514 of the length field 504, which indicates that the value field 506 of that triplet 500 is 1024 bytes long.
  • Various bit-level encoding formats can be used to encode the lengths in the remaining portion 512 of the fixed portion 508 of the length field and in the variable portion 514 of the length field (for example, a form of n-bit encoding or another format such as the Basic Encoding Rules (BER) format).
  • As shown in FIGS. 5A-5C, the value field 506 follows the length field 504 and contains the bits that actually contain the item of information stored in that particular key-length-value triplet 500 (which is also referred to here as the “payload”). The encoding format used to encode such payload information in the value field 506 is not limited to any particular format. For example, in one implementation it can be encoded using any encoding format recognized by the software 190 executing on processor 106. Thus, in addition to identifying what information is stored in a particular key-length-value triplet 500, the key field 502 can further indicate how the payload information is encoded in the value field 506. Consequently, the encoding format used to encode payload information in one triplet's value field 506 can be different from the encoding format used to encode payload information in other triplets. Further, when an item of information comprises multiple values, the bytes that make up the content of a triplet's value field 506 can themselves further include sets of key-length-value triplets. The length of the value field 506 can thus be adjusted to the size of the data used to encode the payload for each particular item of information, which enables the available memory on storage device 216 to be more efficiently utilized.
  • Another benefit of using key-length-value triplets to store information is that the information no longer needs to be stored in a particular sequence. That is, a triplet's key field does not necessarily indicate the sequence in which the associated item of information needs to be stored on storage device 216, just what type of item of information a particular triplet holds. Triplets can be stored in any order. As such, it is not necessary for storage device 216 to store a triplet for every potentially predefined key in order to keep the software 190 in sync when parsing the data read from the storage device 216. For example, if the key value of “abc” has been defined to identify a triplet that stores the results of a particular factory quality test, and that test is not applicable for a given segment of physical media 212, then no key-length-value triplet with a key of “abc” needs to be stored on the corresponding storage device 216 just to maintain a certain sequence. Conversely, the software 190 does not need to be programmed with knowledge of every potentially predefined key in order parse the information it needs from the values stored on each storage device 216. For example, a newly manufactured segment of physical media 212 can store one or more items of information having key values not recognized (and not needed or used by) by a connector assembly 102 to which it will be attached. In some implementations, all triplets that are read from a storage device 216 are forwarded onto the aggregation point 120, even if the software 190 executing in connector 102 is not able to recognize some of the keys in the triplets.
  • FIG. 6 illustrates one example of how data 600 is stored on a storage device using the key-length-value scheme described above in connection with FIGS. 5A-5C. In this example, the data 600 stored on the storage device 216 comprises one copy of read-only data 602 and two copies of read-write data 604. In the absence of any errors, the two copies of the read-write data 604 should be the same. The read-only data 602 includes a checksum 606, and each of the two copies of the read-write data 604 includes a respective checksum 608. Therefore, after reading all the data from the storage device 216, the software 190 will have one copy of the read-only data 602 (and the checksum 606) and two copies of the read-write data 604 (and the respective checksums 608). More details regarding this scheme are described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. ______, Attorney Docket No. 100.1176US01, filed on even date herewith and titled “DOUBLE-BUFFER INSERTION COUNT STORED IN A DEVICE ATTACHED TO A PHYSICAL LAYER MEDIUM”.
  • The read-only data 602 contains multiple key-length-value triplets 610 and 612. In this example, the first key-length-value triplet 610 in the read-only data 602 contains a predetermined value in its key field. The first key-length-value triplet 610 indicates that this triplet is indeed the first triplet 610 and indicates that this data is the read-only data 602. The length field of the first key-length triplet 610 encodes the length of the value field of the first key-length-value triplet 610 in the manner described above in connection with FIGS. 5A-5C. The value field of the first key-length-value triplet 610 of the read-only data 602 contains the length of the read-only data 602. For example, where the read-only data 602 is 8192 bytes long, the value field of the first key-length value triplet 610 would contain the value “8192”.
  • Likewise, each of the copies of the read-write data 604 contains multiple key-length-value triplets 620 and 622. In this example, the first key-length-value triplet 620 in each of the copies of the read-write data 604 contains a predetermined value in its key field. The first key-length-value triplet 620 indicates that this triplet is indeed the first triplet 620 and indicates that this copy of data is a copy of the read-write data 604. The length field of the first key-length triplet 620 encodes the length of the value field of the first key-length-value triplet 620 in the manner described above in connection with FIGS. 5A-5C. The value field of the first key-length-value triplet 620 of each copy of the read-write data 604 contains the length of that copy of the read-write data 604. For example, where each copy of the read-write data 604 is 3072 bytes long, the value field of the first key-length value triplet 620 would contain the value “3072”.
  • In the exemplary embodiment described here in connection with FIG. 6, the read-only data 602 is stored on the storage device 216 starting at a fixed location 630, and each copy of the read-write data 604 is stored on the storage device 216 starting at a respective fixed location 632. The fixed locations 630 and 632 can be assigned in various ways. In one example, all three fixed locations 630 and 632 are known a priori by the various entities in the system 100 that make use of the key-length-value triplets. In another example, the fixed location 630 where the read-only data 602 is stored is known a priori by the various entities in the system 100 that make use of the key-length-value triplets, and the fixed location 632 where each copy of the read-write data 604 is stored is encoded in a respective key-length-value triplet included within the read-only data 602. Other schemes can be used.
  • When the connector 214 on which the storage device 216 is mounted is inserted into a port 104 of a connector assembly 102, the software 190 executing on the programmable processor 106 learns of that fact and reads all of the data 600 stored on the storage device 216. Then, in this exemplary embodiment, the fixed locations 630 and 632 are used to locate the beginning of the read-only data 602 and each copy of the read-write data 604, respectively. Then, the length of the read-only data 602 stored in the value field of the first key-length-value triplet 610 of the read-only data 602 can be used to access the checksum 606, and the length of the read-write data 604 stored in the value field of the first key-length-value triplet 620 in each copy of the read-write data 604 can be used to access the checksums 608. For example, the checksum 606 for the read-only data 602 can be accessed by using the length stored in the value field of the first triplet 610 included in the read-only data 602 as an offset from the fixed location 630 where the read-only data 602 starts.
  • The start of the first copy of the read-write data 604 is located at the respective fixed location 632. The checksum 608 for the first copy of the read-write data 604 can be accessed by using the length stored in the value field of the first triplet 620 included in the first copy of the read-write data 604 as an offset from start of the first copy of the read-write data 604 (that is, from the respective fixed location 632).
  • Likewise, the start of the second copy of the read-write data 604 is located at the respective fixed location 632. The checksum 608 for the second copy of the read-write data 604 can be accessed by using the length stored in the value field of the first triplet 620 included in the second copy of the read-write data 604 as an offset from start of the second copy of the read-write data 604 (that is, from the respective fixed location 632).
  • As just described, the respective fixed locations 630 and 632 can be used to access the start of the read-only data 602 and each copy of the read-write data 604. Each of the key-length-value triplets 610, 612, 620, and 622 in the read-only data 602 and each copy of read-write data 604 can be accessed using the length values stored in each of the length fields of the triplets 610, 612, 620, and 622. Each first key-length-value triplet 610 and 620 is the first item in, and is located at the start of, the read-only data 602 and each copy of the read-write data 604, respectively. The start of the second key-length-value triplet 612 and 622 in the read-only data 602 and each copy of the read-write data 604, respectively, can be accessed by using the length stored in the length field of the respective first key-length-value triplet 612 or 622 as an offset from the beginning of the read-only data 602 or the copy of read-write data 604, respectively. The start of each successive key-length-value triplet 612 or 622 can be accessed by using the length stored in the length field of the respective preceding key-length-value triplet 612 or 622 as offset from the beginning of the start of that preceding key-length-value triplet 612 or 622.
  • In this way, if the software 190 needs access to a particular item of information for local processing at the connector assembly 102, the software 190 finds the triplet having the corresponding key and decodes the payload information from the value field of that triplet. Triplets having key field values unknown to or unused by the software 190 executing at the connector assembly 102 are ignored by the software 190 in connection with its local processing and are forwarded to the aggregation point 120 along with all of the triplets read from the storage device 216. Such an implementation would have the advantage of only needing to update the software executing on the aggregation point 120 when use of newly defined types of items of information is desired, rather than needing to update the software 190 associated with all of the connector assemblies 102 in the system 100.
  • As another benefit of using key-length-value triplets as described herein, it is not necessary for the length of the value field used for a particular item of information to remain static once established. For example, if key “0xx” is currently stored in storage device 216 in a key-length-value triplet using a 48-bit long value field, when an update to that item of information is written back to storage device 216, a different length value field (36-bit, or 64-bit, for example) can be used as long as the length field in the key-length-value triplet is modified accordingly to reflect the new value field length.
  • In other embodiments, other flexible and variable length storage schemes are used instead of using key-length-value triplets. In some other implementations of the embodiment shown in FIG. 2, information about the format, length, and/or content of the data stored on each storage device 216 is included within a header or other predetermined portion of each storage device 216. In one such example, each item of information stored on each storage device 216 is stored using one or more fixed-sized data fields or elements. When a connector 214 is inserted into a port 104 of a connector assembly 102, the software 190 executing on the processor 106 associated with that connector assembly 102 reads a field size key encoded in a header stored in the storage device 216 attached to that connector 214. The field size key informs the software 190 of the structure used to store information in that storage device 216 by providing the number of bits used for each such fixed data field stored on the storage device 216. As an example of this implementation in operation, when the field size key indicates a field size of “b” bits, as the software 190 read the data from the storage device 216, the software 190 will know that every sequence of “b” bits received after the header represent a different field of data. Knowing the sequence in which information is stored, the software 190 can parse the data read from the storage device 216 to obtain the values for whatever item of information it needs and/or to send the information to the aggregation point 120. To update a particular item of information stored on a storage device 216, in one implementation the software 190 encodes the updated information for that item back into a “b” bit sequence and overwrites the appropriate “b” bits on the storage device 216 corresponding to that item of information. In another implementation, storage device 216 is updated by re-writing back to storage device 216 all of items of information read from the storage device 216, including any updated items.
  • For implementations where storage device 216 is divided into a protected “read-only” area and a “writable” area, only information stored in the “writable” area is updated by the software 190. In one implementation, the “read-only” area and “writable” area each have their own respective field size keys. Accordingly, having a field size key for the “writable” area that is encoded in a header stored in the “writable” area provides for a scheme where the connector assembly 102 can store information back to storage device 216 using a data field length of “c” bits that is different from the “b” bits format initially used when the connector 214 was plugged into a port 104.
  • Further details, embodiments, and implementations can be found in the following United States patent applications, all of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference: U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/252,964, filed on Oct. 19, 2009, titled “ELECTRICAL PLUG FOR MANAGED CONNECTIVITY”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3045USP1; U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/253,208, filed on Oct. 20, 2009, titled “ELECTRICAL PLUG FOR MANAGED CONNECTIVITY”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3045USP2; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/907,724, filed on Oct. 19, 2010, titled “MANAGED ELECTRICAL CONNECTIVITY SYSTEMS”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3045USU1; U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/303,948, filed on Feb. 12, 2010, titled “PANEL INCLUDING BLADE FEATURE FOR MANAGED CONNECTIVITY”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3069USP1; U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/413,844, filed on Nov. 15, 2010, titled “COMMUNICATIONS BLADED PANEL SYSTEMS”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3069USP2; U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/439,693, filed on Feb. 4, 2011, titled “COMMUNICATIONS BLADED PANEL SYSTEMS”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3069USP3; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/025,730, filed on Feb. 11, 2011, titled “COMMUNICATIONS BLADED PANEL SYSTEMS”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3069USU1; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/025,737, filed on Feb. 11, 2011, titled “COMMUNICATIONS BLADED PANEL SYSTEMS”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3069USU2; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/025,743, filed on Feb. 11, 2011, titled “COMMUNICATIONS BLADED PANEL SYSTEMS”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3069USU3; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/025,750, filed on Feb. 11, 2011, titled “COMMUNICATIONS BLADED PANEL SYSTEMS”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3069USU4; U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/303,961; filed on Feb. 12, 2010, titled “Fiber Plug And Adapter For Managed Connectivity”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3071USP1; U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/413,828, filed on Nov. 15, 2010, titled “Fiber Plugs And Adapters For Managed Connectivity”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3071USP2; U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/437,504, filed on Jan. 28, 2011, titled “Fiber Plugs And Adapters For Managed Connectivity”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3071USP3; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/025,784, filed on Feb. 11, 2011, titled “Managed Fiber Connectivity Systems”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3071USU1; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/025,788, filed on Feb. 11, 2011, titled “Managed Fiber Connectivity Systems”, Attorney Docket No 02316.3071USU2; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/025,797, filed on Feb. 11, 2011, titled “Managed Fiber Connectivity Systems”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3071USU3; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/025,841, filed on Feb. 11, 2011, titled “Managed Fiber Connectivity Systems”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3071USU4; U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/413,856, filed on Nov. 15, 2010, titled “CABLE MANAGEMENT IN RACK SYSTEMS”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3090USP1; U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/466,696, filed on Mar. 23, 2011, titled “CABLE MANAGEMENT IN RACK SYSTEMS”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3090USP2; U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/252,395, filed on Oct. 16, 2009, titled “MANAGED CONNECTIVITY IN ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3021USP1; U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/905,689, filed on Oct. 15, 2010, titled “MANAGED CONNECTIVITY IN ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3021USU1; U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/252,386, filed on Oct. 16, 2009, titled “MANAGED CONNECTIVITY IN FIBER OPTIC SYSTEMS”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3020USP1; and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/905,658, filed on Oct. 15, 2010, titled “MANAGED CONNECTIVITY IN FIBER OPTIC SYSTEMS”, Attorney Docket No. 02316.3020USU1.
  • A number of embodiments of the invention defined by the following claims have been described. Nevertheless, it will be understood that various modifications to the described embodiments may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the claimed invention. Accordingly, other embodiments are within the scope of the following claims.

Claims (53)

1. A segment of physical communication media, the segment comprising:
a physical communication medium;
a connector attached to the physical communication medium; and
a storage device configured to store information therein using a self-defining variable length data field scheme.
2. The segment of claim 1, wherein the storage device is configured to have a header stored thereon, the header having coded therein at least one field size key that indicates a size of a field used to store at least some of the information.
3. The segment of claim 2, wherein the storage device is configured to have encoded thereon a first field size key that indicates a size of a field used to store a first portion of the information in a read-only section of the storage device; and
a second field size key that indicates a size of a field used to store at a second portion of the information in a writable section of the storage device.
4. The segment of claim 1, wherein the connector includes a first interface for communicating data through the physical communication medium, and a second interface separate from the first interface for accessing the storage device.
5. The segment of claim 1, wherein the information comprises a plurality of items of information, and wherein the plurality of items of information are stored on the storage device using a plurality of key-length-value triplets.
6. The segment of claim 5, wherein each item of information of the plurality of items of information is stored in an associated key-length-value triplet of the plurality of key-length-value triplets.
7. The segment of claim 5, wherein each key-length-value triplet of the plurality of key-length-value triplets comprises:
a respective key field;
a respective length field; and
a respective value field;
wherein each key field includes a respective key that identifies a respective item of information encoded in the value field; and
wherein each length field specifies a respective data length for the respective item of information encoded in the value field.
8. The segment of claim 7, wherein, for at least one of the plurality of key-length-value triplets, the value field stores one or more key-length-value triplets.
9. The segment of claim 7, wherein for at least one key-length-value triplet, the respective key further identifies an encoding method used to encode the respective item of information encoded in the respective value field.
10. The segment of claim 7, wherein for at least one key-length-value triplet, the respective key further identifies a decoding method to use to decode the respective item of information from the respective value field.
11. The segment of claim 1, wherein the storage device is integral to the connector.
12. The segment of claim 1, wherein the information stored in the storage device comprises information about at least one of the connector, the physical communication medium, the storage device, and the segment of physical communication media.
13. The segment of claim 12, wherein the information stored in the storage device comprises information indicative of an identifier associated with at least one of the connector, the physical communication medium, the storage device, and the segment of physical communication media.
14. The segment of claim 12, wherein the information stored in the storage device comprises information indicative of an attribute associated with at least one of the connector, the physical communication medium, the storage device, and the segment of physical communication media.
15. The segment of claim 1, wherein the physical communication medium comprises physical communication media.
16. The segment of claim 15, wherein the physical communication medium comprises at least one of a twisted-pair communication medium and a fiber optical communication medium.
17. The segment of claim 15, wherein the physical communication medium comprises at least one of a twisted-pair cable and an optical fiber.
18. The segment of claim 1, wherein the connector comprises at least one of a RJ-45 plug, an SC connector, an LC connector, an FC connector, an LX.5 connector, an MTP connector, and an MPO connector.
19. The segment of claim 1, wherein the storage device comprises an Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EEPROM).
20. The segment of claim 1, wherein the storage device comprises a non-volatile memory device.
21. A connector assembly comprising:
a plurality of ports, each of the plurality of ports configured to connect to a respective segment of physical communication media;
a processor configured to read information stored on or in at least one segment physical communication media that is connected to at least one of the ports of the connector assembly; and
wherein the information is stored in or on the at least one segment of physical communication thereon using a self-defining variable length data field scheme.
22. The connector assembly of claim 21, wherein the processor comprises a slave processor and wherein the connector assembly further comprises a master processor that is communicatively coupled to the slave processor.
23. The connector assembly of claim 21, wherein the connector assembly comprises a plurality of slave processors that are communicatively coupled to the master processor.
24. The connector assembly of claim 21, wherein the connector assembly comprises at least one of a rack-mounted connector assembly, a wall-mounted connector assembly, an inter-networking device, a fiber distribution hub (FDH), a fiber splice panel, and a fiber termination point.
25. The connector assembly of claim 21, wherein the connector assembly comprises at least one of a patch panel, a distribution unit, a media converter, a wall-mounted connector box, wall-mounted jack, wall-mounted outlet, a wall-mounted media converter, a switch, a bridge, a router, a hub, a repeater, a gateway, and an access points.
26. The connector assembly of claim 21, wherein each of the ports in the connector assembly comprises: a rear connector, a front connector, and an interface to read the information stored on or in physical media inserted into the front connector.
27. The connector assembly of claim 26, wherein the front connector comprises a modular jack into which a plug attached to a patch cord is inserted.
28. The connector assembly of claim 21, wherein each of the plurality of ports is configured to couple at least two optical fibers to one another.
29. The connector assembly of claim 21, wherein the at least one segment of physical communication media comprises a storage device in which the information is stored.
30. The connector assembly of claim 29, wherein the storage device has a header stored thereon, the header having coded therein at least one field size key that indicates a size of a field used to store at least some of the information.
31. The connector assembly of claim 29, wherein the information comprises a plurality of items of information, and wherein the plurality of items of information are stored in the storage device using a plurality of key-length-value triplets.
32. A system comprising:
a plurality of connector assemblies, each of the connector assemblies comprising a plurality of ports, wherein each of the connector assemblies is configured to read information stored on or in segments of physical communication media that are connected to the ports of the respective connector assembly; and
an aggregation point communicatively coupled to the plurality of connector assemblies, wherein the aggregation point is configured to cause each of the connector assemblies to send to the aggregation point at least some of the information read from the segments of physical communication media that are connected to the ports of the respective connector assemblies;
wherein the aggregation point is configured to store at least some of the information sent by the connector assemblies to the aggregation point; and
wherein the information stored on or in the segments of physical communication media is stored in or on the segments of physical communication using a self-defining variable length data field scheme.
33. The system of claim 32, wherein each segment of physical communication media comprises a respective storage device in which the information is stored.
34. The system of claim 33, wherein each storage device has a header stored thereon, the header having encoded therein at least one field size key that indicates a size of a field used to store at least some of the information in that storage device.
35. The system of claim 33, wherein the information comprises a plurality of items of information, and wherein the plurality of items of information are stored in each storage device using a plurality of key-length-value triplets.
36. The system of claim 35, wherein each connector assembly is configured to communicate to the aggregation point all of the key-length-value triplets that the connector assembly reads from the respective segments of physical communication media that are connected to ports associated with that connector assembly regardless of whether the key-length-value triplets are used locally at that connector assembly.
37. The system of claim 32, wherein the aggregation point is configured to provide at least some of the information stored by the aggregation point to at least one other device.
38. The system of claim 37, wherein at least one other device comprises application-layer functionality executing on a computer communicatively coupled to the aggregation point.
39. The system of claim 32, wherein the aggregation point comprises middleware that provides an application programming interface (API) by which an external entity is able to access at least some of the information stored by the aggregation point.
40. The system of claim 39, wherein the external entity comprises at least one of a computer executing application-layer software, a network management system, an enterprise management system, and an inter-networking device.
41. The system of claim 32, wherein the aggregation point is at least one of:
implemented on a standalone network node;
integrated along with other network functionality;
distributed across multiple nodes in a network; and
implemented in a hierarchy of aggregation points.
42. The system of claim 32, wherein at least one connector assembly is configured to read the information stored on or in physical communication media that is connected to the ports of that respective connector assembly from a storage device included in or coupled to the physical communication media.
43. The system of claim 42, wherein storage device comprises non-volatile memory.
44. The system of claim 32, wherein the segments of physical communication media comprises at least one of a copper patch cord or an optical fiber patch cord.
45. The system of claim 32, wherein the aggregation point and the connector assemblies are communicatively coupled to one another over an Internet Protocol network.
46. A method comprising:
determining a field length used to store a first item of information on or in a segment of physical communication media by reading data from the segment of physical communication media; and
parsing data read from the segment of physical communication media based on the field length in order to identify a data field that stores the first item of information.
47. The method of claim 46, further comprising extracting the item of information from the data field.
48. The method of claim 46, wherein the first item of information is stored in a storage device associated with the segment of physical communication media.
49. The method of claim 48, further comprising:
reading a header stored on the storage device, the header having encoded therein at least one field size key that indicates a size of a field used to store at least one item of information.
50. The method of claim 48, wherein a plurality of items of information are stored in the storage device using a plurality of key-length-value triplets.
51. The method of claim 50, further comprising:
determining when a first key-length-value triplet of the plurality of key-length-value triplets stores the first item of information based on a key stored in a key field of the first key-length-value triplet; and
determining the field length of a value field used to store the first item of information in the first key-length-value triplet based on a data length stored in a length field of the first key-length-value triplet.
52. The method of claim 51, further comprising:
decoding the first item of information from the value field based on information provided by the key stored in the key field.
53. A program product comprising a plurality of instructions tangibly stored on a non-transitory processor readable storage medium, wherein the program instructions, when executed by a programmable processor, are operable to cause the programmable processor to:
determine a field length used to store a first item of information on or in a segment of physical communication media by reading data from the segment of physical communication media; and
parse data read from the segment of physical communication media based on the field length in order to identify a data field that stores the first item of information.
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