Efficient Test Labs: Physical Layer Switching

As a fledgling engineer, I interned as a lab technician with an R&D group at Ericsson (big telecom). The lab was the hub for IP infrastructure platforms testing, and it was a mess, despite the best intentions and efforts of the lab administrator. Think spaghetti. You couldn’t even see the equipment behind layers of kinked, snagged, and knotted CAT5.

And neither could the developers. This sorry state of affairs cause a huge development bottleneck as engineers would spend literally hours excavating their equipment and tracing cables to set up or reconfigure their test environments. The lab administrator (my boss) had had enough, so it became our big project to install a physical layer (L1) switching solution to replace the snarl of cables.

By installing two switches with sufficient port density to accommodate all the copper and fiber test interfaces in the lab, we were able to wire everything just once, and, coupled with resource management software (more on that later), this setup enabled our developers to manage their test environments from the comfort and safety of their own cubes with just a few mouse clicks.

Neat!

I recently implemented a similar environment at Aircell (Gogo) with success, proving the relevancy of physical layer switching solutions across industries. In aviation, we’ve had the opportunity to explore the limits of off-the-shelf L1 switching equipment, integrating ethernet and avionics protocols such as ARINC into a single lab management suite.

These days it seems a growing number of companies, like MRV, OnPath (now NetScout), ApCon, and Cytec, to name a few, are manufacturing L1 switches, and a myriad of protocols and media are possible: Ethernet, PoE, E1, Fiber, RF, USB, serial, audio, the list goes on…

If you’re feeling the pain described in the first two paragraphs, then Adept Labs can help. We provide consulting that scales to your needs–be it a recommendation or the whole implementation enchilada. Drop us a note!

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