Holistic Approach to Telecommunications Infrastructure

A "holistic" approach to the design of the telecom infrastructure is achieved by looking at the building as a single entity, (irrespective of whether it is occupied by one or several federal institutions) in a fashion similar to that used for the distribution of other utilities. This holistic approach facilitates accommodating changes in space occupied by the federal institution(s) being housed in the building. In buildings housing more than one federal institution (multi-department buildings), the telecommunications infrastructure will be shared by these federal institutions.

Current and earlier versions of the Treasury Board (TB) standard on telecommunications wiring TBITS 6.9 "Telecommunications Wiring Systems in Government-owned and Leased Buildings" require the telecommunications infrastructure to be shared by federal institutions occupying a building.

Multi-department Building: Legacy Approach

Unfortunately, this holistic approach is seldom followed in practice. In a building housing multiple government departments, each department tends to design the telecommunications infrastructure in the space that it occupies as if it were a stand-alone building. Therefore, the telecommunications infrastructure in a typical building housing multiple departments is designed from the perspective of the individual department; rather than as a service of the building. In such cases, the backbone infrastructure resembles what can be seen in the illustration below, "Multi-department Building: Legacy Approach". In this illustration, "X" represents a cross-connection.

This image describes the telecommunications infrastructure in a typical building house multiple departments designed from the perspective of individual departments. See link below for the long description.

Long description of Multi-department Building: Legacy Approach is available on a separate page.

Under this scenario, each department creates its own main cross-connect (M.C.) in a telecommunications room on one of the floors it occupies, so this room functions like an equipment room (ER) for that department. As illustrated, it may be enlarged to accommodate additional equipment. Each department installs backbone pathways (e.g. conduit, cable tray) and backbone cables connecting each telecom room on each floor it occupies to the department's main cross-connect. Each department also establishes a point of demarcation (demarc.) with the facilities of the telecom carriers on a floor it occupies – typically adjacent to the department's main cross-connect. The building's equipment room often remains virtually empty and is used as little more than a pathway for cables.

This arrangement works well until there is some change. Should a department require services from a new telecom carrier, the new carrier must typically run its cables from the basement to the department's point of demarcation, on its floor. In addition to being costly and inefficient, firestopping must be typically removed and replaced any time new vertical cables are run. Frequently, firestopping is not replaced, thus creating a fire hazard.

Significant rearrangements are necessary should a department's space requirements change. For example, referring to the illustration "Multi-department Building: Legacy Approach" (above), should "Department B" expand up one floor and occupy a floor previously occupied by "Department A", "Department B" will be unable to use the installed backbone cabling because it is routed to the main cross-connect of "Department A" on the floor above. Therefore, "Department B" will have to install new backbone cabling that is routed to its main cross-connect.

Should a new Department ("Department C") occupy this floor instead, "Department C" will be unable to make use of any of the backbone cabling. "Department C" will create its own main cross-connect on its floor and establish its own point of demarcation with the telecom carriers serving it. Therefore, these carriers will have to run cables from the basement to the point of demarcation of "Department C".

As horizontal cables are typically distributed to building zones through pathways, a system of cable trays or conduits typically radiates from each telecom room to the work areas being served, as illustrated below in "Typical Zoned Conduit System". However, if a floor previously occupied by just one department becomes shared by two departments, each department typically constructs its own telecom room located in its space on that floor, and a new system of horizontal pathways would have to be installed.

Typical Zoned Conduit Horizontal Pathway

This image describes a zone distribution system based on conduit (EMT). See link below for the long description.

Long description of Typical Zoned Conduit Horizontal Pathway is available on a separate page.

Should space allocations on this floor change, the horizontal cabling and associated pathways (e.g. conduits, cable trays) will have to be rearranged. One department may have to construct a new telecom room on its floor should space occupied by its telecom room be absorbed into the space being allocated to the other department.

Typical factors driving this approach are tradition, security concerns about sharing space with another department, and a department simply exerting its "sphere of influence".

Multi-department Building: Holistic Approach

The solution to this problem is to design a single telecom system for the building, as one would for any other utility. This is illustrated in the drawing below, "Multi-department Building: Holistic Approach".

This image describes a typical holistic telecommunications infrastructure in a building housing multiple departments. See link below for the long description.

Long description of Multi-department Building: Holistic Approach is available on a separate page.

Under this approach, all points of demarcation are located in the Entrance Room/CER. A single Main Cross-Connect (M.C.) is established in the Equipment Room. All backbone cables are run from the main cross-connect to cross-connections located in a telecom room (or rooms) located on each floor. A simple change in cross-connections will permit a department to change its telecommunications carrier. Similarly, simple modifications in cross-connections will accommodate changes in space allocated to Departments A and B or permit a new department (Department C) to occupy space previously occupied by Department A or B.

This holistic system readily adapts to changes in space allocations between Departments or the addition of new Departments. It greatly facilitates providing shared IT services. It provides a system of telecom rooms and pathways that should endure until the building requires major renovations – provided, of course, that the telecom rooms and pathways are properly designed to meet the requirements of the TIA/EIA telecommunications standards. When sized according to standards, the Equipment Room will be very large and should offer sufficient space to house all the servers of the federal institutions occupying the building, thus avoiding the need to construct a separate server room for each federal institution.

The RCMP's Guide G1-031 – "Physical Protection of Computer Servers" supports the shared holistic approach described above and it explicitly permits rooms housing servers storing sensitive information (protected or classified) to be shared by different federal institutions.

Physical Security Guide Lead Agency Publication (Version PDF 127KB) (Help with Alternate Formats)

Note that this Guide considers only physical safeguards. IT safeguards (such as passwords or encryption) may replace or augment some of these physical safeguards.