The modern data center has come to represent the unification of a range of cutting-edge technologies coupled into a single complex entity which, although tucked away from all a select group of IT engineers, facilitates the smooth operation of business as we now know it. The role of IT in meeting ever growing business demands is fueling the increased density of servers, storage and networking devices and most importantly, data center cabling.
Data center cable management is one of the most important aspects of data center design and operation. The performance, reliability and flexibility of the data center are all tied in strongly to the systematic execution of this on-going activity. The lack of cable management impacts serviceability and availability whereas a good strategy can enable rapid and dynamic scaling of the IT infrastructure while minimizing the downtime required for these changes. here are the insights into cable management:
Tight budgets coupled with the expectation to still deliver the best technology solutions means that IT managers are sometimes tempted to cut corners and often the physical infrastructure is the first target of such efforts. At first glance, opting for lower quality cables and connectors may seem like a viable option. But given that cabling generally accounts for a mere 5 to 10% of the over cost of the data center, the trade-off rarely reaps dividends in the long run. Low quality cabling can create multiple points of failure that are often difficult to pin-point. Investing instead in cabling solutions which meet industry standards can provide the robust physical backbone upon which the modern data center can be built.
Another means employed to reduce costs if to perform cable connections by plugging crimp-on connectors directly into networking equipment. But any changes down the line would result in a great deal of confusion since the haphazard nature of this approach makes management a nightmare. Opt instead to use patch panels in each rack whenever possible. This is possibly the most effective method for cable management. While this does entail an initial investment, the long term benefits of simplified management; and speed and flexibility at the time of upgrades and changes will justify the expenditure.
Furthermore, the high-density of these solutions can lead to vital space savings in the data center. New high density (HD) patch panels offer 48 RJ45 ports in a single compact unit. This means less room needed for cabling allowing a larger number of active components to fit into a cabinet. HD panels therefore provide a foundation for building up modern high-performance data networks operated with 10 and 40/100 Gigabit Ethernet. Furthermore, thanks to their inherent strain relief, the cables lie in a straight line and cannot be twisted. This is an important prerequisite for stable signal transmission in copper cables and enhancing the longevity of the cables.
Large organizations can further simplify cable management by utilizing angled patch panels. These allow data center managers to make better use of the space at the front of the rack. Instead of threading patch cords though horizontal brackets at the front, they can be laid in side brackets and then plugged directly into the connector sockets. This method is also easier on the patch cords because they no longer have to be bent and threaded into the clips at the front of the rack.
The best way to employ these patch panels would be to utilize angled patch panels within high-density areas, such as the cable distribution areas and straight patch panels at the distribution racks.
Logical naming that will uniquely and easily identify each cabling in the data center can greatly accelerate cable tracking and thus the troubleshooting process. While these naming conventions simplify management, it should be noted that identifiers such as server name, port name and switch name should not be a part of the scheme as active equipment is changed far more frequently than the cabling infrastructure.
Efficiency can be further increased by the color coding of cables according to the purpose of the connection. Different colours maybe assigned for cabinet to cabinet, backup network, Storage Area Network (SAN), public network, uplink connections etc. for easy identification. Leading cable vendors offer a high degree of customization and both naming and colour coding can be easily adopted by selecting the right vendor partner.
The modularity of pre-terminated cabling solutions in the data center enables fast installation times and swift upgrades, which together reduce the total cost of network ownership. The plug-and-play nature of these systems means that installation does not require skilled specialists. Rapid modifications are also possible as these systems lend themselves perfectly to moves and changes.
Also, the high-density design of these solutions conserves valuable data center real estate. Pre-Terminated copper or fiber cables are easily customized, easily installed and since they eliminate cable slack, they improve air circulation in data centers and thus the over energy consumption of the facility.
While this may seem to be a logical given, it is not unusual to see unused and abandoned cables cluttering the floors of data centers. Apart from being a general inconvenience and an eyesore, such stray cables raise more serious concerns such as restricting airflow thereby reducing cooling efficiency. They also present a fire hazard. Removal of unused cables, although all too often overlooked, is therefore a must.
Although cabling represents a fraction of the overall cost of the data center, given its lifetime in comparison to active equipment, it is no doubt the most complex and costly component to replace. By utilizing the tips mentioned above, data center administrators can reap the benefits of simplified cable management, ease of troubleshooting, reduced cost of operation due to better air circulation and best of all, better return on invest though the maximum utilization of the physical infrastructure even as active components go through their never-ending upgrade cycles.