Managing computer cables is an important task but often neglected or overlooked. Whether in your own office or within a data center housing tens or hundreds of servers, disorganized cabling can lead to what is commonly referred to as a “spaghetti mess” – not only visually unappealing but also potentially causing a myriad of serious issues. Therefore, it is crucial to maintain proper cable management.

What is data center cabling?

Data centers typically utilize three main types of network cabling: AC/DC power, grounding, copper, and fiber optics. To determine which type of cabling to install, refer to the interface available on the equipment used in the data center or use Skylane Optics products compatible with your equipment. Additionally, specific network data cabling requirements can be determined based on the bandwidth requirements of the data center equipment.

Data center cabling can fall into one of two categories: structured or unstructured. Structured cabling adheres to predefined standards based on design, with predetermined connection points and pathways. Specifically, structured cabling enforces a design that meets system bandwidth needs. Cables undergo testing to ensure optimal performance, then they are organized and labeled. While structured cabling may require more time and upfront costs to install, long-term operational costs are significantly lower, and the system’s lifespan is notably longer compared to an unstructured approach.

Conversely, cabling systems that lack standards, predefined connection points, or pathways are known as unstructured, also referred to as point-to-point cabling systems. This type of cabling can lead to airflow restrictions, causing cooling issues and higher energy costs. Managing system growth with unstructured cabling is more challenging because there are no predefined plans or designs to guide cable relocations or new installations. Although unstructured cabling may be quicker to install and initially less costly, it ultimately results in higher operational costs and a shorter system lifespan.

Why is this important?

The connectivity provided by cabling infrastructure is the foundation of every data center, enabling transactions critical to daily business decisions. Data centers employ various types of cabling, from all-copper to all-fiber installations and everything in between, depending on equipment and needs. Whether for power or data, failure to properly manage this essential part of data center infrastructure can lead to serious issues, including increased operational costs and costly downtime. Cable management cannot be an afterthought.

The network and connectivity provided by cabling systems form the heart of every data center. These infrastructures enable transactions critical for daily business decisions. Data centers utilize various types of cabling, ranging from all-copper to all-fiber installations and everything in between, tailored to equipment and specific requirements. Neglecting this crucial aspect of data center infrastructure can lead to serious issues, from increased operational costs to costly downtime. Cable management must be approached proactively to avoid these potential problems.

To succeed in data center cabling, as with many other practices, it’s essential for teams to plan and think ahead during installation. Simultaneously designing cabling infrastructure and the data center itself, using system requirements and physical layout to determine cable types and quantities, can optimize data center cabling. The time invested in infrastructure planning saves time in the long run. When planning infrastructure, there’s no need to waste time identifying which equipment is connected to which cable for troubleshooting, repairs, or future replacements.

Best Practices: Data Center Cabling Management

Beyond the aesthetic satisfaction of an organized cabling system in a data center, planning cabling infrastructure saves time, money, and valuable resources. Disorganized cable installations create unnecessary headaches for data center owners and operators, consuming time and resources to mitigate issues that proper cable management could prevent.

Effective cable management isn’t just optional—it’s mandatory and essential to the mission. To ensure your cabling infrastructure meets your data center’s needs, follow these best practices:

  • ANSI/TIA-942-B-2017 Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard for Data Centers.
  • BICSI 002-2019 Data Center Design and Implementation Best Practices.

Installation Best Practices.

  • Testing and Certification: Ensure infrastructure functionality and its ability to meet bandwidth and system needs.
  • Documentation: Record cable types, locations, and connections for future troubleshooting or maintenance ease.
  • Measurement: Ensure cables are the correct length to prevent unexpected downtime from loose or tangled wires.
  • Growth Plan: Ensure the system accommodates foreseeable future needs, designing racks and cable pathways ergonomically for planned growth.

Organization Best Practices

  • Route cables alongside server racks for easy server shelf addition or removal.
  • Bundle cables for easy hardware connection from floor to raised-floor data centers or ceiling to data centers with overhead cabling.
  • Plan for additional hardware installations in advance. Disorganized cabling can obstruct airflow and cooling patterns. Planning prevents damage from rapid temperature increases caused by restricted airflow.
  • Securely label cables at both ends. Labeling simplifies cable location for testing, repairs, new equipment installation, or removing extra cables after equipment moves or upgrades, saving time and money.
  • Use cable color coding for quick identification. Choose a color scheme suitable for your team and provide a legend explaining each color’s purpose. Assigning a cable color to its destination is especially useful in large-scale installations spanning multiple floors or offices.

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