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How to manage data center cabling?

Tracking and managing data center cabling is one of the most easily neglected tasks in data center management.

However, if not handled properly, it can lead to a variety of problems, from costly downtime to inefficient use of capacity.

Never give in to “Cable spaghetti”. Some friends may not understand what this means. To put it simply, the cable is as messy as the slim stirred ones. “Spaghetti” means “spaghetti”. Imagine what cooked spaghetti looks like. Is it similar to the picture below? is there a sense of deja vu? if not, take a look at your company’s cabinet.

data center cabling


Cable spaghetti refers to the complex entanglement of cables from a variety of electronic devices, which takes a lot of time to sort out. This can be harmful to the IT infrastructure, as improper cable labeling and organization may hinder the effective identification of problems within the facility.

What is the hazards of Cable Spaghetti?

Signal interference
The power cord should be located on opposite sides of the rack to isolate it from the data line to reduce the risk of electromagnetic interference (EMI).

If the power cord in a parallel group or loop is too close to the data cable, electromagnetic interference may occur, resulting in an error in data transmission over the cable.

Obstacles to access to rack components

Because of the high density of cables in the rack, it is difficult to access network components, servers, and other closed components.

This increases troubleshooting and maintenance time, thereby reducing uptime in the data center.

Airflow restrictions 

High-density cables limit airflow from the internal components of the network cabinet.

Blocked air flow caused by blocked vents and fans can lead to overheating, equipment shutdown, and serious damage to the equipment.

Productivity

The time spent tidying up the cable to resolve the problem is the time that can be allocated to other production processes.

An effective cable management system with clearly marked and organized cables can solve problems in a timely manner without interrupting uptime.

Therefore, it is of great significance to understand the basics of data center cabling, how to track and manage them, and how the best data center managers in the industry can significantly simplify cable management.

What is data center cabling?

Data center cabling connects different parts of the data center infrastructure and equipment for network connectivity and power distribution. Data center cabling can be divided into one of two broad categories:

Structured cabling

Structured cabling design follows predefined standards and sets connection points and paths in advance according to the bandwidth requirements of the system. It has been tested, organized and marked. At first, structured cabling may be expensive and time-consuming, but the benefits of improving operational efficiency, reducing maintenance costs, and extending service life far outweigh the alternatives.

Unstructured cabling

Unstructured cabling or point-to-point cabling lacks a standardized method of structured cabling. In the absence of a predetermined design, unstructured cabling can usually be installed cheaply and quickly, but it can quickly lead to serious scalability and operating cost problems.

What is data center cable management?

Data center cable management refers to the marking, organization, and recording of cabling infrastructure in the data center. The goal of data center cable management is to improve troubleshooting time, uptime, and capacity utilization.

Why is cable management in the data center important? 

Tracking and managing the cabling infrastructure in the data center can save time and money in a number of ways, including:

Maintain uptime

Accurate recording of data center cabling makes it easier to respond to problems quickly and reduce downtime.

Properly organizing cables can eliminate the “cable noodle phenomenon” that hinders access to racks and servers, achieve optimal airflow, and make cable tracking easier.

Improve the utilization rate of capacity

Knowing the available cables and ports allows administrators to determine idle capacity, predict when they will run out, and make full use of existing resources.

Increase productivity

Cable management enables faster and wiser decisions. When everyone has access to a highly accurate and real-time view of all physical assets and connections, and the cables are organized, it becomes easy to troubleshoot, perform impact analysis, and perform moves, additions, and changes.

What type of cable is used in the data center?

The modern mission-critical data center environment is very complex, with a variety of cable, connector, and port types. The most common types of data center cabling are:

ApplicationCableConnector
Ethernet5e, 6, 6a, 7, 7aRJ45
10Gig Ethernet6a, 7, 7aRJ45, GG45, TERA
40 or 100Gig Ethernet7aGG45, TERA
Fibre Channel High Speed EthernetCoaxial or optical fiberLnfiniband, QSFP, SFP+, 10G-CX4, LC, SC, ST 
Optical fiber high-speed InternetMMF or SMFLC, SC, ST, ST, FDDI, MTP, MTRJ,FC, etc.

Copper or fiber optic cabling is best for the data center?

When deciding whether copper or fiber is the right choice for a data center environment, there are some key parameters to consider:

Distance

Copper cable is best suited for shorter distances. They are usually sufficient to provide connectivity in the same rack. Fiber optic cables can cover longer distances at higher speeds to accommodate connections between devices in different racks.

Reliability and flexibility

Copper cable is highly reliable, with an average fault-free time of 50 million hours, which can achieve the longest uptime. Fiber optic cables are lighter, thinner, and have a smaller bending radius than copper, providing greater flexibility for data center configuration.

Cost

The cost of copper cable is about 20-50% of that of fiber optic cable. When considering the size of modern data centers, the cost savings can amount to millions of dollars. Copper cables also require less cooling resources because they use less power and have a cooling design. It is estimated that by using copper wire instead of optical fiber, the data center can save 100 kilowatts of cooling energy. In general, the best way is to mix copper and fiber optic cabling. Consider the unique circumstances of different data centers and consider using fiber optics where performance, flexibility, and distance are the main factors, and using copper cables elsewhere to reduce cabling costs.

What are the data center cabling standards?

Industry standards ensure security and provide guidance for maintaining high-performance cabling infrastructure. The most common cabling standards in data centers are:

  • ANSI/TIA-942 covers the physical aspects of telecommunications infrastructure and data centers, such as site location, architecture, electrical systems, mechanical systems, safety and security.
  • ISO/IEC 24764 specifies cabling to support a variety of communication services used in the data center.
  • ANSI/BICSI 002-2014 provides guidelines for data center design and operations. The guidelines include planning, construction, safety, management, maintenance and efficiency.
  • ANSI/TIA 606Murb is a label standard that helps identify and track cables.

Best practices for managing data center cabling

It doesn’t take much effort to manage the cabling infrastructure. By following some basic principles, you will have well-documented and well-organized cabling, thereby enhancing all aspects of data center management.

Mark the cable correctly

Perhaps the most basic and easiest to implement is to organize and mark cables. Labels simplify troubleshooting and speed up cable tracking, making it easier to avoid downtime and increase productivity. Your labeling practice should include putting a clear label on each cable, using a commercial label manufacturer that allows you to import the list, color-coded labels, and following label standards such as ANSI/TIA 606 Murray B.

Make sure the cable does not restrict airflow

Remove all unused and abandoned cables from under the elevated floor or in the cabinet. These unnecessary cables can block airflow and lead to a rise in temperature, resulting in downtime or a waste of energy due to inefficient cooling.

Keep the cable cool

Everyone knows that the equipment in the data center needs to be cooled, but it’s easy to forget that the cables get hot, too. If there are a large number of cables, the extra temperature may cause a power outage. Deploy and monitor temperature sensors to ensure that all equipment and cables are properly cooled.

Use the cable manager

Cable conduits, cable rings, and cable straps are ideal for tightly bundling cables and making their paths easy to follow. Remember, first lay the cables horizontally on the rack, tie them up, and when you reach the vertical space, turn the bundle and arrange it vertically.

Know where to place the cable

If the data center is small and the equipment is not replaced frequently, you can install the cable tray directly to the top of the rack. This is fast and easy to install. However, larger data centers will benefit from cable channels suspended from the ceiling. With it, you can move the rack or install a new rack without having to readjust the cable path.

Use the wiring frame

Distribution frames can help you organize a large number of cables and provide more flexibility for your network infrastructure. They can be installed in a rack and include blank ports on one side and termination points on the other. Cables can be easily terminated, marked, and patched into network hardware.

Maintain accurate documentation

Track data and power circuits in real time to accurately plan capacity, perform failover analysis, and respond quickly to outages. The better your network documentation, the longer your uptime, and you can shorten the time it takes to deploy new devices. And without the need for a physical tracking cable, you can quickly refer to the documentation to see what is connected to what.

Deploy DCIM software

With DCIM software, many data center cable management best practices can be easily implemented, such as visually designing your cabling infrastructure, accurately recording cabling installations, measuring cable length before purchase, and so on.

Michael Hsu

Michael Hsu

Hello, I'm Michael Hsu, a sales representative at Hello Signal. I specialize in Active Optical Components and Copper Cabling Infrastructure. I can recommend the most suitable products at competitive prices, ensuring worry-free service. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

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