Data center cabling, along with power and cooling infrastructure, is critical to a data center’s performance. There are a number of ways to optimize your cabling infrastructure as well as potential problems to be aware of. Whether it’s an incorrect cable type, reversed polarity or poor physical installation and management, a poorly implemented cabling infrastructure can impact cooling, cause increased downtime and affect long-term data center cable management.
Following a well-planned data center cabling process is imperative to completing a project on time and within budget. Here, we outline potential challenges and how to prevent creating a confusing cabling environment.
Design data center cabling infrastructure early
Every data center should follow a structured cabling plan.
A poorly-managed cabling design and implementation process can cause complex problems for the future management of the data center, such as impeded air flow, difficulty with end-to-end identification, and removal of disconnected services which add time and complexity to the repair process. Without a formal audit or management plan, problems can occur and the resulting corrective actions are expensive in terms of cost and down time.
Use High-Quality Cables
A data center should use the highest grade copper or fiber cables to meet today’s specifications and those of the future. Some older fiber cables won’t tolerate the reduced bend radius required in today’s robust data center. The economics of using older cabling is alluring, but it will wreak havoc and result in increased installation time and a much higher cable failure rate.
Consider using patch cabling installations
A structured data center cabling solution that utilizes centralized patch panels minimizes the need for additional direct cable application, thus reducing the likelihood of cables being installed incorrectly. Today’s data centers are seeing an increase of direct route circuits to meet the requirements for maximum bandwidth. Structured cable interconnection systems offer the highest quality of the initial installation or expansion, but a mandatory connectivity program that’s effectively maintained and managed is still and will always be an intricate part of the data center regime.
Thoroughly document all types of data center cabling
Patch cabling documentation may seem unnecessary, but poor documentation leads to difficulties maintaining and provisioning new equipment and troubleshooting connectivity issues. To maximize efficiency and minimize downtime during implementation, it’s imperative to document cable types, connectors, cabinet elevations and the number of data and power ports. DCIM software can make it easy to search, plan, provision, and document patch cable installations down to the port level. This method manages capacity and usage of in-rack patch and network switch port information. You can create a visual diagram showing which ports are in use on a device.
Predetermine the length of cable needed
Using the correct cable lengths keeps your data center free of loose cables and helps keep costs down by reducing waste. But taking a tape measure to the data center floor is a time-consuming process. A comprehensive DCIM solution will do the work for you and help quickly measure with CAD-level accuracy not just the horizontal distance between cabinets, but also the vertical distance from the device to the ceiling or floor. Having correct length cable runs will provide a cleaner environment that is easier to maintain and allow for better cooling and airflow.
Create precise instructions for data center cabling installation
Frequently, one team handles design, while a different team handles the installation. Insufficient instructions in the build sheet can lead to faulty installations and connections. Data center management software can help you create work orders based on cabling components and cabinet elevation information pulled directly from the software’s database. You can even print work orders with detailed information on the cable type and connector with clear port to port connection instructions. Smaller projects require the same amount of precision so relying on teams with deep expertise in data center cabling is a good solution.
When planning and installing data center cabling, it’s easy to focus on distances between starting and termination points and the amount of cable that you’re using. However, the compatibility of the physical connectors is just as important. You can’t provision new equipment to a rack without ensuring that the switch or patch panel has compatible ports. A complete DCIM solution will validate the compatibility of your connections before allowing you to make the planned move, add, or change. For example, when looking for the optimal locations to deploy new equipment, the software will not include cabinets without enough available compatible connectors. This dramatically improves productivity and efficiency.
Track connectivity capacity
Many organizations today are using big data to make smarter data center management decisions. But knowing exactly which connectivity metrics to track is the key to having a holistic view of your network capacity, identifying trends, and simplifying equipment provisioning. Depending on the project and scope, legacy tools such as Visio or Excel can be used to get actionable insights from your data. Another option is a second-generation DCIM solution that can track your key performance indicators without spending time on manual report building. Either way, connectivity reports and dashboards are vital tools for decision making.
Plan for the future
As data center environments constantly change, the need for foolproof data center cable management is imperative. Provisioning new equipment no longer takes months and, instead, IT resources can be rapidly deployed. Organizations need to focus on the present functionality of their data center cabling, while continuously planning for future needs. Having an external partner with this expertise is invaluable and will allow for efficient internal resource allocation.
Even with a solid plan and awareness of the numerous challenges, cabling can be a tricky job for teams who have other responsibilities. Silverback Data Center Solutions is experienced and qualified to manage any data center cabling installation. Give us a call to discuss your needs.