In the cable world, the term structured cabling gets thrown around often. People use it as a buzzword, but what does it really mean? What exactly is structured cabling?
Well, to get the true meaning, let’s look at some definitions.
According to the Fiber Optic Association, structured cabling is the standardized architecture and components for communications cabling specified by the EIA/TIA TR42 committee and used as a voluntary standard by manufacturers to ensure interoperability.
If you look into TIA TR42, your search will likely bring you to discover that structured cabling is even more technically defined and outlined by TIA 568.
You can see that this path leads to lots of lengthy and highly technical language, but if that's not what you are looking for our next question is for you.
Structured Cabling is defined as building or campus telecommunications cabling infrastructure that consists of a number of standardized smaller elements (structured).
A properly designed and installed structure cabling system provides a cabling infrastructure that delivers predictable performance as well as has the flexibility to accommodate moves, additions, and changes; maximizes system availability; provides redundancy; and future proofs the usability of the cabling system.
This definition gives you a better sense of what structured cabling is and its purpose.
To answer that question, I would use the word “organization”. Structured cabling is an organized approach to cabling infrastructure. Although it may seem backward, to fully understand this concept it is easiest to look at what structured cabling isn’t. In many data centers, the cabling methodology used is defined as “point-to-point”. That method runs patch cables (or “jumpers”) directly to and from the hardware that needs connectivity.
In a structured cabling system, a series of patch panels and trunks are used to create a structure that allows for hardware ports to be connected to a patch panel at the top of the rack. That patch panel is then connected to another patch panel via a trunk (multi-fiber assembly designed for use in conveyance) in the MDA (Main Distribution Area).
The MDA is the key aspect of structured cabling. This is where all the MAC’s (Moves, Adds, and Changes) can be made with short length patch cords.
See below for some helpful diagrams.
Below are diagrams of an structured cabling solution and point-to-point cabling. The diagrams outline the basic approaches to cabling. Seeing these two approaches to cabling side by side help demonstrate how these two systems differ and how structured cabling solutions provide several benefits.
Once again, organization is the key word here. With an organized structured cabling system the benefits are:
To learn even more about structured cabling and best practices, download our free whitepaper, Data Center Structured Cabling Guide.