Data Center Cabling Solutions
Planning a Refresh or Upgrade in your Data Center? Don't Ignore the Cabling Infrastructure!

Planning a Refresh or Upgrade in your Data Center? Don't Ignore the Cabling Infrastructure!

  • Feb 26, 2020
  • data center design, data center, structured cabling
  • Michael Smith

So you're planning a data center project... great! Just keep in mind it is always recommended to consider your cabling infrastructure before installing new hardware.

If you fail to do so, your team is vulnerable to spending countless hours troubleshooting links and channels, only to discover it's a cabling issue that could have been prevented.

Potential Data Center Cabling Issues

Incorrect polarity

Without the proper polarity, the transmitting signal from the hardware will not get to the receiver. This will cause downtime in your network and force you to troubleshoot multiple causes to locate the error.

Incorrect cable lengths

If a cable is too short, it will be unable to physically complete the needed connection. If it’s too long, you will end up with extra cable that can look messy, reduce airflow, and cause issues with tracing cables for hardware maintenance or moves, add, or changes (MAC's).

Cables that are too long may lead to situations like the one depicted in the picture above. Imagine being responsible for tracing those runs!

Inadequate cabling speeds

Finally, your cabling infrastructure could be inadequate for future hardware upgrades. As speeds increase, there is high potential for a connector change.

An example of this would be a transceiver that requires an MPO connector versus the (currently more common) LC connector. The types of cabling used can also be a factor.

Avoiding Data Center Cabling Issues

You can avoid these issues and others by becoming familiar with your current system. Identify weak points and implement solutions designed to limit these vulnerable points.

Most organizations don't have the luxury of being able to shut down their network, so understanding the infrastructure that is already in place and mapping out the end-vision of your data center is critical for maximizing your ROI.

As opportunities for modifications to your data center present themselves (for example, a hardware upgrade), take advantage of the chance to correct existing problems. Not only will it ensure a smooth upgrade, but you'll be better off in the long run as well.

Recommendations from Our Data Center Cabling Architects

1. Have an overhead diagram of your data center that includes cabling pathways (including media type and other specifications, such as "Multimode OM3 fiber").

  • Identify where hardware will be mounted and add to the overhead diagram.
  • Include hardware naming schemes and port counts.
  • Identify color-coding if you’ve used this in your design.

2. Work up a plan to identify areas that will grow and create a plan for that growth.

  • If you are not currently utilizing a structured cabling method (TIA-942), create a plan for it to prepare your infrastructure for future upgrades to faster speeds.

3. Ensure you have proper cabling to support installations, including trunking to the Main Distribution Area (MDA); open ports at MDA; and appropriate patch cabling for both MDA and equipment racks.

  • If you do not have appropriately structured cabling, then identify the trunking you will need. You will need to determine the type of fiber, number of connectors, and types of connectors needed. Also keep in mind the length and quantity of patch cords that you will need.

Enjoy Smooth Data Center Projects

Keeping these recommendations in mind will allow for easy, pain-free refreshes/upgrades in your data center network. An overhead diagram of the environment should be maintained and consistently updated to be used as a tool for data center managers and technicians alike.

If you have an upcoming project and are looking for some resources to help it run smoother, click here to learn more about free design assistance from our team of data center architects who sit on the TIA board for structured cabling.

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Image courtesy of Milestoned on Flickr