Data Center Cabling Solutions

We know you have questions about the data center cabling industry, and how to maximize the effectiveness of your cabling, so we compiled a list of frequently asked questions by our customers to help you understand more about your data center needs.

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The data center industry:

1. What are the current migrations paths for speeds in the data center (DC)?

It depends on the physical size of the DC, but speeds of 10/40/100/200/400/800G are currently being deployed.

2. What is East-West (E-W) architecture?

E-W architecture relates to the current logical movement of information in the DC. As requirements force users to move closer and closer to the edge of the network, DC managers are deploying E-W architectures to reduce latency and provide instant network access.

3. What is Wideband Multimode Fiber (WBMMF)?

Wideband Multimode Fiber, or WBMMF, is designed to operate in the 850-953 spectrum using shortwave wavelength division multiplexing (SWDW).

4. What is the impact of new developments in the area of optics?

Currently, optics fall into one of two families: Serial or Parallel. As speeds increase, we are seeing some singlemode options become viable. SFP, SFP+, QSFP are all becoming more prevalent. As speeds increase, more and more singlemode options are becoming available.

5. How soon will singlemode infrastructure have a real impact in the enterprise data center?

Any predictions at this point are educated guesses, but as network speeds increase and the cost of singlemode optics decrease, it is inevitable that we will see more singlemode infrastructure in the DC. This is especially true in hyperscale applications.

6. How does your product compare to Corning or CommScope?

We currently hold the industry’s best insertion loss results for pre-terminated solutions, and we offer them as standard product. We recently received the Gold Innovators award from Cabling Installation & Maintenance magazine for our multi-path solution.

7. Are reduced diameter Cat6 and Cat6A jumpers available?

Yes, the smaller diameter copper patch cords are available for both Cat6 and Cat6A applications. The distance limitations are reduced from 90 meters to 10 meters.

8. Do Ethernet and Fibre Channel take the same cabling and polarity?

Yes, from a duplex (LC connector) and parallel (MPO/MTP connector) they take the same cabling and work on the same polarity. For example, an Ethernet link breaking out 100GE to 4 x 25GE signals uses the same cable as a Fibre Channel link breaking out 128GFCp to 4 x 32GFC.

9. Will all end-user applications end up in the cloud?

While this this topic is very complex, and has many offshoots when defining the cloud, in general terms, we've found that the clients we work with currently have 10% - 25% of their applications in the cloud.

10. What is hyperconvergence?

Hyperconvergence is an IT framework that combines storage, computing, and networking into a single system to reduce data center complexity and increase scalability.

11. What are coarse wavelength division multiplexing (CWDM) and short wavelength division multiplexing (SWDM) optics and what type of fiber do they run on?

CWDM has up to 18 signals or wavelengths going down one fiber on singlemode glass and helps increase bandwidth on a per fiber basis. SWDM uses the same process but on multi-mode glass, typically with parallel optics or an MPO/MTP connector.

12. Will wireless connections take over copper or fiber connections in the data center?

No. For the foreseeable future, the cost and security issues prevent wireless from being a viable solution for connectivity in the data center space.

13. What are the advantages and disadvantages of direct attach cables (DAC) and active optical cables (AOC) cables versus separate transceivers and optics with copper patch cords and fiber jumpers?

The advantage of DAC and AOC is that they are less expensive than individual optics and cables. The disadvantage is they are built to only work at a specific speed, which means when the equipment they’re connected to changes they will need to be replaced as well. Also, DAC and AOC come in standard sizes, so custom lengths and breakouts are not available. The lack of custom lengths and breakouts can increase cable management and cabinet cooling issues.

14. What is the current impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) on data centers today?

Data center managers are finding that implementing AI and ML into data management is becoming more relevant as systems and applications grow. Machines have more computing power and a greater ability to monetize a company’s data faster than humans. Their ability to process and monetize quickly is transforming the way data centers interpret and apply information.

Your facilities:

1. What impact have ASHRAE standards had on data center development?

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) maintain a number of standards and guidelines. These regulations will have a significant impact on DC cooling and power requirements. DCs must have a footprint that is flexible, scalable and adaptable.

2. What are current best practices for Layer 1 in the data center?

Layer 1 has evolved significantly over the past few years. Probably the greatest impact on Layer 1 has been pre-terminated applications for both fiber and copper. Pre-terminated solutions have provided DC managers a greater level of flexibility, scalability, and diversification. Pre-terminated solutions consist of complete factory-terminated links, including cabling, modules, and enclosures.

3. From a cooling perspective, should cabling be routed under the floor or overhead?

This question has been asked for a long time. We’ve recently seen a movement to overhead applications when space on the floor is limited. The key aspect to any cable routing decision is to ensure a path that provides accessibility and does not limit air flow.

4. What is the impact of polarity on Layer 1 decisions in the data center?

Ensuring proper polarity in the DC is crucial to minimizing downtime and maintaining a scalable infrastructure. The industry allows a number of acceptable solutions, but it is vitally important to select the correct solution for your application.

5. What advantages are associated with CABLExpress solutions and power usage effectiveness (PUE)?

Power usage effectiveness (PUE) is simply the ratio of total data center energy consumption to the amount of energy consumed by the IT equipment alone. Since the data center’s primary purpose is to supply IT resources to a company or consumers, an ideal PUE is 1.0. The average PUE for a DC is 2.5. Our solutions are developed to help maximize efficiencies in the area of power consumption. By minimizing the outside diameter of our cable solutions, we are able to reduce the restriction of air flow in the DC and improve power consumption ratios. This equates to true cost savings when it comes to power.

Your storage:

1. What is port replication?

Port replication™ “mirrors” the ports of active fiber optic hardware in a passive component (fiber patch panel), creating a direct, one-to-one relationship between the active hardware ports and the passive structured cabling environment.

2. Is Fibre Channel a dying architecture?

As long as Fibre Channel continues to innovate as our industry deals with factors such as latency and increased speeds it can remain relevant and in use. Brocade currently has about 70% market share on Fibre Channel and it does not appear to be shrinking.

3. As storage moves closer to the edge of the network, how will it affect hardware OEMs such as Brocade, HPE, Cisco, etc.)?

Brocade and Cisco are attacking this market from different angles, but it appears there’s more than enough space for both to survive. Unfortunately, we’ve observed that sometimes price may have more of an effect than the effectiveness of the actual technology. In these cases, technology usually wins in the end.

4. What are the advantages of a spine and leaf architecture?

The spine and leaf architecture was originally implemented in DCs as a way to improve performance when handling predominately east-west traffic. It does this by decreasing the number of “hops” between any two devices in the network to just one because every leaf switch has a direct connection to every spine switch. The traditional three-tier network may consist of many hops depending on where the gear is located in the network.

5. What is your opinion of software-defined storage?

Software-defined storage (SDS) can allow for greater flexibility, efficiency and scalability with programmable storage functionality. At CABLExpress, we embrace new architecture because it involves a requirement to keep your Layer 1 infrastructure updated. As new architectures are developed, the need for improved infrastructure will keep us at the forefront of the industry.