Data Center Cabling – Challenges and Solutions
There are a number of potential problems when planning and executing data center cabling. Whether it’s an incorrect cable type, reversed polarity or poor physical installation conditions, a confusing cabling landscape can cause increased downtime.
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 the network or data center cabling infrastructure in advance
There are a lot of questions to consider when planning data center cabling, such as Top or Middle of rack? Switching or Patching? Fiber or Copper?
Questions include quantity, port density, and requirements for servers and other equipment that will be installed into cabinets. Also to be taken into consideration is how often network capacity with need to be added. Inevitably there are a number of factors unique to each data center cabling project.
Early and thorough infrastructure design is critical. Using Data Center Infrastructure Management Software (DCIM) enables real-time transparency of physical network capacity at every cabinet in the white space down to the individual port. Stakeholders can view virtual floor map visualizations to see the data center space, assets, and connections. This allows visibility into the connectivity requirement for new equipment.
Document all new patch cabling installations
Patch cabling documentation may seem unnecessary, but poor documentation leads to difficulties maintaining and provisioning new equipment and troubleshooting connectivity issues. To maximize uptime when implement data center cabling, 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. Or, you can use circuit trace diagrams to display each hop in a power or data circuit including details of each connection as well as visualize connections between ports on a floor map.
Predetermine the length of cable needed
Accurately measuring 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 help avoid rework and downtime when changes are being implemented. It can even help save the environment by eliminating the waste of copper.
Create precise instructions for installation
Frequently, one team handles data center cabling 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 data center cabling project and scope, legacy tools such as Visio or Excel can be used to get actionable insights from your data. Another option is a while 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
Although data center environments are constantly changing, the need for a foolproof data center cabling process 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, data center cabling can be a tricky job for teams who have other responsibilities. Silverback Data Center Solutions is well versed and uniquely qualified to handle cutting edge data center cabling. Give us a call to discuss your needs.