Structured Cabling in the Datacenter

Maintaining neat and orderly structured cabling in the datacenter can be challenging. Here is a guide for how-to keep your datacenter cabling neat and orderly…

We have reviewed a large number of existing structured cable enclosures, both in person and via photographs. If you are reading this, you have probably seen and/or dealt with bad cabling first hand. Even well planned data center cabling can go from neat and orderly to messy and unmanageable.

Here are the most common issues we’ve seen:

  • Cable length, both too long and too short
  • Directly patching into the switch port
  • Lack of documentation
  • Lack of training staff, i.e.: dos and don’ts when patching in a new port

We believe the following best practices are key to maintaining neat an orderly cabling:

  • Maximize your use of patch panels whether or not the device is in a rack.. Most importantly, make sure all switch ports are directly connected to (the rear of) a patch panel. Connections to a switch should always be via a patch panel port.
  • Minimize or eliminate horizontal cabling into patch panel ports
  • Order custom cable lengths with a factory installed patch panel. For example, to connect a 24 port switch, measure the length of the cable run, and order cables pre-configured for the factory installed patch panel, i.e. make sure one endpoint is RJ45 and the other is patch panel.
  • Document patch panel and switch port connectivity.
  • Create a document of best practices and review them with the staff. When possible, do this “in the field” to demonstrate how to do things. No shortcuts.

Our structured cabling approach in pictures…

Our structured cabling approach in pictures...

In the image above, we see the built to order structured cable bundles. The other end of these cables are terminated (from the factory) in the rear of 24 port patch panels. Notice there is no plugging into, changing, or touching switch port patch cables. All patching is performed between patch panels.

In the image above, notice that the remote end of the yellow structured cabling bundles are terminated directly into patch panel ports. The white cabling is from racks, offices, cubicles, etc.

In the above image we see the front of the patch panels. This is the next step in maintaining order. The yellow ports are the switch ports, and in between we see the remote ports, color coded and labeled. The far end of these ports, i.e.: rack, office, cubicle, etc. will have corresponding color and label. This design allows for utilizing 6 inch patch cables to patch the remote port into a switch port. This enables minimization of horizontal patching into these ports. Notice, however, that there is still some horizontal patching (red cables) that needs to be eliminated.

Documentation

Documentation

It is probably no surprise that we use Device42 to document our patch panels and switch port connectivity. The important take away here is that the basics are documented. While it is nice to visualize the port and device connectivity as you can in Device42, it is not an absolute requirement for effective patch panel and structured cabling management.

Pictured above:
The patch panel layout view allows for visualization of local device, local port, remote port, remote device.

Pictured below:
Patch panel page in edit mode
Patch port connectivity status

The documentation process should be part of your standard practice. Changes should be religiously entered into your system (whether you use Device42 or not)
Happy trails!