Data center cable management is the system of clearly labeling, organizing, and documenting cables within a data center. Proper cable management improves troubleshooting time, maintains uptime, and increases capacity utilization. It also prevents cable spaghetti, which is the complex entanglement of cables that requires an extensive amount of time to sort through and organize.
Why is Data Center Cable Management Important?
- Hindrance from accessing rack components. Since racks typically have a high density of cables, critical access to network components, servers, and other enclosed components can be difficult. Cable management ensures easy access to these components to improve the troubleshooting process and increase data center uptime.
- Airflow restrictions. Airflow is often restricted from components inside the network enclosure due to a high density of cables. Cable management can prevent overheating, equipment shutdown, and extensive damage to equipment as it prevents the blockage of vents and fans.
- Capacity utilization. When cables are managed properly, it is easier to identify stranded capacity and forecast when you will run out of port capacity.
- Productivity. Ultimately, efficient cable management allows for uninterrupted productivity within the data center. The time that would be spent trying to troubleshoot issues related to cables can be allocated towards other productive processes.
Where is Data Center Cable Management Needed?
There are two basic types of equipment enclosures within a data center: server cabinets and network cabinets. Server cabinets typically house active equipment such as blade chassis or stackable servers while network cabinets house network switches and patch panels. Power distribution cabling and structured cabling must also be properly managed. The first step in organizing a cable within a cabinet is to determine the capacity needed for cabling by calculating the number/type of connections per server and the number of servers needed, as well as determining where the cable needs to be run/routed.
- Server cabinets. Server cabinets will have the patching and power for the devices in the rear-facing portion of the cabinet, requiring management of both network and power cables. If power and network cables need to cross from one side of the cabinet to another, vertical and horizontal cable managers can be used to provide distinct paths. The use of cable managers prevents the cables from blocking airflow.
- Network cabinets. Network cabinets have a majority of the patching connections forward-facing from the cabinet. They may have horizontal cable managers that allow for patching within the cabinet and down the row both for in-row switching and top-of-rack switching. Also, vertically mounted cable managers allow patch cables to be properly organized from the top of the rack’s patch panels to the bottom of the rack’s switches.
- Power cabling. Managing end-to-end AC/DC power circuits involves minimizing stranded power capacity, ensuring redundancy to maintain uptime in the event of a failover scenario, and maintaining three-phase load balance to increase efficiency.
- Structured cabling. Structured cabling is the complete system of cabling and associated equipment that enables data center connectivity. Think of structured cables as highways and all the various connections as on/off ramps.
Data Center Cable Management Best Practices
Following best practices for documenting and managing data center cables is critical for ensuring uptime, efficiency, and productivity.
Best practices include:
- Design the network or structured cabling infrastructure in advance. Documenting the initial infrastructure design before the physical buildout allows for real-time transparency of physical connectivity capacity at every cabinet down to the port level. This simplifies planning for any connectivity requirements from newly provisioned equipment.
- Document all new patch cabling installations. To easily maintain and provision new equipment and troubleshoot connectivity issues, you must document patch cabling. Data center uptime can be maintained through the efficient documentation of cable types, connectors, cabinet elevations, and the number of data and power ports per cabinet.
- Determine the length of cable needed before installation. By accurately measuring cable lengths, the data center can be free of loose cables and reduce costly cable waste. Knowing how much cable you need before purchasing it can help avoid rework and downtime when changes or maintenance are needed.
- Create precise instructions for installation. As there are many different teams/individuals that may be working on the data center infrastructure, everyone must have the same information. Insufficient instructions can lead to incorrect installations and connections, so precise, uniform, and visual instructions should be given to all involved in the planning, design, and installation processes.
- Validate connections. The compatibility of physical connectors is important as you cannot provision new equipment to a rack without ensuring the ports on the switch or patch panel is compatible with the cables. Validating connections before physically making them reduces the amount of extra equipment or cables needed to have functioning equipment, improving productivity and efficiency.
- Track connectivity capacity. Data center managers must have a holistic view of their power and data connectivity capacity to identify trends and simplify equipment provisioning.
- Plan for the future. Since data center environments are constantly changing with new technology developments, it is important to envision the future infrastructure requirements of the data center. You should anticipate demand and be able to deploy resources when needed.
How Does DCIM Software Help with Data Center Cable Management?
Modern data center sites have an overwhelming number of IT assets to manage, each with a multitude of associated power and data cables. For example, in a site with 100 racks, there are over 70,000 individual cabling and port components that need to be accurately tracked and managed to efficiently perform moves, adds, and changes, understand port capacity, and troubleshoot issues to reduce downtime. Management tools like Excel and Visio are time-consuming, inaccurate, and difficult to manage.
Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software makes cable management easy. A second-generation DCIM solution will have a vast vendor models library that provides the correct port count and specifications for every device you deploy. Built-in validation ensures all planned port connections can be implemented in the real world because the connections are compatible and available. With business intelligence dashboards and visual analytics, insightful reporting and 3D visualization makes it easy to understand port capacity and end-to-end cable paths.
Want to see how Sunbird’s world-leading DCIM software simplifies data center cable management? Get your free test drive now!