Data center cabling - Placing and design best practices

Cabling is the foundation of every data center, so it's essential to get the placing right, and insist on proper cabling design.

The cabling solution is an extremely critical component of a data center. It is necessary to build data center...

infrastructure with a holistic approach to support future technologies & business continuity/demands. As in the case of any other projects, any successful implementation of a data center requires a coordinated effort from responsible teams.

The main parameters, which IT team cannot afford to neglect, are:

• Estimate all needs at full capacity.
• Anticipate future growth.
• Provide all requirements to the consultants & architects.
• Create an equipment floor plan.
• Design telecommunication cabling system.
• Other subjects apart from telecommunication infrastructure ( HVAC, security, fire detection & suppression design).

Choosing the right cabling solution

Traditional codes and standards, plus the environmental and new safety requirements provoke the best designers into developing solutions. The best thing is follow a system approach as opposed to components and look at end-to-end solutions.

Plan cabling pathways

It is one of the most important factors to consider and there is no one way which fits all solutions. Most of the time a combination of different pathway options work well which includes ladder system for overhead, wire baskets/solid metal trays for below raised floor, dedicated fiber-optic cable routing pathways (Lightrax). Cabling in the ceiling is usually considered for better management and improved airflow design. Important parameters that influence the cabling pathways are the rack density, type/count/diameter of cables, end equipment cable entry & the room height.

Cable routing and design can strongly influence and affect airflow design efficiency. This applies to the individual racks as well as in pathways covering the overall data center design.
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Cable routing and design

Today data center owners face a new challenge in the form of airflow and cooling issues. Cable routing and design can strongly influence and affect airflow design efficiency. This applies to the individual racks as well as in pathways covering the overall data center design.

With virtualization, more servers are being installed in a single cabinet, as many as more than 50 plus patch cables and 50 plus power cables need to be dressed in the same area at the rear of the cabinet; this is from where heat from the equipment is exhausted. Removing power/patch cables & managing them properly in that particular path is very critical to solving the heat issues.

Cabling issues go beyond power cords because each server is connected to network cables, and managing these copper/fiber cables are very critical. Hence these needs to be managed from the rear of the cabinet to assist heat escape, which is taken care by feeding the cables through rings at the side of the cabinet.

Cable originating point can also pose challenges, especially if the cables are coming from the top or if the numbers are very high at the top of the cabinet because this raises the need to move hot air from the top of the cabinet.

Managing issues

It is a major concern because each server needs to be connected through copper or fiber patch cables based on customer requirement. Being large in density, managing these cables is critical, so as to ensure they do not block the heat escape. Right cable management solutions should help maintain the proper bend radius of both copper and fiber cables. This is especially crucial for fiber cables - it should ensure that the cables are away from the designed airflow path and should also support easy MAC (Media Access Control) as and when required.

Also, cables always tend to fan out once they are laid inside the cabinet. It's important to keep the cables close to the side of the cabinets when at the entry point.

The best way to improve cable management is to have more cable management rings or tie-off points in the vertical cable manager which is mounted on either side of the cabinet.

(As told to Jasmine Desai.)
This was first published in October 2009

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