Hardware Today: Caring for Your Cables Page 2

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Mar 21, 2005

Adding Fiber to the Data Center Diet

Whether due to unfamiliarity or lack of foresight, data center personnel often underestimate their requirements for fiber-optic (FO) cabling. Once FO makes an appearance, after all, the first few strands are rarely the end of it. Therefore, it's best to assume fiber requirements will grow and put a plan in place to efficiently handle that growth.

It is also important to realize fiber is more delicate than other types of wiring. Fiber breaks when it is bent beyond the manufacturer-specified bend diameter. To prevent this, UTP and coaxial cable should be separated from fiber in horizontal pathways to avoid crushing fiber (i.e., electrical cables in cable trays and fiber in troughs mounted on trays).

"Copper tends to crush or kink FO, decreasing bandwidth or even causing total loss of signal," said Schmidt. "This can be avoided by using raised cabling with good separation between copper and FO."

Other best practices for FO include the wise selection of routing paths to reduce the twisting of fibers, allowing for enough access to cabling so that it can be installed or removed without inducing excessive bends in adjacent fiber, and some means of physical fiber protection to minimize the chances accidental damage by technicians and nearby equipment.

Help Wanted

In some cases, it may be wise to bring in a third party to assist in cable management. Companies such as ADC and APC offer best practice guides, white papers, and on-site help with cabling and data center layout. A wide range of vendor tools are also available to manage wiring more efficiently.

Systimax Solutions offers copper, fiber, and high-performance cabling products ranging from 10 M/bs to 10 G/bs, patching tools, and a line of rack and cabinets. Its iPatch intelligent patching system and VisiPatch reverse patching system offer an alternative to traditional patching. The company just released the Systimax 10 Gigabit Ethernet over copper/UTP cabling solution. Sun Microsystems, for example, is installing it at an operational hub in the United Kingdom.

Panduit has a large catalog of cable ties, identification, protection, and routing goods. Its Patented Angled Patch panels and PatchRunner vertical cable managers provide integrated bend radius control solution for patching and high density. The company also sells a TIA 606-compliant labeling solution to properly identify key network components. Proper bend radius can be assured through the Panduit Fiber Runner.

APC and ADC have extensive product portfolios. APC focuses in power production, rack systems, and cooling. It also offers an impressive range of cabling and networking tools. ADC supplies network equipment, software, and integration services for networks that deliver data, video, and voice communications. ADC's Copper 10 is a recent addition, a Category 6 structured cabling system with the necessary characteristics to enable 10 Gb Ethernet transmission over 100 meters. You can use it now for lower bandwidth operations, but it will also operate at 10 Gb when the industry moves to that standard in the near future. ADC's Fiber Guide is also useful for keeping FO and copper separate, and the ADC Ethernet Distribution Frame is a useful cross-connect system.

Thinking Ahead

Most vendors are united in their stress on 10 Gb wiring.

"For those high-speed connections like switch to switch or server to storage it's time to consider 10 Gigabit Ethernet transmission speed over either copper of fiber media," said Mike Barnick, senior manager for solutions marketing with Systimax Solutions.

"Deploy future proof cabling, such as 10 Gig fiber and copper cabling systems, that delivers interoperability and scalability, for organizations with growing bandwidth needs," Wittenkeller advises.

ADC's Schmidt reinforces this message with a cost-comparison of cable material to the labor cost involved in installation.

"As the material itself is not that expensive, pulling the cabling is by far the most important cost," said Schmidt. "Nothing is cheaper than a paid for infrastructure."

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