If you’ve been in the IT industry for any length of time, then you have most likely seen and experienced a messy data center. You know what I’m talking about – the patch cables are a jumble of spaghetti hanging in the rack. Equipment may be hanging off the side of the rack by its patch cable or power cord. There is so much tangled cable that you can’t even see the equipment behind it, let alone access the ports. And forget trying to remove any equipment from the rack – there’s too much cable in way.
Two major challenges exist that cause this kind of disarray: lack of policies and training with the IT team, and lack of proper wire management.
Keeping a data center organized requires a good layout, and this starts with the wire management scheme. Without wire management (somewhere to place the cables before they plug into the equipment), there is nowhere for the cables to go except to let gravity pull them down in front of the equipment. Wire management fixes this. When possible, you want to have the cabling from outside the room enter onto a ladder rack and then feed down and terminate onto patch panels. From the patch panels, we install patch cables that run through vertical and horizontal wire managers until they reach the equipment they are to plug into—usually switches, but also servers and other equipment located in the data center.
The patch panel should be properly labeled on each port. The patch cables should be of the proper length. Using a 10-foot cable where a 3-foot cable would be sufficient eliminates extra cable and makes it easier to keep the racks organized and clean. Today, we also have the benefit of having high-quality patch cables that are very thin, which helps tremendously when you have a dense patch panel with many ports. Thinner cables take less space and provide more visibility.
In order to get this job done right, it almost always requires the complete dismantling of the equipment from the rack, installing and possibly re-terminating the wire to get things organized and flowing well, and then reinstalling the equipment and patching everything back in. When the patch cables are installed, we are using the right size and working to use the wire management everywhere possible.
Once the implementation and clean-up is completed, the next step is to make sure the IT team understands how to keep it that way. This is where training and policies come into play. The IT team needs to understand that under no circumstances should they just plug stuff in. Every time a piece of hardware is installed, they should find properly-sized patch cables and use the wire management. Unless everyone is willing to follow these guidelines, it will only be a matter of time before the spaghetti mess reappears.
Here is a before-and-after example of using proper cabling management techniques: