Pulling Back the Cabling Curtain

It’s been decades since the 1939 debut of L. Frank Baum’s Oz adventure on the silver screen and his perceived satirical view of technology, depicted as a wizard who is flashy, but ultimately powerless. While today’s technology is anything but powerless, there are still some steps you can take to ensure your physical IT environment is running at optimal efficiency.

“A Bad Beginning Makes a Bad Ending” – Euripedes

Clean cabling in a data center starts with proper planning. Unfortunately, many companies do not plan their wiring projects well enough and they end up with a spaghetti mess of cables in the server room. “Cabling reflects the type of environment you can expect,” says Donald Jacobs, Consulting Engineer for Heartland Business Systems. “Clean server rooms usually mean process and procedure (are in place) as well as good documentation.”

By having a design with documentation in place, many tangled issues can be avoided. Color coding your cables for use in network devices is an easy way to know what type of traffic is flowing over the cable and whether the cable leads to your server or a wireless access device. Labeling your patch panel and even the cables themselves will also save you countless headaches down the line. When this type of documentation is lacking, finger tracing your way through the tangles of cable can become similar to Dorothy’s trek down the Yellow Brick Road, encountering unforeseen obstacles along the way, getting lost and having to follow along your way again.

Letting your cable management get away from you can lead to bigger problems for your systems as well as your IT budget. Using cables that are the appropriate length for your rack and devices allows for more space in your rack and server room. When cables are too long, they bulk up and the weight of the cables can actually damage some of your network devices. Bad planning can cost you in replacements alone. By securing your cables to your rack correctly, replacing cables can be done more quickly and less painfully than finger tracing them from one end of the room to the other.

Going from a spaghetti cabled mess to an organized cable management system will take time to plan and implement. In some cases, it may just be easier to replace everything and start over from scratch. This practice is also used when migrating a system from one location to another.  By replacing old cabling with new, a better quality cable can potentially allow more bandwidth through the cable. The common misconception that it is less expensive to reuse old cabling in a server migration is a fallacy. In the long run, it will cost more to continuously diagnose and fix problems due to old cabling versus installing new cable.

Once a migration is completed or a server room overhaul has cleaned up your cabling disaster, security and process are some things you should include in your data center documentation. By limiting access to your servers, you can control who and how your systems are maintained and updated and you also lessen the risk of losing data into the wrong hands.

“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” – The Wizard of Oz

The wizard was viewed as the great and powerful to all those in the Emerald City. The same may be said of your server or network engineer once everything is running at top performance, for most end users view their data center as some magical place somewhere over the rainbow anyway, right?

Originally published December 2013 in The Business News publication Technology Section &
on the Heartland Business Systems company blog.