When mounting all of the equipment (such as servers, storage, switches, and routers) into the server rack, cable management tends to have been overlooked in many times. Without a good rack cable management solution, all of the network cables in the rack look like spaghetti. In this case, cable management becomes a tremendous challenge for IT technicians and network installers in most data centers. How to organize a server rack? In fact, some simple plans and a right arsenal of tools are prepared before installing the server rack, such messy situations will be avoided.
The reason is simple enough: poorly routed cables can lead to an assortment of problems over time. First, everything unorganized and jumbled just creates a high risk for cables to be tangled up, and a possibility of making a mistake when reconnecting cables. Second, rack cable management is directly related to hardware safety. All equipment running on the rack is going to generate heat, so organizing a rack with a conception involving space will help promote the airflow and hardware management. Last but not least, cable labels should not be neglected, which help save lots of time on troubleshooting. For more information about cable labeling, please refer to Proper Cable Labeling Guidelines. Just imagine how difficult it would be trying to trace a cable through that mess? Therefore, a large emphasis should be placed on organization and cleanliness when creating the server rack setup. The following video gives a quick look at the structured cabling solutions of fiber or copper system in a single rack.
The vast majority of IT applications use 19-inch wide racks. The depth of the rack is usually adjustable to some degree. The height of the rack is divided into standardized segments called rack units (“U”), and each rack unit (1U) is 1.75 inches high. For example, a 42U rack contains 42 rack units. It does mean that the rack will accommodate any combination of standard rack equipment up to 42U. Therefore, the first step is to choose a suitable server rack for your data center. Learn more about choosing a suitable server rack, please refer to Different Types of Server Rack Used in Data Center.
Plan the layout of your server rack before mounting all of the equipment is of critical importance in today’s high-density rack environments. You need to determine what components to be housed in the rack and map out the blueprint that corresponds to where you are planning to mount each component on the rack. This step can prevent the frustration of having to move equipment after it has been mounted.
The location of equipment in the rack is vital to maximize the space inside the rack and to permit easy service. You should develop a detailed plan for equipment placement before you install it, including plans for future expansion. Generally, the heaviest equipment is placed in the bottom of the rack, such as UPS systems and external battery packs, larger servers.
The patch panel is always used for rack cabling distribution, which potentially allows for the use of larger switches and higher utilization of ports. An alternative approach is to install network switches in the rack and use the switch layer itself as the patching system, but the patching function is limited. In terms of cabling, the patch panel is nothing but essential cable management tool to wire cables together. The 24-port patch panel is the most common options used on the rack. It is a perfect combination between the patch panel and cable management bar to reduce cable tension in the rack. For high-density cabling system, other cable management tools, including horizontal and vertical cable manager, cable tie, cable label, are also considered.
As the density of equipment in the rack increases, cooling becomes an important factor. The heat concentrations can lead to increased power consumption and higher rates of equipment failure. Besides, unmanaged cabling could block airflow and prevent efficient cold air distribution. In this sense, using horizontal and vertical cable managers to organize patch cables and power cords is also very helpful for cooling efficiency.
Patch panels provide space-saving, high-density cable connections. Using patch panels as part of a structured cabling system lowers maintenance costs and reduces installation and configuration errors. Fiber patch panel and copper patch panel are used in patching fiber and copper cables respectively.
Horizontal cable managers allow neat and proper routing of the patch cables from equipment in racks and protect cables from damage. If you are using flat-faced patch panels or network switches that cable from above or below, horizontal cable manager will complete the support pathway for patch cords between the cabling section and the exact connection port on the patch panel or switch. Alternately, horizontal cable management can be used to create rack-to-rack pathways for patch cords.
Vertical cable manager utilizes the additional space to manage the slack from patch cords, and make sure that they can easily route the largest cable diameter in your plan. For static environments, you can consider installing another vertical cable manager behind the racks, which does not block access to components in the space between the racks.
Fiber enclosure enables managers to be more efficient with rack space, which offers the superior density, port access, and cable management in a solid and sleek enclosure. It can be mounted with fiber adapter panels and fiber cassettes, in result that the modular system meets the demand to quickly moves, adds and changes while simultaneously providing the possibility for future upgrades. Rack mount fiber enclosure is the commonly used type in the data center as it provides a convenient and rugged termination point for fiber jumper cables. For more information, please refer to FS 1U Rack Enclosure Types and Selection Guide.
Cable tie and cable label are also important accessories for rack cable management, but many people seem to ignore this job. The cable ties with different color code and cable labels can help you quickly manage the cabling and achieve easy troubleshooting. In rack application, Velcro ties are more popular than zip tie, because they can reduce the cable damage and have the ability to be reused over and over again.
1. Should every device (e.g. servers, switches, routers) face one direction on the rack? Or should I share the same U on both sides?
Yes. You should have everything facing the same way, which can allow your equipment to cool more effectively as they do not block the hot exhaust of other devices.
2. Is it best practice to have everything that comes into the server room go into a patch panel, and then have short patch cables from the patch panel to switches?
Yes. It generally is the best practice. Anything coming from outside the server room should be patched before going to the switch. It makes it easier to troubleshoot and maintain as you grow your infrastructure.
3. For small devices (e.g. cable modem and router) came from ISP (backup broadband), what’s the best way to keep that organized in a rack? Should I use a shelf?
A shelf would make it easier and look nicer.
4. Should I leave space between devices in the rack for cooling? Or is it ok to place devices contiguously? I wasn't sure if that would cause servers to overheat.
Most rack devices are designed to intake at the front and exhaust out the back, so you do not worry about that the contiguous placement would cause overheating. It would be fine to put them butted up next to each other.