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What Is a Patch Panel and Why Do We Need It?

Providing Flexibility and Simplicity for Your Cable Management in Networking Cabling Systems

September 5, 2018

A patch panel is an effective and flexible networking device to keep your data center or server room organized as well as make it much easier to move, add or change the cabling infrastructure in the future. The definition, type, function and application of a patch panel will be demonstrated in this article.

What Is a Patch Panel?

A patch panel also referred to as a patch bay, patch field, or jacket field, is a piece of hardware assembly with several ports for connecting and managing incoming and outgoing LAN cables or fiber/copper cables. Patch panels can be quite small with just a few ports, or very large with many hundreds of ports. They can also be set up for fiber optic cables, cat5 cables, RJ45 cables, and many others.

Patch Panel Types

Generally, there are two kinds of patch panels in the typical data center infrastructure: fiber optic panels and Ethernet patch panels. Both of them are available in different designs, configurations or port counts, and can be customized to fit various network cabling requirements.

Fiber Optic Panels

  • Standard Fiber Optic Patch Panel: the standard fiber optic patch panel can be loaded with LC/SC/MTP adapters, which are commonly used as the intermediate connection between the backbone and patch cables. FS FHD fiber patch panels come with single mode and multimode fiber types with different adapter options and port counts.

  • Breakout Patch Panel: breakout patch panels are specifically designed for high-density 40G-10G and 100G-25G breakout cabling. As an agile and scalable solution to mitigate cable clusters and improve airflow, breakout patch panels deliver aesthetic appeal and make the data center a more inviting place. The breakout patch panels in FS come with both single mode and multimode options.

  • Modular Patch Panel: rack mount modular fiber enclosure panel and multimedia adapter panel are the two common types of modular panels. The former can hold up to 4 FHD MTP cassettes or fiber adapter panels, fitting for both front and rear mounting in horizontal cable management. The latter can allow users to customize their own adapter panel in a high density cabling system.

Ethernet Patch Panels

  • Cat5e/Cat6 Ethernet Patch Panel: it is designed for both shielded and unshielded copper cables like Cat5e, Cat6 and Cat6a Ethernet cables. The Cat5e/Cat6 Ethernet patch panels come with the feed-through and punch-down designs.

  • Blank Keystone Patch Panel: the keystone patch panel can accept both couplers and keystone jacks to configure your Ethernet patch panel to accommodate a variety of schemes. Additionally, it can be mounted to any standard 19-inch relay rack, cabinet or wall bracket to create a specialised rack mount patch panel to fit your individual networking requirements. When you are not sure to decide in advance which type of cables will be used to connect your hardware, you can use a blank keystone patch panel to make a mixed connection based on your actual demands.

What is a Patch Panel Used for?

The patch panel is one of the few components used in both copper and fiber cabling networks and almost all business network setups use patch panels for cabling installations. So what can be a patch panel used for? Finding the answers in the following descriptions.

Providing More Flexibility

First, they can give you flexibility and prevent the need to re-run cables or swap equipment places around if you need to change something or if something breaks. For example, punching down the cable to patch panels can allow mechanical relief to the comparatively expensive switch ports. If the cable from the wall or ceiling were to be plugged right into a switch port, that port could be subject to pulling, pushing, etc. and it does not take much for an RJ-45 plug to lose some connectivity like that - either with the inside of a switch port or with the connection to the cable itself.

Simplifying Your Network Cable Management

Some businesses use structured cabling for phones or you may have multiple businesses sharing office space. In these circumstances, a patch panel would also multiple different equipment to be easily connected to any outlet. The cables on the back of patch panels correspond to permanent jack locations in the users space, which can bring easy and accurate patch panel wiring for network newbies. Besides, the ability to label individual cable runs in a patch panel creates a cleaner and more organized way of identifying signal flow, and troubleshooting technical problems becomes an easier chore.

The Bottom Line

By using a patch panel, for instance, you can get to all your cables and terminations easily. For enterprise, patch panels are often found in areas that house telecommunications equipment and they play a central role in network functionality. By centralizing cables in one place, patch panels make it easy for network administrators to move, add or change complex network architectures. In a business environment, patch panels are the smart way to quickly transfer communications lines from office to another.

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