Cable management—it must be the bane of every
network administrators life. You can make every effort to patch things neatly
and keep cables in a particular order, but, it doesn't take long before patch
panels turn in to spaghetti junction. I don't know about you, but for me, the
most frustrating instance is one where I have a patch to make and one cable
length is just too short, the next is way too long—this is really annoying and
creates an unnecessary mess in cabinets.
Have you tried tracing a cable from a particular patch port to the appropriate
port in your switch lately? Find yourself tugging on something, hoping that you
don't accidentally rip out another 10 cables—tracing the movement through that
mangled mess and then holding your breath as you unplug hoping it's the right
one? If that sounds familiar I'm not surprised, take a look at some of these
photos I found on Google:
Example A: http://colossus.net/resell.patch.html
Example B: http://www.competitivecomputers.com/messy%20closet.gif
And these from the TechRepublic galleries:
It's clear to see that most of us have a major issue on our
hands. Simply re-patching one cable can be a difficult experience; now imagine having
to swap out a switch; not fun!
With this being such an obvious problem, there must be lots of companies out
there trying to sell us solutions—some with 'do it yourself' kits, some with
full re-patching/install services (cue A-Team
theme tune). Lets take a look at what's out there.
We wont mention the no management option, which is
the most obvious method and the one that we have either inherited or
encountered the most often. The most widespread form of management is the
classic assortment of raceways, clips, ducts, cable management bays, and cable
ties (even Velcro wraps for the more forward thinking individuals). Most server
rooms I have seen use this collection of accessories to provide a basis for
structured cable layout; when planned and set up properly, these can be very
effective and could make any network admin proud when showing people around his
(or her) den.
Here's an impressive shot from Matrixforce
Well these look great, surely then it's just a case of
discipline on the part of anyone needing to re-patch or put in new patches? In
theory yes, although it seems that many cabinets and panels start off looking
like those above but soon degrade to the mess of which we're all accustomed.
The problem is that while everything looks neat in these installations, often
adding, removing, replacing or re-routing a cable can become quite a headache.Look at the Example F above: extensive
use of cable ties keeps everything tight and tidy but tracing one of those
cables, or worse, trying to replace one—that could be a pain. Things are madeeasier by using Velcro cable ties as seen in the Example E. These allow you to simply loosen the bunch, which makes
tracing a cable much easier (I prefer to use Velcro when possible). One thing I
have been guilty of in the past is to use the vertical management space to take
up excess cable. Typically, this is when you need to make a 2m patch and can
only find 3m cables—I think most people have done this at some time.
So we've looked at some of the messes that can happen and some pictures of the
classic approach to tidying up. In the next installment, I'll tell you about a
couple of companies that I found with some even more innovative approaches to
keeping your cable management neat and orderly.