Cable Management

Cable management--it must be the bane of every

network administrator’s 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:
Example B:

And these from the TechRepublic galleries:

Example c

Example d

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). Let’s take a look at what's out there.

We won’t 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.

Example E
Example e

Here's an impressive shot from Matrixforce


Example F
Example f

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 made

easier 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.