Structured cabling is an integral part of any data centre design, but if professionals do not plan ahead when developing these solutions, they could end up with a network that struggles to reach its potential.
The importance of getting this right was highlighted in a recent blog post by CommScope field application engineer Shobhit Jain, who noted that data centre design has a lot in common with road networks.
Like highways, if networks are poorly designed and fail to take into account the potential for issues such as future growth in traffic volume, it will leave users stuck and unable to reach full speed. While this could be a familiar frustration on the morning commute, it may also be hugely damaging to a business' efficiency.
Another similarity to road networks is that once mistakes have been made, they can be very hard to correct without creating further disruption. Mr Jain highlighted an example from his own commute, where a six-lane highway converges into just two lanes, creating a serious bottleneck. While work has begun to improve this by adding additional lanes, he noted the roadworks themselves are adding to the chaos.
Why design matters for the future
This illustrates the importance of planning for the future when it comes to network design. Even if you're satisfied the solutions you're putting in place will meet the demands of today's traffic, you can't assume it will be easy to simply add more capacity when needed in the future.
"Data centre managers go through similar thinking processes [as road engineers] when designing the network," Mr Jain said. "The design stage is critical; it practically decides the outcome of a project, and most importantly, whether the investments are fully maximised."
He observed that there tend to be two types of customers he deals with when it comes to data centre design. There are those who view structured cabling as just part of the facility function that should be deployed when building the physical data centre, while others believe structured cabling is integral to the overall IT infrastructure.
Those in the former category often end up struggling the most with their passive infrastructure design, and many of the problems arise from the fact that the cabling plans are being drawn up in isolation from the rest of the network infrastructure, which results in increases in both time and financial costs.
This is especially the case as it can take up to 12 months between the data centre build and the network design implementation. Changes in demand during this time can mean network operators see many discrepancies between the implemented cabling solution and the final requirement when deploying the active equipment.
Understanding the business goals
In order to ensure an effective data centre cabling design, Mr Jain said it is vital to understand the business goals, regardless of whether engineers are taking a top-down or bottom-up approach to their data centre.
"At the core of either approach, data centre managers have to keep in mind during the design process that the network infrastructure within the data centre must be able to scale and is agile," he explained.
This will be especially important when it comes to factoring in future applications that will require higher bandwidth. For instance, Mr Jain suggested that the emergence of 5G in the coming years will be one of the key drivers of this increase, as it will enable the use of many more data-intensive applications. Therefore, future data centre design must be ready for these new demands.