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A Tidy, Maintainable Cabinet Wiring Methodology?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the avoid-the-rat's-nest dept.


mawhin asks: "I've seen a couple of articles highlighting readers' favourite tidy/untidy cabling, and conversations along the lines of 'I always do my cabling *real* tidy' / 'yeah but how can you change stuff when everything is zip tied down'. 'Use velcro not zip ties' is obviously a good tip, but what I'd really like to know is how you all do it. My particular situation involves multiple racks of switches next to racks of patch panels. What methodology would you recommend for installation and ongoing change to ensure that stuff is tidy enough to be able to trace cable; isn't so tight the you can't re-patch without stripping big chunks of cabling out; and the arrangement doesn't inevitably deteriorate?"

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chrome.... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16166531)

...spark plug wire spreaders from the hot rod ricer store. Well you asked! I'm an old gear head, that's what I would use! They look sharp!

Re:chrome.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16167313)

to ensure that stuff is tidy enough to be able to trace cable; isn't so tight the you can't re-patch without stripping big chunks of cabling out; and the arrangement doesn't inevitably deteriorate

Well, sure, pick one of your stated goals.

Re:chrome.... (1)

pipingguy (566974) | more than 7 years ago | (#16169657)

If you've ever seen a complex piperack [] there are probably similarities.

Of course, with electronics there is only one medium flowing, and if it gets out all you have is magic blue smoke. Well, OK, maybe also a fire and destruction of data.

Stage Hands Trick (1)

Marillion (33728) | more than 7 years ago | (#16169817)

I use a technique that professional stage hands use to keep their wiring neat and portable - tie line.

The usual technique is to use 18" cuts, tie a clove-hitch first, then finish with a bow knot like your shoes

My idea (1)

alphax45 (675119) | more than 7 years ago | (#16166559)

Velcro zip ties are your best bet along with some kind of guide for the wires. I suggest PVC tubes. Of course the wires in my house are a mess, so take my advice with that in mind

Cable management (2, Interesting)

jcdick1 (254644) | more than 7 years ago | (#16166589)

Where I used to work, they would stack their MDF (Main Distribution Frame) full of patch panels, 4U each and 11 per frame. Each panel would host 144 ports. Front and back came to over 3000 pairs of fibre coming into each frame. This was done without any horizontal cable management. Well-spaced cable management, both horizontal and vertical, is key to a maintainable bulk cabling system. We finally migrated all of that to new MDF, with 2U cable management between every two patch panels and dropped the port density per panel from 144 to 72. That made 2U of cable management for every 8U of patch panel space. This made it very easy to trace and pull fibre without unintentionally impacting other fibre paths. With good cable management products in a well-thought out arrangement, you may not even have to use ties. Even in your switch cabinets. All of this fibre ran to several fully-populated McData FC switches, and we would put cable management both above and below each switch. This would allow us to run the cable in, through the management, and either straight down or straight up to the appropriate switch port. We didn't even need ties.

Re:Cable management (3, Interesting)

sam1am (753369) | more than 7 years ago | (#16166855)

Good cable management products are a good first step. I like Panduit's.

Label each side of any cable with a "wire run number" and document these religiously. If you have someone else doing the work for you, check out ranges of wire numbers to them.

We use numbers with a two-letter series and then 4 digits.

For your initial install, put AA0001 at position 1, and work upwards. While obviously, this won't be the case for everything, for larger bundles, its easier to deal with.

Finally, label the patch points clearly. ADC makes great designations strips with plastic windows.

Re:Cable management (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16167903)

What's wrong with 'AA0000'?

Re:Cable management (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16169831)

AA0000 is fine, but if your patch bay is pre-labeled to start with position 1, then it's easier to match the numbers that way.

Re:Cable management (2, Insightful)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 7 years ago | (#16168515)

If you have a small enough number of patches (fewer than 200) use color electrical tape instead. Its much easier to see and it looks nice too.

Re:Cable management (1)

Bishop (4500) | more than 7 years ago | (#16170307)

This is a good scheme. When we ran our wires we labeled everything based on the location it was going to. This was fine. We also labeled all the patch cables in the server racks based on the machine it connected to. This was a mistake. Because it is such a pain to remove the lables we have patch cables that claim to go to machines that no longer exist. A simple numbering scheme would have fixed this problem.

Use less cabling (1)

Ant P. (974313) | more than 7 years ago | (#16166657)

A few well-placed switches can do wonders.

Re:Use less cabling (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 7 years ago | (#16177445)

yes but in first or second world you have to use "counciling memos" instead (but hey if you can get away with Caning folks that bork your cable setup go for it

There are ways to keep wiring racks tidy (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16166677)

There are ways to keep wiring racks tidy but few do it.

Some hints:

  • Leave some space, it might be a nice feat of engineering to pack 2" diameter cable bundle in a 2" space but thats too tight. Want the next cable run to be in there neat then leave some space, at least 3 times what is going in up front.
  • If you might expand, leave even more space.
  • Smaller bundles logically grouped. Putting everything in one big bundle makes it harder to work with. There is picture tidy and practical tidy, you want the later.
  • Pre-wire and provision all you can right up front to reduce add ons and mess grow. EVEN if it means potentially dead cable. Costs more in the short term but less that the long term. This eliminates the costs and needs to rip open the bundles every month for 10 years.
  • Before hiring someone, see their work. Ya, the other guy is cheaper but doesn't put the cables in tidy...
  • Specify in contracts (internal or external) that tidy inspections, not just functional specifications as need to be met before the job is considered done.
  • Realise the proportion of tidyness in the rack is proportionate to the quality planning. In fact, to know how organized a place is, ask to see their rackspace.
  • Add and use hooks along side the raceways just for new cable. When the hook gets full, bundle it off to the side. This is so your not forever rebundling cable.
  • Consider a distributed model where all the cable is decentralized in smaller chunks with high speed uplinks. "One Big Mother" switch is often one big mother mess no one wants to touch.
  • Get management support for policies on above. You may need to rectify an admin who just throws a cable over in a disorganized way, make them follow up and do it right.

Re:There are ways to keep wiring racks tidy (2, Funny)

beyond_stupid (1004891) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171923)

Just ask a woman to do it. Done.

Re:There are ways to keep wiring racks tidy (1)

Avatar8 (748465) | more than 7 years ago | (#16184769)

Pre-wire and provision all you can right up front to reduce add ons and mess grow. EVEN if it means potentially dead cable. Costs more in the short term but less that the long term. This eliminates the costs and needs to rip open the bundles every month for 10 years.
This is a great point I'd like to emphasize.

In most cases you're talking about activating/deactivating a LAN jack to a switch since most router/switch to switch connections should be fairly static.

  • Lay ALL the cable that you may ever need (i.e. a cable for every possible port).
  • Label each end of it so it can be identified without having to trace it. (A logical label such as switch/port would be very useful.)
  • Bundle these by switch/panel. (Hopefully you can have a 1:1 panel to switch ratio.)
  • If the LAN jack needs to be active, plug it in; if not, leave it in the cable tray.
  • If you have the switch space, plug everything on that end into the switch. This way you only need to worry about the ends at the LAN jacks.

I wanted to do something like this at my last job, but instead we added more blades to our 4507 and made it into a wiring nightmare. Glad I'm not there any longer.

Entropy says: (3, Interesting)

Illserve (56215) | more than 7 years ago | (#16166763)

Whether a wiring job eventually deteriorates or not is up to you, not the setup you've chosen. If you have the kind of personality and drive to keep it clean, you will, no matter what setup you use.

There is no magic bullet arrangement of cables and velcro that is immune to entropy.

Re:Entropy says: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16166943)

Sure there is! A rackspace is an open system. Now, include the employees, and you have a system that is more closed. You can keep a rackspace tidy while it gets reconfigured, but it takes continual effort from the employees, which are these funny fleshy blobs that turn food into poop while spitting out lots and lots of heat.

Mod parent up! (2, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | more than 7 years ago | (#16166969)

I'm in the server room, grooming cables, all the time.

I do this because the other people I work with will string a cable across the room at neck height or ankle height. They don't care. Their tolerance for sloppiness is far higher than mine.

Even though they are happier when they have to trace a problem just after I've finished cleaning up. They're not willing to put in the effort to keep it clean. And there's really no way you can make someone be neat (without firing him).

I wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16191661)

I wonder if, before hiring anyone likely to do anything involving network cabling (or any other job that works better when everything is neat and tidy - like just about every job), if you asked them to bring in a picture of their office (or other work space) at home - if it would somehow give a clue as to what kind of an employee they were in regards to neatness?

I say this because I have known people who, at work, were/are incredible slobs - sometimes able to find things, most likely not finding things at all, only to print it out AGAIN for the meeting, then discarding it in the general pile when they go back to their desks. If you visit their home, their own personal areas aren't much better (sometimes to the point where you want to declare "SEE THIS? THIS IS WHY YOU ARE OUT SICK SO OFTEN!" - basically the point of where you wonder how many hours of life you have lost by being in the same area of squallor).

Panel to Switch Tip (4, Insightful)

ddillman (267710) | more than 7 years ago | (#16166847)

Ever notice that most switches group their ports in 4 or 6 to a group? What I do in these cases is bundle my patch cables in that same number between the panel and switch. makes it much easier to trace one when you can locate the small bundle, then isolate the specific cable. I usually just used the same twist ties that the patch cables came packaged in, but you could also use velcro. I was just being frugal. In most cases, I tied the bundles together in at least 3 points along the length of the bundle, assuming they're all going to the same panel and switch. Kept the bundles neat. I typically routed the small bundles using cable management panels on the racks that came equipped for it (all of them, after I started specifying).

It's not photo-pretty, but it is practical, very easy to modify at need. Some of those photo racks I'd be afraid to mess with for fear of having to try to return it to that state!

Re:Panel to Switch Tip (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 7 years ago | (#16170649)

if you get that many colors of cable it's even easier, 5 colors and five to a bundle mean you just need to trace the bundle

Re:Panel to Switch Tip (1)

ddillman (267710) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171847)

if you get that many colors of cable it's even easier, 5 colors and five to a bundle mean you just need to trace the bundle

That's a good idea, however we had already color coded by function, so it would not have worked in my case.

Intelligent Rack Layout (1)

Ed Almos (584864) | more than 7 years ago | (#16166997)

That's the secret. Our network racks are set out as follows:

Row 1 Sixteen port telephone switch with only fourteen ports allocated (room for expansion)

Row 2 Thirty two port patch panel

Row 3 Sixteen port network switch with only fourteen ports allocated (room for expansion)

Repeat layout as many times as needed down the rack. This will mean that you can use quarter metre patch cords and keep the layout nice and neat.

Ed Almos

Re:Intelligent Rack Layout (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16167127)

From the setups I've worked with, 14 of 16 ports used is not "room for expansion".

Space, and guides. (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 7 years ago | (#16167027)

If you fill a rack floor to ceiling with ports, *and* you want to contantly change the configuration, you're just plain screwed.

I used to work on software for multi-node clusters, and we were constantly reconfiguring the networking between a rack of switches, a rack of patch panels, and many, many racks of 1U servers. The key was leaving space between the patch panels and between the switches and using horizontal cable guides to keep the wires neat. Something like these [] .

For vertical runs I typically used velcro, but if you aren't the type to patiently unstrap, move wires and restrap, one strap at a time, then you should consider getting vertical guides similar to those I linked above.

Yes, this technique cuts the number of ports you can have in your rack in half. If you ask me, it's worth it.

Maintenance needed (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 7 years ago | (#16167183)

I think you have to partially or fully redo it once a year or so, if you have a lot of change.

Other than that, colored cables, markings at both ends of each cable and generous space.

D-I-Y == Do It Yourself && Patience (1)

sciop101 (583286) | more than 7 years ago | (#16167217)

I do it weekly. Found lots of cables doing nothing at first (about 50%).

The look on the local networking guru's face was priceless. Missing cables and the network was working great.

His documentation was all in his head!

Numbers at each end (4, Insightful)

tsstahl (812393) | more than 7 years ago | (#16167221)

Quality appearance is a bit more expensive. Realize this and accept it.

Buy the patch cables that are serialized at each end.

Buy THE CORRECT LENGTH patch cables.

Use Velcro, never zip ties.

Always leave room for expansion.

Color code. We use green exclusively for telecom (TDM, and VOIP), Blue for standard jacks, etc. NEVER violate color coding, even though it is incredibly tempting to do so.

some day (1)

Neuropol (665537) | more than 7 years ago | (#16167299)

maybe some one will come up with a quick-release zip tie

it will work much like an rj45 or rj11 where simply pressing the lock clip will allow for it to open.

ideally, they'd be (re)sizable, re-usbale, and some what cost effective. Even at ~$5 per pack of 100 or so, doing a large installation, that adds up on a material budget with the normal ziptie of today. small, but still a number.

Re:some day (3, Informative)

toastyman (23954) | more than 7 years ago | (#16167497)

Do you mean like these [] ?

Re:some day (1)

Neuropol (665537) | more than 7 years ago | (#16168679)

yes. exactly like those. see, great minds do think alike! :/

Keeping Your Racks Neat Takes Work (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16167459)

As an addition to what other folks have said, keeping your rack neat takes work.

In my data center, temporary cables are bright red (other network functions are also color-coded), and the policy is that each temporary cable has a service tag (little paper-and-string one) on it with the initials of the person who installed it, the date they installed it, the date they expect to remove it, and the number of the bugzilla bug that's associated with it.

Related policy is that any non-red, non-bundled cable gets removed immediately by anyone who sees it, as do any red cables without a service tag.

When I started this policy, there was a lot of unhappiness about it (and the racks were an unholy mess), but after about a year or so, I've noticed that our wiring guys no longer need to spend a day or two a month rerunning wiring in some rack (with an associated service outage). Three years later, the data center has doubled in size, my headcount for management has stayed the same, and everyone is (usually...) working 8-hour days.

Oh, and the other hard bit about keeping racks neat: If you're managing people who don't share your desire for neatness and documentation, get used to being called all sorts of nasty things behind your back when you start putting "neat rack" policies in place.

get re-usable cable ties (1)

cmoss (14324) | more than 7 years ago | (#16167583)

If budget is a concern re-usable cable ties are less expensive than velcro. Harbor freight used to sell a 500 piece box for $9.99.

Get color coded cables, get unique colors for internal network, DMZ, public interfaces, phone lines.

Get the right length cables. Buy them online from a reputable source before building out rack rather than buying off the shelf at the last minute.

Route power cables to one side of cabinet (unless you have redundant power supplies).
If you are using a power strip in the rack get a vertical strip that is as tall as will fit in cabinet. Get outlets space 4 or 6 inch on center.

Tracing cables... (1)

CODiNE (27417) | more than 7 years ago | (#16167657)

Ummm... you don't trace cables, that's how you zip-tie them, by labeling both ends.

Re:Tracing cables... (2, Informative)

acidrain69 (632468) | more than 7 years ago | (#16168049)

Or if you are in a situation where there are already un-labelled cables, use one of these [] . It's a tone generator and probe. Plug the generator in at your drop, and use the probe to find that cable on your panel. We have one of these that we paid $180 for, but the one on the link is cheaper. We also got a cable tester that also generates tones, so you can put the generator/tester at the drop, go to the panel, locate the cable with the probe, then plug in a receiver from the tester kit and it will tell you the status of the cable. It's just a tester, not a cable certifier. Those are crazy-expensive, and not necessary for my work.

(no affiliation with triangle cables, just the first link I googled)

This thread is useless... (1)

TClevenger (252206) | more than 7 years ago | (#16168735)

without pics. Seriously. I've seen a lot of faraway pictures, but nothing concrete or close-up enough that I can apply it to my MDF. Anybody have some nice closeup pictures of a well-done installation?

Not anymore... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16171383)

Found this a while back:
From a Network Wiring Mess to Wiring Nirvana 1.html []

Re:This thread is useless... (1)

magetoo (875982) | more than 7 years ago | (#16175503)

The recent article [] and thread had some pics posted.

(Note that in keeping with Internet custom, I am posting porn in response to a "useless without pics" comment. Specifically bondage, although "messy racks" are also mentioned.)

A few quick ideas (1)

KenFury (55827) | more than 7 years ago | (#16171171)

1) zip ties are fine in small (logical!) bunches of 4-8 depending on your switch. Velcro the rest.
2) leave 100% for growth. Cable is cheap. Bigger holes are cheap.
3) Label everything. Colour codes are very helpful as well as a peice of paper on each end of every cable. SAN, Telco, WAN, LAN, Servers, erc.. all should be coulour coded. so far as labels (group)-(cable) i.e. 3-2 == group/bundle 3, cable 2
4) dont let anyone you dont trust to touch it. it sounds like an asshole thing to do but it will save your ass
5) set aside 4 hours of every quarter to keep up with the mess that it will become even still.
6) service loops. leave 2-3 feet neatly coiled for movement.
7) did I mention labels? LABEL EVERYTHING!

Cable Management (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16172917)

- Use correct length for the patch in question. - Label cables with length and unique serial number eg 3/34567 - that way I know how "far" the cable has gone. - Colour code - gray = general, red = server, blue = network ( place an X before the length identifier for Cross over cables) - Use horizontal and vertical cable management ie use 800mm wide cabs not 600mm - Cables to a switch should be pre-loomed so that if line card has to be swapped - makes life a lot easier for engineer. - Dress cables such that the is a demarcation point doen the middle such that left hand only go to the left and like wise with the right hand side. End.

This worked for us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16271871)

At a company I no longer work for, we had a real snake's nest of patch cables connecting ports on the patch panels to switches in the cabinet. Wanting a cleaner, more manageable solution, we implemented 3 simple steps...

1.) Moved switches and patch panels so the rack from top to bottom was panel-switch-panel-switch-panel-switch (3x48 port panels and 3x48 port switches)
2.) This was not a cheap one, but we had custom patch cables made by our cabling contractor. These patch cables were cut to the appropriate length (about 18 inches) to reach from a patch panel to the switch directly beneath it. Prior to this, we used 6 foot patch cables for everything, which is what created the mess in the first place
3.) We instituted a simple color code...
              Anything from the outside==RED
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