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A Tidy, Maintainable Cabinet Wiring Methodology? 43

Posted by Cliff
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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A Tidy, Maintainable Cabinet Wiring Methodology?

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  • chrome.... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23, 2006 @08:00AM (#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!
    • by pipingguy (566974) *
      If you've ever seen a complex piperack [slb.com] 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.
    • 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

  • 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 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jcdick1 (254644) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @08:20AM (#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 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sam1am (753369) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @09:16AM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Spazmania (174582)
        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.
      • by Bishop (4500)
        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.
  • A few well-placed switches can do wonders.
    • 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
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 23, 2006 @08:40AM (#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: (Score:2, Funny)

      Just ask a woman to do it. Done.
    • by Avatar8 (748465)

      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 (
  • Entropy says: (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Illserve (56215) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @09:00AM (#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.

    • Mod parent up! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by khasim (1285)
      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).
  • by ddillman (267710) <dgdillman@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Saturday September 23, 2006 @09:14AM (#16166847) Journal

    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!

    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      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

      • by ddillman (267710)

        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.

  • 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
  • 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 [iscdfw.com].

    For vertical runs I typically used ve
  • 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.

  • 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!

  • by tsstahl (812393) on Saturday September 23, 2006 @10:11AM (#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.

  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    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 re
  • 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 v
  • Ummm... you don't trace cables, that's how you zip-tie them, by labeling both ends.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by acidrain69 (632468)
      Or if you are in a situation where there are already un-labelled cables, use one of these [trianglecables.com]. 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 th
  • 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?
  • 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 s

The bogosity meter just pegged.

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