9 Ways to Improve Data Center Cable Management

 Nov 28, 2014   |    Black Box

Cable management is one of the most important aspects of data center design. Last week, Processor magazine interviewed our Wire and Cable Product Engineer, Steve Molek, on ways to improve data center cable management. Below is the transcript from that interview.

Processor: Do you feel data centers have made inroads in recent years in terms of cable management, neatness, and organization? If so, what do you attribute the improvement to?

Steve: Yes. Equipment overall has become smaller, thus allowing more electronics in a cabinet.  Because of this, installers must pay closer attention to cable management, otherwise they can lose the valuable space gained to the additional cables.

Processor: In what areas do data centers still falter in terms of cable management? Where can they still improve?

Steve: Old habits die hard. In the past, cable management was not a focus, since data centers used a more “centralized design." Today, cable management should follow a more structured design, similar to horizontal cable runs.

Also, one of the simplest ways to organize your data center is by using colored patch cables and bulk cables. Colored cable has been around a long time, and coloring the security system differently from accounting or customer service lines, for example, is a great way to visually identify different runs of cable at a glance. We offer the same kind of coloring in our fiber patch cable lines as well, which is not as common in the industry.

Processor: What are three or so specific ways you’d recommend to data centers to improve their cable management?


  1. Organize horizontal cable trunks in manageable bundles. Not only does this make your cable management neater, it also helps distribute weight and keeps cables cool, which helps improve network performance.
  1. Consider locking down critical network ports using lockable patch cables. This prevents accidental disconnects and tampering.
  1. Don’t have cable bundle trunks block cabinet airflow pathways – this could hinder airflow and increase heat in the cabinet, which could cause premature equipment failures.
  1. In tight situations, like cabinets with doors, take advantage of 90-degree angled patch cables. They are designed to maximize space while maintaining high performance.
  1. Use hook-and-loop cable straps instead of nylon cable ties. Hook-and-loop is reusable and puts less stress on cabling bundles. Nylon cable ties could be put on too tightly and cause pressure points on the cable jacket, changing the cable geometry and thus decreasing performance.
  1. Choose the best cable managers for your application – no one cable manager can be universally used. Some cable managers are simple and use hooks to organize cabling bundles. Others are more complex and allow individual cable runs to exit at various points. Some of these more elaborate cable managers have covers to hide bundles and keep your installation neat.
  1. In fiber applications, explore the use of MPO-style cassettes and trunk cables. This will allow more connections in less space and dramatically reduce the number of fiber cables that need to be managed.
  1. Keep patch cables as short as possible within your equipment cabinets to prevent kinks and entanglement, as well as to improve overall network performance.
  1. Use horizontal cable managers above and below patch panels as needed so that you can have access above and below the panel and never have patch cables completely covering it.

Processor: What series of steps or guidelines do you recommend a data center follow to improve its cable management?

Steve: Follow the ANSI/TIA 606-B Cable Labeling Standards:

  • The size, color, and contrast of all labels should be easily readable.
  • Labels should be immune from any environmental conditions to extend their design life.
  • All labels should be machine generated.
  • All racks/cabinets, patch panels, cable bundles, outlets, wall plates, electronic equipment, and connectivity components should be identified. Design a logical and scalable labeling system for current and future installations.

Probably most important of all: Keep good records on all work done in the data center.

Processor: What expenses or tools might be required?

Steve: As density increases in the data center, it’s easy to overlook cable management, but you might need to dedicate expensive rack space to it.

Invest in a professional label maker. Although labeling can be done by hand, the use of a good quality labeler will greatly improve your cable management.

Processor: What general tips could data centers benefit from in regard to cable management?

Steve: If labeling is done properly and cable management is neat and organized, it will improve the time technicians spend on MAC (Moves, Adds, and Changes) work.

Use cable support bars on heavy copper trunks.  As density demand increases and copper cabling categories increase from legacy Category 5e to Category 6A, eliminating all possible stress on ports will reduce port failures.

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