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Cabling becoming a key sustainability issue in data centers

By Donna Donnawitz
June 19, 2012
Typical data center cabling setups are frequently so inefficient that they contribute to hot zones in facilities and push cooling systems to their maximum capacity. This drives energy costs to unsustainable level and contributes to excess carbon emissions. According to a recent Data Center Journal report, more data center operators have become aware of the environmental impact of inefficient cabling setups and are working to improve installation and management processes to ensure more sustainable operations.

Most data center operators use some combination of copper and fiber-optic optic cables throughout the data center. In the past, most facilities have used raised floor configuration to handle plenum cables, the report said. This setup, at a surface level, makes sense. The raised floor space provides a neat channel for power and network cable systems, allowing operators to easily connect servers and other systems to the necessary patch panels, power distribution sources and switches.

The problem with raised floor setups is that they often become congested with cables, sometimes unused wires that were needed in the past, limiting airflow to the servers. The news source explained that this leads to hot spots in the data center, forcing cooling systems to work harder to keep equipment running at optimal temperatures. To resolve the issue, more operators are turning to overhead cabling systems.

In theory, overhead cabling allows for better cool air flow from below the servers and still delivers the data and power needed to keep servers running, the report said. However, many overhead setups use mesh cable trays to manage the wires running through the facility. If unused cords are not taken out of the tray or active cables are not routed effectively, the trays can become overstuffed with wiring, limiting airflow. Essentially, overhead cabling systems have the potential to allow for more sustainable data center operations, but do not inherently improve airflow. They still need to be managed effectively.

Dealing with cabling can be easier when using fiber-to-Ethernet media conversion. In some data centers, the answer to bandwidth challenges is to simply layer on more ports and copper cabling connections to server systems, aggregating bandwidth more effectively. But such a setup leads to more cable density, limiting airflow. Using fiber-optic cable in such systems, then switching back to copper where sensible, can allow for more streamlined cable management. Media conversion can enable such adaptable cabling solutions.

Perle has an extensive range of Managed and Unmanaged Fiber Media Converters to extended copper-based Ethernet equipment over a fiber optic link, multimode to multimode and multimode to single mode fiber up to 160km.


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