The novel coronavirus and COVID-19 have changed everything, but they have presented some unique challenges for data centers.
Many individual data centers are operating at or near capacity, but companies are working quickly to catch up. Why the increase in workload? More people working at home means larger loads in unexpected places. Where previously data needs were centered in industrial areas and high rises, many people can now work remotely.
For companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter and other tech giants, the work from anywhere trend is here to stay for the foreseeable future. That means that high-level demand for bandwidth has moved out into the suburbs and beyond.
The Data Center Response
Recently, we sat down with AnD Cable Product customer David Issel, Asset Manager (Headend) for a Comcast Data Center.
He explained that headends are on the front lines, and many of these “essential employees” cannot work remotely. “I could troubleshoot some things from memory,” he told us. “But much of what I do is right here, in front of me.”
In March and early April, as employees transitioned to working at home, headends were suddenly at capacity, “HVAC systems running at capacity, and the whole place running at like 95%,” Issel said. The challenge is that with social distancing and mask mandates means that getting people to physically install equipment, update cooling systems, and prepare centers for faster systems like 5G creates logistical issues.
Tasks must be staggered and the number of staff on hand limited to keep employees safe. The work still needs to be done, though, and companies are catching up and preparing for what’s next, the “new normal” if you will.
The Typical Data Center Day
They typical headend day is essentially made up of “putting out fires,” Issel tells us. “There’s always somebody calling me or coming to find me who needs something.” The most critical thing: uptime. Headends must keep their customers happy by keeping servers up and running.
Anyone who has worked at home for any length of time can tell you the hassle of the internet going down in the middle of a Zoom meeting.
With a background in construction and IT before coming to telecommunications, David Issel is used to being busy, and used to how rapidly industries change. He finds much of his new information and relevant work articles on LinkedIn. Largely devoid of politics and the other news of the day, the social media platform provides focus and data others don’t.
The most common problem is getting and staying caught up. Headends are busy, ever changing places with large time and intellectual demands on personnel.
The Physical Internet
There is no such thing as the cloud. The cloud is really someone else’s computer, most often a server in a data center somewhere. Those servers, the cables and routers that make them up, and the way they are transmitted to your home are the components that make up the physical side of the internet.
That’s what data centers are all about, and while you’d think since components are getting smaller, the overall machines would too. However, the opposite is true. Many Comcast headends are moving from 19” racks to 23” racks, meaning longer horizontal lacing bars and new configurations.
That means less room for technicians to work, and that the design of racks and other components matters more than ever. While the internet, cables, and 5G and other demands mean data centers need to adapt, their equipment doesn’t always make that easy. That’s where innovation and AnD Cable comes in.
A Unique Problem
When the new racks and a Cisco Prisma 2XD Platform Router Chassis was installed, it created a problem, Issel told us. The old lacing bars the company was using no longer fit. Screw holes didn’t line up, and with different sized racks in the same space, any adaptation was inefficient.
The other problem? Technicians struggled for somewhere to put their tools. Quite simply, the old lacing bars were in the way. So he had an idea. There was a way to help the technicians and make sure everything was dynamic, flexible, and fit more than one need.
He only needed one thing. Someone to build it for him.
An AnD Cable Products Solution
When he needed something different, David Issel turned to Louis and AnD Cable Products. He had a thought, and took one of the old lacing bars, bent it so holes would line up, had the idea of making it adjustable, and shared the idea with Louis.
In a matter of days, the prototype was back, and nearly perfect. A few tweaks later, and the headend had a new edge: a custom designed, dynamic, Horizontal Cable Management Bar for his Cisco routers that was “perfect for the application,” according to Issel.
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