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The Data Link Layer – How DAC and AOC Cables Can Work For You

Feature - The Data Link Layer - How DAC and AOC Cables Can Work For You - Cable Management Blog

As the need for data storage and speed increases, the need for hyperscale data centers has increased. So has the need for edge data centers as well. While large-scale centers serve companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, other organizations are looking at smaller data centers closer to the end-user. In both cases, the data link layer of the data center is critical. Enter Direct Attach Copper (DACs) cables and Active Optical Cables (AOCs).

The Data Link Layer - How DAC and AOC Cables Can Work For You - Cable Management Blog
The data link layer of the data center is critical to ensuring your resources and used to their full potential

What is that data link layer? It’s the physical layer, the connection between servers that ensures all the computing resources are used to their full potential. The speed and integrity of these connectors can make a huge difference. 

They include Direct Attach Copper (DACs) cables, Active Optical Cables (AOCs), and fiber optic cable assemblies connected into transceivers throughout the data center. How does each one work, and why are they so critical to installation, maintenance, and deployment?

The Need for Speed

There are two aspects to the need for speed: the need for speed in shorter cables between servers, and the need for speed over longer distances. Different kinds of cables work differently in each instance. 

For example, DACs are most often used over short distances, connecting units in the same server rack. They can be active or passive – active connections are part of signal processing circuitry, and passive connections simply carry power. In the case of a DAC, the cable is made of copper rather than fiber. 


WHITEPAPER – Understanding Stranded and Solid Conductor Wiring in Modern Networks

Understanding Stranded and Solid Conductor Wiring in Modern Networks - AnD Cable Products Whitepaper

An overview of the differences between stranded and solid conductor wiring, the properties of each and the best cable type to use in a variety of typical settings.

  • Types of Stranded and Solid Conductor Wiring
  • Comparison of Electrical Properties
  • Factors Impacting Attenuation / Insertion Loss
  • Choosing the Right Cable


AOCs usually connect devices within the same row, but they cover longer distances than their copper cousins. However, they do not work in End of Row (EOR) or Middle of Row (MOR) configurations where certain types of patch panels are used. They are usually provided in fixed lengths from a few meters long to more than 100 meters. AOCs are active and include transceivers, control chips, and modules.

Both are fast, similar in speed to optic fiber cables, but that speed can be compromised by cable damage or in the case of DACs, electromagnetic interference. Both must be tested with a tool that can accept dual SFP/QSFP transceivers and generate and analyze traffic.

So how do you test them? Well, there are methods that include automation, but there are other factors to consider. 

Automation Matters

 Speed drives us to DACs and AOCs in some cases, but they can become damaged in a variety of ways. This often doesn’t even happen in the installation process, but in the shipping and handling before they even arrive at the data center. Sometimes it happens if they are stored and moved frequently. 

So the first place to test them is before installation. This ensures they are working before they are put into service. It’s easy to see how testing all cables at installation can be costly and time-consuming but not testing early can be costly later on. 

The solution is rapid, automated testing that can be done by running a test pattern where the results can be compared to a Bit Error Rate (BER) threshold. DAC and AOC cables including breakouts usually have a BER rating on their datasheets, especially when they are meant to be used with devices implementing the RS-FEC algorithm.

The tests only take a minute per cable and result in reports including a cable identifier, such as the serial number, identifying clearly any faulty equipment. 

Proper Power Planning

What’s the other advantage of DACs and AOCs? Energy savings. Point to point high-speed cables take less power and can save money, especially at scale. While DACs offer more dramatic numbers per cable, AOCs offer savings as well when multiple transceivers are replaced by cables. 

They’re not ideal for every case in every data center, but where they can be used as a key part of deployment, they can provide significant energy savings.

Living on the Edge Deployment

The other argument for DAC and AOC deployment and testing at installation exists on the edge. More Edge deployments force centers to increase speed, security, and efficiency at the same time as they minimize latency.

Opting to wait and address any connectivity issues during troubleshooting results in costly mistakes and skipping troubleshooting steps in favor of speedy repairs, sometimes those that are not necessary. Not only is this costly – cables can vary from tens of dollars to thousands but it can also lead to confusing labels and the increased probability of unplugging a live cable.

The fact that DACs and AOCs can be tested so quickly and easily at the time of installation is another great argument for their use in the data link layer. But no matter what cable configuration your data center uses, from point to point high-speed cables to other fiber and optical options, the management of that data link layer is critical to smooth data center operations.

Looking for High Speed Cables?

WD 25G SFP28 SFP+ DAC Cable - 25GBASE-CR, SFP28 to SFP28 Passive Direct Attach Copper, Twinax Cable

Ready to start optimizing your data link layer? Have questions about what cables might be right for you and your application? Whether you are deploying a brand new data center or making moves and changes, we’re here to help. Contact AnD Cable Products today for more information. We’re here to help every step of the way. 

About the Author

Louis Chompff - Founder, AnD Cable Products, Rack and Cable ManagementLouis Chompff – Founder & Managing Director, AnD Cable Products
Louis established AnD Cable Products – Intelligently Designed Cable Management in 1989. Prior to this he enjoyed a 20+ year career with a leading global telecommunications company in a variety of senior data management positions. Louis is an enthusiastic inventor who designed, patented and brought to market his innovative Zero U cable management racks and Unitag cable labels, both of which have become industry-leading network cable management products. AnD Cable Products only offer products that are intelligently designed, increase efficiency, are durable and reliable, re-usable, easy to use or reduce equipment costs. He is the principal author of the Cable Management Blog, where you can find network cable management ideas, server rack cabling techniques and rack space saving tips, data center trends, latest innovations and more.
Visit https://andcable.com or shop online at https://andcable.com/shop/

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Is The Future of Data Centers Hyperscale and Colocation?

Feature - Is The Future of Data Centers Hyperscale and Colocation? AnD Cable Management Blog

Whenever we talk about data centers, we talk about the fact that many businesses, even large enterprises, have moved to a cloud version of a data center, allowing someone else to manage their servers, storage, and other network elements. But colocation, born in the cloud DVR era, has started to make a comeback and is in fact, its own type of business. What’s driving this trend, and is it the future of data centers?

Jump to Section:

Future of Data Centers

What is Colocation?

Colocation is essentially where instead of installing servers in a certain area or a certain room in your business location, you rent space for your servers and equipment in an established data center owned by a third party. This space can consist of a small area, a room, or even a cage of sorts. Since the data center already has the power and cooling capacity needed to house servers, a business doesn’t need to invest in building and equipping a new space of their own.

Colocation started as a way for two companies, Comcast and Charter Communications worked with yet another company to set up a data center that could provide users of online “cloud DVR” services with the speed they needed to “re-stream” content they had recorded.

Today, colocation companies are really real estate brokers of sorts: they sell or rent space that meets a company’s specific needs. Space is located within a large (sometimes very large) data center where “tenants” share the cost for power, cooling, and maintenance.

But why the surge in popularity now and is the future of data centers?

The Cost of the Cloud

When data reaches a certain speed and volume needs, a cloud data center can sometimes be more expensive than a physical network. Businesses, as they grow, often discover this, and move at least part of their cloud computing back onto colocated servers where they own and maintain their own servers.

Another reason involves data sovereignty requirements: certain data cannot cross country or other boundaries, limiting the type and location of cloud data operations a company can use. The need for additional physical protection of data also feeds this trend.

Edge computing, the option of deploying IT assets in multiple, smaller, more geographically diverse locations, is changing the conversation around data centers. Digital assets are widely distributed between the cloud and colocation and the objectives of this type of distribution is constantly changing depending on company needs.

The Value of Space

One key here is space. Often a smaller business might only need a single rack of space: others might have greater needs. Ensuring that any rented space is used to the best advantage is key: the less space used, the lower the cost. After all, data center relocation companies are often simply real estate and property brokers, and many don’t understand exactly what their customers are trying to accomplish and what needs they might have.

But to “sell” their services effectively, they need to learn the language of computing rather than real estate. Square footage and “a killer window vies” must be replaced with terms like workload, performance, speed, and reliability. It’s important that they can share with customers how colocation in a large data center can meet their computing needs.

However, in another way, it’s important that the business understand things like an efficient use of rack space such as using Zero U cable routing systems, power allocation, proper cabling and labeling, and the physical protection the data center offers their network.

Some Benefits of Colocation

There are several benefits of colocation vs. building your own data center in your own business space.

  • Reliability – An established data center and shared computing with other businesses means your uptime is assured, and you have greater peace of mind when it comes to reliability.
  • Security and compliance – There are a variety of standards regarding physical and digital data security, and a colocated data center already meets those requirements. These concerns are more difficult to deal with when you have an on-site data center.
  • Cost of ownership – all the concerns related to data center security and reliability come with costs: those costs can quickly escalate. Colocation keeps those costs steady.
  • Scalability – Should you grow and need to scale your own data center, that could be quite costly. The potential space you have available in a colocated space makes scaling much simpler.
  • Interconnection – Being located with other businesses means you can do business together and share resources.
  • Hybrid cloud options – many colocation data centers also include cloud servers, meaning a hybrid cloud approach can be easier to adopt.

Of course, as with any data center solution, there can be some drawbacks. However, there are only a few, and most are related to cloud vs. colocation issues, including cost factors. These often come into play when a company is at a “tipping point” in growth, where they are on the verge of needing colocation, but cloud solutions are still working for them.

Physical Layer Environment Network Security Monitoring and Control

A150 Physical Layer Environment Network Security Monitoring and Control System Brochure

Full visibility, network security and control of your physical layer environment. Monitor your entire hybrid cloud and IT infrastructure from a cloud-based, integrated dashboard:

  • Introducing the A150 System
  • A150 System Architecture – High-Level Overview
  • A150 System Features
  • System Controller Hardware and Specifications
  • Monitoring Controllers, Probes and Sensors

About the Author

Louis Chompff - Founder, AnD Cable Products, Rack and Cable ManagementLouis Chompff, Founder & Managing Director, AnD Cable Products
Louis established AnD Cable Products – Intelligently Designed Cable Management in 1989. Prior to this he enjoyed a 20+ year career with a leading global telecommunications company in a variety of senior data management positions. Louis is an enthusiastic inventor who designed, patented and brought to market his innovative Zero U cable management racks and Unitag cabel labels, both of which have become industry-leading network cable management products. AnD Cable Products only offer products that are intelligently designed, increase efficiency, are durable and reliable, re-usable, easy to use or reduce equipment costs. He is the principal author of the Cable Management Blog, where you can find network cable management ideas, server rack cabling techniques and space saving tips, data center trends, latest innovations and more.
Visit https://andcable.com or shop online https://andcable.com/shop/

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3 Steps to Avoid Cable Management Troubles

Feature - 3 Steps to Avoid Cable Management Troubles - AnD Cable Management Blog

Do you ever have one of those projects that just turns into, well, a problem at every turn? You see it on your to-do list or as you walk by that area in the data center, and think, “I should finish that.” But the pain of the project, and the problems you’ve had with it, are just too much? Here are 3 steps to help you avoid cable management troubles before they become a problem project you need to try to ignore.

Jump to Section:

  1. Plan to Solve Cable Issues
  2. Gather Your Supplies
  3. Use the Latest Technology
European lab in the international space

Well, you aren’t alone. The European Lab in the International Space Station had a similar problem, according to the Associated Press and Tulsa World. A science research platform, one that has been waiting to go active for about a year, was targeted by a spacewalk that would also replace an out-of-date antenna.

But only four of six data cables needed could be hooked up, NASA told the associated press. The other two cable connectors wouldn’t close, so had to be capped and the completion of the hookup tabled for another spacewalk. You may not have to take spacewalks to fix issues in your data center, but there are 3 lessons we can learn from this cosmic misstep.

Plan to Solve Cable Issues

Cable issues are all too common in data centers: cables that are the wrong length, that have the wrong connector, or that cannot be routed properly. If you “wing it” you’ll likely end up with the familiar “spaghetti mess that will end up costing you time and potentially money later on.

When preparing for new installations, moves, or changes, make sure you have everything you need on hand to avoid cable management troubles. You don’t want to come up short, or have cables that won’t connect, even if you are not in the vacuum of space.

Gather Your Supplies

It’s one thing to have a plan. It’s another to make sure you have everything on hand to execute that plan. When it comes to installations, do you have the racks you need? The cable organization (lacing bars) you need to keep cables well routed? How about the sensors you may need to install for any remote monitoring and physical security solutions?

Don’t forget things like cable labels (and a labeling system). Future proof your data center and prevent problems down the road.

The same can be said for moves and changes. The old carpenter adage of “measure twice, cut once” is also applicable here. Be sure you have cables of the right length, the right cable connectors, labels, zip ties, Velcro, and other critical supplies to avoid cable management troubles.

Use the Latest Technology

Datacenter needs are forever changing, and it is important that you keep up and even be ahead of the game. Thinner cabling, in some cases larger servers and server racks, and new power cable connections and insulation all drive innovation. Prevent having to go back and make cable changes and replacements by meeting and exceeding the latest data center standards and practices.

Preparation is key. Before you “exit the airlock” to fix your data center issues, be sure you’re ready.

And if you need help, give us a call. We’re here to help you avoid cable management troubles with all the supplies you need, from ZeroU cable management solutions to physical security solutions. Contact us today and prevent the need for future “spacewalks” because you missed something critical.

Physical Layer Environment Network Security Monitoring and Control

A150 Physical Layer Environment Network Security Monitoring and Control System Brochure

Full visibility, network security and control of your physical layer environment. Monitor your entire hybrid cloud and IT infrastructure from a cloud-based, integrated dashboard:

  • Introducing the A150 System
  • A150 System Architecture – High-Level Overview
  • A150 System Features
  • System Controller Hardware and Specifications
  • Monitoring Controllers, Probes and Sensors

About the Author

Louis Chompff - Founder, AnD Cable Products, Rack and Cable ManagementLouis Chompff, Founder & Managing Director, AnD Cable Products
Louis established AnD Cable Products – Intelligently Designed Cable Management in 1989. Prior to this he enjoyed a 20+ year career with a leading global telecommunications company in a variety of senior data management positions. Louis is an enthusiastic inventor who designed, patented and brought to market his innovative Zero U cable management racks and Unitag cabel labels, both of which have become industry-leading network cable management products. AnD Cable Products only offer products that are intelligently designed, increase efficiency, are durable and reliable, re-usable, easy to use or reduce equipment costs. He is the principal author of the Cable Management Blog, where you can find network cable management ideas, server rack cabling techniques and space saving tips, data center trends, latest innovations and more.
Visit https://andcable.com or shop online https://andcable.com/shop/

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Server Rack Configuration and Cable Management Best Practices

Feature - Server Rack Configuration and Cable Management Best Practices - AnD Cable Management Blog

There are only three types of currency in the world: time, money, and expertise – and we can’t afford to waste any of them. You have the expertise needed to run a data center and you hire others with the same expertise. But there are two things you can always save in your data center: time and money.

Jump to Section:

Data center server rack configuration with proper cable management using best practices

It seems like we never have enough of either one, and time and money are often directly tied together. So how do you make the most of both every single day?

Perhaps the most important thing is to optimize wherever possible. Here are some ideas for you, things that will save you both time and money in your data center.

Use Your Rack Space Wisely

The more efficiently you use your rack space, the more you can fit in your data center. In a time when many data centers are experiencing a need for rapid growth, the ideal use of space is key. So what can you do?

  • Use the right sized racks for your equipment – Many components are moving to 23” cable management racks rather than 19” ones. Be sure you have the right server rack, so you are not wasting space and risking equipment damage.
  • Use smaller gauge cables where possible – This allows for more airflow and improved equipment efficiency while also taking up less valuable space.
  • Use Zero U cable rack organizers – These will not only save you useful shelf space, but they are also easier to install, and can make repairs and changes faster too by giving technicians and installers more space to work on.

All of these things will make sure you are using your rack space in the very best way.

Avoid a Disorganized Server Rack

While racks rarely start out that way, additions, changes, and moves can result in a real mess at the rear of your server rack. Every technician has seen this from time to time, and it is not only a waste of time to sort through, but it can cost a data center in many ways.

Cables that are hanging unsupported like a curtain and not routed properly will often break at critical points, losing continuity. Connectors also suffer more wear and tear, and airflow is adversely affected, which is harder on equipment.

If you have a disorganized server rack get it cleaned up and optimize that rack as soon as you can. Use Velcro cable wraps and ties to bundle cables, and take the next time saving step, which involves labeling and organization.

Develop a Label Protocol and Label Everything

The ANSI TIA 606-B is a voluntary cable labelling standard, but one that helps data centers be as organized as possible. It involves setting up a consistent and standardized system for labelling cables and equipment. It involves using:

  • Permanent labels
  • Labels at both ends of the cables
  • Legible labels
  • Good record keeping of labeling protocols and physical locations
  • Color coding
  • A common nomenclature everyone understands

Once you have established a labeling protocol, ensure that everything is labeled. You never want to have to say, or hear someone on your team say, “I wish I had labeled that” again. Make labeling a standard procedure.

At AnD Cable Products, we offer everything from reusable cable labels to a variety of different sized Velcro cable wraps and zip ties for your cable management needs. Need something you don’t see on our website? Feel free to reach out and Request a Quote.

Optimize Your Data Center for Airflow

Whether you run cables under the floor or overhead, you need to have a plan to maximize airflow in your data center. This is easier on your HVAC system and better for your equipment overall. Any large variations in air temperature, pressure, or humidity will all impact your data center in one way or another.

This means using the right size and length cables, rack cable management in the room, and having an overall airflow plan in place. This includes all of the steps above, but adding the extra layer of understanding how each action you take will affect airflow.

Remote Monitoring and Automation

Finally, remote monitoring and automation mean fewer technicians in and out of the facility, which is easier on the HVAC systems and airflow efficiency, reducing costs. It also means you can spot problems before they start. You’ll know what is going on with cables before damage is visible to the human eye.

Not only will there be warnings and alarms related to problems, a remote monitoring system can reduce energy usage in your data center as well. This physical layer network security is often overlooked and not given the attention it should, but the right solution can save you both time and money.

There are only three kinds of currency. Time, money, and expertise. If you are going to use all of them to the best of your ability, you’ll need to save time and money in your data center. Need help or have questions about how to optimize your data center? We have answers and everything you need to get started today.


Optimizing Server Cabinet Rack Space to Maximize Efficiency and Reduce Costs

Optimizing Rack Space and Air Flow in Server Racks and Cabinets

Smart optimization can help you increase rack space and realize significant equipment cost savings. Read our step-by-step guide that shows you how – and how much you could save.

  • How Much Rack Space You Could Save
  • How to Optimize for Maximum Efficiency
  • Savings for New and Retrofit Installations
  • Overall Cost and Space Savings Post-Optimization

About the Author

Louis Chompff - Founder, AnD Cable Products, Rack and Cable ManagementLouis Chompff, Founder & Managing Director, AnD Cable Products
Louis established AnD Cable Products – Intelligently Designed Cable Management in 1989. Prior to this he enjoyed a 20+ year career with a leading global telecommunications company in a variety of senior data management positions. Louis is an enthusiastic inventor who designed, patented and brought to market his innovative Zero U cable management racks and Unitag cabel labels, both of which have become industry-leading network cable management products. AnD Cable Products only offer products that are intelligently designed, increase efficiency, are durable and reliable, re-usable, easy to use or reduce equipment costs. He is the principal author of the Cable Management Blog, where you can find network cable management ideas, server rack cabling techniques and space saving tips, data center trends, latest innovations and more.
Visit https://andcable.com or shop online https://andcable.com/shop/