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Optimizing Ethernet in Data Center Networks

Feature Ethernet Data Center Networks - AnD Cable Management Blog

Demand for faster data transfer, and more of it, has exploded exponentially over the last decade. Even before the pandemic, growth was already at exponential rates, but with the work from anywhere trend and more people gaming and streaming from home, demand rose even further. 

With it came an explosion in innovation, and a necessary one. Data Center Interconnects (DCI) Ethernet cable speeds increased from 100 Gb applications to 400 Gb and beyond. Server speeds have gone from 10 Gb to 25 Gb and beyond, with 100 Gb speeds on the horizon, and already in place in some data centers. 

The result is that data centers are now frequently operating like edge computing networks. Here is how it works. 

Ethernet Data Center Networks - AnD Cable Management Blog
Ethernet cable speeds have increased from 100 Gb applications to 400 Gb and beyond

Optimizing Ethernet in Data Centers

There are four factors in optimizing data center ethernet use: speed, power, reach, and latency. Speed is already being enhanced and optimized by the creation of better and more modern cable designs. But for the other areas, there is still work to be done. 

Power

When it comes to power, many data centers have gone green, with their own renewable energy sources. In most cases, they have access to all the power they need. The key is to use it in the most efficient way possible. With more power comes the issue of design, including hot and cold aisle design choices and more. 

Reach

Data center architecture must take a holistic approach, whether you are starting from scratch with a new data center or making moves and changes to update its current infrastructure. Everything from switches and routers to transceivers and overall physical design, reach must be weighed by efficiency vs. cost.

Latency

Finally, latency is related to the final user experience. When it comes to gaming or video conferencing, low latency is the expectation, while when conducting internet searches, it’s not as critical, but can still be an issue for users. As speed increases and fast becomes the norm, latency expectations change with it. 

These three areas are critical to how ethernet is used in data centers, but it is far from the only one. 

Definitive Guide to Understanding Ethernet Patch Cords in Modern Networks - AnD Cable Products Whitepaper
Ethernet cables differences, RJ45 Connectors and T586B vs T568A

Infrastructure Processing Units

How we manage this need for speed is changing on the hardware and software side of things as well. Infrastructure Processing Units (IPUs) run Software Defined Networking (SDN) programs away from the server core. This saves critical server bandwidth, but it comes with an additional load cost. 

As these advances develop, the demand for new and better ethernet cables arises. And as ethernet cables advance, IPUs hardware and software applications evolve as well. Both improve in sync with the other. It’s a developing relationship, but one data center manager’s must take advantage of. 

Edge Computing Centers 

One solution to speed is to move the data center closer to the end user. This has been a developing trend, but increasingly data centers are expanding to distributed models where the interconnections between resources drive both power and speed, creating a better overall experience for the end user, and reducing latency. 

This comes with challenges. As edge computing rapidly becomes the norm, that latency KPI gets lower and lower. Low latency is key, and specifically, DCI applications are critical to meeting new standards. Ethernet connections are a vital part of this change and growth.

The Need for Speed

What’s needed to make all of this work? The first is optical transceivers, which allow data centers to make reductions in the power they use, but enables them to increase bit rates at the same time. This allows for the increase of speed in the leaf-spine connections, a critical component in any data center, but especially those that are hyperscaling. 

This does not come without challenges, as not all ethernet cables are created equally, and interoperability can become an issue. 

To help with this, high-speed breakout cables are often used. These cables have one end that supports the aggregate rate and the other end is a series of disaggregated interfaces. With their speed comes performance challenges, especially over distances. However, there has been some rapid development in this area. 

The New Normal

As 400 Gb speeds become the norm and data centers are increasingly on the edge, there are many advantages. Distributed networks mean easier disaster recovery and backup planning and create the ability to use shared resources to meet shifting demands. 

However, this creates some challenges with testing and maintaining KPIs. Interoperability remains a key component of successful deployments. 

At AnD Cable Products, we understand these challenges. We offer everything your data center needs, from Zero U rack solutions to every type and style of cable you need. We can customize cables for your application, and offer a variety of other hardware solutions to meet your data center needs. When you are ready to upgrade your cables, make moves and changes, or even deploy a new data center or edge computing center, contact us. We’d love to be your partner in innovation

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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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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How to Design an Effective Data Center Cable Labeling System

How to Design an Effective Data Center Cable Labeling System - AnD Cable Management Blog

One of the things we talk about often in cable management besides having the right cable management and rack management systems that make your data center the most efficient, is using an effective cable labeling system.

Jump to Section:

A cable labeling system makes effective cable management MUCH easier!
A cable labeling system makes effective cable management MUCH easier!

The reason is simple. Nearly every technician has said, at one point or another, “I wish I had labeled that.” So whether you are just getting started with labels or you are labeling existing systems, the question is the same. How do you design an effective cable labeling system? Here are some things to consider.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

First, use a reusable label system. Not only is this better for the environment, it is better for your system as well. For example, if you use UniTag reusable cable labels, they snap on (and off) so you can mark and identify cables quickly.

UniTag Cable Labels -  reusable cable labels allow you to mark and identify virtually any size cable or group of network cables and reduce your cable label costs
UniTag Cable Labels – reusable cable labels allow you to mark and identify virtually any size cable or group of network cables and reduce your cable label costs

But more importantly, if you change something or replace a cable, you simply remove the cable label and put it back on the new cable or in the new location. Easy, and with no waste. It saves time, too. There’s no need to reprint a label or find a different connector. 

Use the Right Cable Label Printer

This might seem like a no-brainer but starting with the right equipment when you’re developing an effective cable labeling system is just as important as when you are planning the layout or rearranging your data center. Ideally a label printer should be portable, have a large memory to load a variety of label styles, and should also be efficient.

Efficiency means long battery life, but also the efficient use of label cartridges. How often have you trimmed a label before applying it? Wouldn’t it be better of the label was the right size in the first place?

Epson LW-PX Printers are the most efficient on the market, working to continually save you money
Epson LW-PX Printers are the most efficient on the market, working to continually save you money

Epson LW-PX printers have innovative technology that reduces lead margins and will “rollback” before printing to prevent that waste. They also have auto full and half cut features that allow you to print a variety of labels in the field, and the large storage capacity means you’ll always have the labels you need at your disposal, from custom created ones to dozens of industry standard symbols.

The other important feature is toughness. Everyone has that employee who frequently has a case of the “dropsies.” But accidents happen to everyone, and printers get dropped, fall off of racks, or suffer even worse treatment. The Epson printer body meets MilSpec drop tests, and has a built in handle that makes it easier to carry (and less likely to be dropped).

Starting with the right printer and the right reusable label tags is the foundation for your cable labeling strategy.

Color Coded Cable Labels

One of the downfalls of a labeling strategy can be too many labels of the same color, and several flag ties that make it challenging to see what is going on. Using a variety of colors in a color coded cable run helps you identify cables at a glance, and can help you follow cables more easily.

Because you can use the Epson labels on any size of cable or group of cables, you ‘ll reduce label clutter, which comes with a whole host of advantages.

Label Size and Information Matters

Sometimes you need more detail than you can put in one line of type. Use labels that are large enough to include multiple lines of type, so your labels make sense to everyone in the data center. Remember, you might not be the one coming back to work on that particular server, so the more detail you include in your labels, the better.

This also impacts readability. A color can tell the technician what type of cable they are dealing with. The label itself tells them the greater detail they need to know to follow the cable and troubleshoot quickly. The reason for labels is that moment later on when a technician is troubleshooting.

Consider the question, “What would another technician need to know about this cable to work efficiently?” That’s the information that should be included in your label.

Best practice guide to a three line cable label:

  1. Near end termination – Port number on patch panel or hub or wall outlet number or physical location
  2. Far end termination – Patch panel location or hub/switch location and port number
  3. Cable purpose – circuit ID or functional description of a cable or patch cord
Three lines of text on the cable label tape and plastic cable label provides lots of space to record vital information
Three lines of text on the cable label tape and plastic cable label provides lots of space to record vital information

Label Wherever You Can

For label tags, removable adhesive label tape may be the best choice, but there are other applications your printer and your labels need to serve. You may need to label a heat shrink tube, or you may want a fluorescent label for some applications.

Epson Labelworks PX printers offer different kinds of label cartridges to meet different needs. You should encourage technicians, and remember yourself, those moments when you wish you had labeled something, even if it isn’t a cable. Instead of thinking, “I wish I had labeled that,” you can say, “I’m glad I labeled that.”

Have a Standard Cable Labeling Nomenclature

No matter what cable labeling system you have and what printer you use to implement it, it will all be for nothing unless everyone is on the same page. Think of it: one technician might call a group of cables one thing, and another tech might label it differently, or not understand the label on the cable.

Not only is it important to label, but part of your labeling system should include a “key” of terms, abbreviations, and names. Everyone should use the same “key” or system. That way, there is no misunderstanding about what a cable run is, or what that abbreviation really stands for.

Final Thoughts

Are there any secrets to an effective cable labeling system? Not really. It’s pretty simple:

  • Use the right tags and equipment
  • Use color coding where appropriate
  • Be consistent with terms and labels
  • Label everything that you might wish later was labeled
  • Include all relevant details on your labels

With the right cable labeling system, you’ll save time, money, and energy. Your installers and technicians will be more efficient, and overall your data center will be more profitable.

Need help with your cable labeling system? Contact AnD Cable Products today. We’ll help you find the right solution to meet your needs.

Introducing the Ultimate Data Center Cable Labeling System

Cable Management Just Got More Economical, Efficient and Robust

AnD Cable Products and Epson Labelworks have teamed up to develop the Ultimate Data Center Cable Labeling System with a selection of bundled cable labeling products that, when used together will revolutionize your cable mangaement, efficiency and costs.

UniTag® Reusable Cable Labels – A plastic snap-on cable labeling system that provides a quick and easy way to mark and identify cables

Epson Labelworks PX Printers – A portable label and wire marker solution with exclusive time and costsaving features for creating custom labels

Epson’s PX Label Tapes Fit Onto AnD Cable’s UniTag® Cable Labels PERFECTLY!


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.

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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/