Article By: Shibu Vahid, Head of Technical Operations, R&M Middle East & Africa
The mega-trend to digitization is as strong as ever with industry experts proclaiming the onset of the zettabyte era.
The reasons for this mega-trend are clear: there is an increasing number of users who engage in Video over Internet, cloud computing, virtualization, global ERP systems, social networks, online storage, file sharing and online gaming. IDC predicts that the cloud market alone will have grown into a 45 billion dollar industry by 2014, nearly tripling its business within five years.
In 2015, the number of computers, mobile devices etc. connected to IP networks will be double the worldwide human population. This holds huge ramifications for network infrastructures. The greater the number of devices that are active, the more data is produced and exchanged. Data centers are taking on an ever more central significance. Nothing will work anymore without reliable and secure data communication and storage. The physical infrastructure, although a small portion of the investment, is the crucial backbone on which the entire data center runs. What should IT decision markers focus on when choosing the right cabling solution for their data center?
Central management tasks becoming more complex
The typical planning period for data center projects has already decreased from months to weeks. Otherwise, companies could not handle the growth and the short-term requirements. A further observation: Expansions, migrations and consolidations are already eating up two thirds of investment budgets. What conclusions can be drawn from this? Data center operators have to handle their centers more flexibly, more efficiently and with greater discipline to remain profitable and competitive.
The simpler and more structured the cabling systems are, the faster installations and changes can be planned and carried out. Cost constraints force enterprises to strive for maximum efficiency. So when selecting a cabling system, emphasis should be placed on whether or not it makes the data center more efficient.
One example of efficiency is when cabling units come pre-terminated like in the case of R&M, cut to length and factory tested. This significantly reduces the cost of installing, maintaining and expanding the physical infrastructure. It also eliminates potential sources of error and maximizes availability. All these aspects save costs and increase the profitability of the data center.
Short links can also help boost efficiency. Use of these saves installation time and cable material and prevents long cable loops in the sub-floor, which only get in the way of ventilation.
Zero Errors for Maximum Availability
Many applications such as cloud services, EPR, video, gaming and even the financial markets put maximum requirements on data centers in terms of availability. Service level agreements force companies to maintain maximum levels of security and reliability. Availability of up to 99.995 percent can be criteria depending on the tier classifications.
Maximum availability starts at Layer 1, with the passive infrastructure and with the tiniest details such as the contacting in the connection modules and plug connections. These aspects are what decide whether a cabling system will be able to provide the desired performance and signal quality in the long run.
Modularity for Flexibility
Operators of data centers want to concentrate on productivity and value creation. Ongoing operations must run absolutely smoothly and the infrastructure must allow for efficient handling, especially during conversion and scaling or when maintenance is being done. Modular solutions are key to this. Modularity simplifies the network design, making it transparent, fast and easy to reproduce. It allows flexible combinations and seamless scalability for structured cabling. New applications can be integrated spontaneously without interrupting operations.
Investment Protection and Future-proofing
Despite dynamism and short-term planning, the basic infrastructure of a data center has to be designed for a service life of at least ten years. Today that means the underlying cabling must fully support 10 GbE and already contain all the potential for the 40/100 GbE generation.
Investments allowing for easy migration are the only ones that make sense and are worthwhile and that retain their value in the future. Other approaches will turn out to be unprofitable in long term.
One further aspect of secure investments and equipment that retains its value in the future involves the possibility of making multiple re-use of components once they have been installed. For example using patch panel platforms which are designed to support copper and fiber optic cabling installed side-by-side or alternately.
Environmental awareness is fast becoming a major IT concern. In this context, cabling should in the very least contribute noticeably to cutting energy consumption and protecting the environment. Cabling has a certain effect on air circulation in data centers and thus on the energy consumption of the overall systems. Lots of thick cables block the flow of air. A logical solution is to use short links and cables with smaller cross sections. These approaches open up potential optimization and contribute lastingly to the energy efficiency of data centers.
Careful planning and attention to detail can ensure that the physical infrastructure you chose for your data center delivers maximum performance and acts as the solid foundation upon which the entire system can operate smoothly.