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Standards to run copper cables and cable up a patch panel

Are there any standards on how run copper cables and cable up a patch panel?

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Yes; there are actually several. In a data center, TIA-942 says to run the cables in your hot aisles. You will also want to be sure that the openings have a brush to keep additional air from escaping. One vertical manager per rack is recommended for 10" deep. One horizontal wire manager is recommended per patch panel or piece of equipment. This supports the cables and keeps them from degrading over time from things like vibration and also provides a path to run cables from one cabinet/rack to another. Copper must be separated from power (part of the National Electrical Safety Code). If you don't have the room to do it vertically, you can run your power in your cold aisles.

The cable must be properly supported. If you plan on moving to 10G, beware of using high density terminations on category 6 UTP systems, as you will probably only be able to energize every other port to 10G, which means you will have to reallocate some space. Also category 5e is NOT supported at all. Wire ties should not be used for bundling, but rather Velcro ties. Keep your bundles loose and not too tight. Your rack manufacturer should be able to help, too. For instance, we train people and have guidelines that incorporate all the standards.

TIA-942 also states that direct connections should only be used if required by the manufacturer. Basically point-to-point runs are just long patch cords -- you should be on a structured cabling system to not only make move adds and changes easy, but also to protect your asset investments. What I mean here is that if you have a 48-port switch (blade or otherwise), it is very hard to do direct connections without running cables all over the place. If you run everything to a central cross connect, patch cords are all that is needed to make a change. It also means that you can have several servers on several rows sharing those 48 ports so that none are wasted.

For other standards, check TIA-568-B, ISO 11801 for cabling specifics (make sure to get the latest and appropriate addendums), TIA-569 for pathways and spaces and J-STD-607 for grounding and bonding (if you don't need this for your cable, you do for your ladder rack, chassis grounds, etc.).

This was first published in March 2006

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