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Data centre dilemmas – overcoming growing pains

John Banks, Head of Product Management and Marketing at HellermannTyton examines the requirements of data centres in the ‘new normal’, illustrates the key role of cable management and addresses the issues that impact operational effectiveness.

Data centres have seen an unprecedented demand on resources over the past several years, with businesses moving more and more online and digital replacing analogue in almost every sector. The global pandemic, COVID-19, cast data centres further into the spotlight, with many businesses accelerating their digital transformation efforts.

Despite a 10.3% decline in data centre spending in 2020 due to restricted cash flow during the COVID-19 pandemic, the data centre market is still expected to grow year-over-year through to 2024. As data centres become a growing market, engineers need to ensure they are making the most out of their space to enable future growth.

One of the key challenges to achieving this is effective cable management. Planning ahead with cable installation will allow efficient cable management systems to identify, bundle and segregate in crucial areas.

Tying up any lose ends

One of the greatest requirements of any data centre these days is speed. From initial installation through to supporting the network usage, each element needs to be taken into consideration.

In designing and implementing high-density networks, many data centres and data-reliant businesses want cable management solutions that provide reliable performance, secure fastening and flexibility to accommodate cable replacement. All this, and without incurring the high costs down the road for repair, system maintenance and management.

But without reliable cable management to keep the cables and systems in the correct position, you will find the data centre cables will require more maintenance. Ensuring the cable fixings you use offer high tensile strengths, low insertion forces and a smooth cable insulation surface will minimise any indentation or damage.

Sizing up your cable

Proper cable management plays a major role in maintaining adequate network performance. Sharp cable twists can degrade the electrical characteristics of the cable or its electrical insulation, significantly reducing the distance over which it can adequately carry information and the data rate which it supports.

It is important to use the available space effectively and as efficiently as possible when it comes to a data centre. And ensuring you pre-cut the cable to the current length will save money and create a safer space.

Cutting the cable to size will also minimise downtime as this will lead to less reworking needed during regular maintenance. This will also eliminate the waste of copper, supporting a sustainable installation.

Thermal management is another major concern that is addressed. Untidy and unmanaged cables can lead to racking up a lot of heat due to tangled cables.

Twisted cables hanging at the rear of the cabinet is the most common obstacle against regular air flow. To minimise thermal damage, best practice would be to bundle your cables. Bundling helps primarily with thermal management, as it allows network engineers to route cables out of the air’s path.

Informed infrastructure

The amount of cable used within a data centre is substantial. The performance of network cabling – be it copper or fibre - can be heavily impeded if it isn’t managed correctly.

It is essential that cable going into the rack maintains its optimum bend radius, without excessive pulling or stress on the cable. As soon as these are compromised, the performance of the entire network could be affected.

The key to infrastructure design is maintaining the optimum bend radius throughout the network, supporting the weight of the cable wherever possible and keeping exposure to external elements such as dust and dirt to a minimum with the use of lids and covers.

When it comes to data centre design and infrastructure it is important to remember that one size doesn’t fit all. So it is vitally important that the right system, installation and cable management is chosen from the outset.

As we continue to navigate through this challenging period, we are continuing to see increasing demand on data and network quality in line with digital transformation programmes continuing to ramp up. It’s critical that the flow of data remains seamless, which is why it is essential the data is protected by the correct cable management.

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