The Art of Cabling Can Save Your Data Center

Hot Mess

“No problem, I’ve seen worse!” I often say to our customers as I visit their data center. It is a response to their embarrassment regarding how messy the cabling is in their racks, cabinets and runways. Proper cabling is more than just connecting two ports. A common term used for running cables is “dressing.” This may include bundling, looping and inserting cables into cable management systems. Dressing cables is a bit of an art and a science and messy cabling can lead to overheated systems, racks and rooms.


A Myriad of Reasons

No one ever intends to have messy cabling, so how does it happen? The fast pace of development and expansion often makes rapid deployment a priority and leads to a “I’ll fix the cabling later” approach. Later never comes. Another reason comes from using whatever cable happens to be around regardless of the length. Too short leads to a spider web of crisscrossing connections. Too long leads to a spaghetti plate of intertangled cables. A final reason is due to selecting a rack that is too shallow and narrow to allow for the adequate dressing of the cables. Regardless of the reason, improperly dressed cables can lead to future problems.


This is why Groupware Technology developed a cabling standard. We leveraged our years of experience and expertise to engineer out the “hot mess” that comes from poorly dressed cables. We call it the “Three A’s of Cabling” and it stands for Accessibility, Airflow and Aesthetics.


Accessibility is making sure all components can be serviced without disrupting other systems. Downtime is expensive and therefore many companies design for availability either through hot swappable components or redundant components and systems. Improper cabling can impede the serviceability of the systems and components. Are you able to remove and replace a power supply, PDU or network switch without needing to unplug or disrupt other systems in the rack? We design our cable runs with accessibility in mind. This will not only allow for the serviceability of the systems and components, but also reduce the time to replacement. You get the full return on your investment dollars and you save time. That is a good deal.


Airflow is ensuring that adequate airflow is maintained to support the integrity of the systems and components. Data Centers design their rows so that cold air is supplied at the front of the racks (cold aisle) and hot air is extracted out the rear of the racks (hot aisle.) Cables that are not cleanly dressed at the rear of the rack can reflect hot air back into the systems. The hot air recirculates in the rack. This will cause the systems to overheat and shutdown. Prolonged exposure to heat can also lead to internal components failing at a higher rate than under normal environmental conditions. We route cables to the sides of the rack to create an open space behind the systems for the hot air to be quickly removed from the rack and into the hot aisle exhaust. Your systems will breathe easier and so will you.


Aesthetics is more than just looking good– the cabling is also highly functional. This includes:

  • Labeling the cables clearly and correctly for servicing by any technician
  • Using different color cables to identify use or availability zones such as primary and secondary power
  • Utilizing thin or skinny Cat6 ethernet cables that can reduce the bulk of cable runs, especially in high density racks

We utilize all these strategies and more to reduce errors and mistakes when working in a rack. You get a rack that looks good and makes you look good as well!


Clean Up Your Data Center

If you have cabled your racks and room into a “hot mess,” there is a solution. Schedule one of our experts to visit your site to make recommendations. Or better yet, let Groupware assess and document your current rack and cable environment, then let us come in and apply our Three A’s of cabling to clean up your data center. Give us your worse and we will give you amazing! To schedule an appointment, contact us. For more information on our Rack and Roll solutions, visit our page.

Greg Ng is Groupware’s Practice Manager for Rack and Roll Solutions