Away from urban areas, high-bandwidth applications (mobile computing, HD video, cloud...) can suffer. Data centers on the ‘edge’ of the internet, away from traditional hubs, can help. Large volumes of popular content and applications (like Netflix series) are cached on servers closer to less densely networked ‘tier-two’ markets. There are a few things to consider, when specifying and building an edge data center. First, there are space constraints. Cabling from servers often directly connects to a fibre platform in a central network cabinet. The fibres have to accommodate twisting and cable moves, adds and changes. Data has to move through cables at awkward angles without quality loss. Network cabinets need lots of space for switches.
Meeting future data center needs
An edge network may have to support several generations of hardware and bandwidth standards. High density – over 100 ports per rack unit - is essential. Traditional solutions based on 72 ports per unit won’t suffice. Ideally, all fibres should go directly from server ports to a Ultra High Density platform that handles up to 50% more fibre optic connections in a traditional housing. Cables should have a very high fiber count. However, it is important that they can be handled the same way as smaller cables. Termination must be as easy as possible.
‘Edge’ or ‘access’ switches connect directly to end-user devices. High port density and low costs per port are key. Ample port capacity means lower cost of patching. Users can simply repatch devices themselves, instead of asking a technical employee to make changes in the central system.
Cable management is key. Double-check measurements, ensure terminations are of the best quality and test wherever necessary. Label and color-code consistently. Watch out for cramped conduits. Make sure no cables or bundles rest upon others. Bad cable management results in signal interference and crosstalk, damage and failure. The result: data transmission errors, performance issues and downtime.
Keeping track of fibre
Today's average data center surface area is between 1,000 and 2,500 square metres, with thousands of network ports. But many network managers carry out inventory and management of physical infrastructure using Excel sheets or even paper, pencil and post-its. This makes realistic expansion plans, risk analyses and complying with legislation and best practices impossible.
Fortunately, automated asset management and tracking make life easier. A specialised solution can trace and monitor all changes to a physical network. This includes switches, servers and patch panels. Such systems improve operational efficiency and facilitate management of passive infrastructure. They offer functions for mapping, managing, analysing and planning cabling and network cabinets can also include asset management, planned and unplanned changes and alarms.
An integrated system documents cabling infrastructure and connected devices, automatically detecting when cords are inserted or removed. The total infrastructure, represented in an up-to-date database, can be monitored and administrated from one software tool. This offers real-time insights into the data center's current state and future requirements.