Any-to-All Structured Data Cabling Systems

The concept behind any-to-all is quite simple. Copper and fibre panels are installed in each cabinet which correspond to copper patch panels installed in a central patching area. All fibre is run to one section of cabinets/racks in that same central patching area. This allows any equipment to be installed and connected to any other piece of equipment via either a copper patch cord or a fibre jumper. The fixed portion of the channel remains unchanged. Pathways and spaces are planned up front to properly accommodate the cabling. While this method may require more cabling up front, it has significant advantages over the life of the data centre. These channels are passive and carry no reoccurring maintenance costs as realised with the addition of active electronics. If planned properly, structured cabling systems will last at least 10 years, supporting 2 or 3 generations of active electronics. The additional equipment needed for a point-to-point system will require replacement/upgrade multiple times before the structured cabling system needs to be replaced. The equipment replacement costs, not including ongoing maintenance fees, will negate any up-front savings from using less cabling in a point-to-point system.

The red lines (fibre connections) all arrive in the central patching area in one location. This allows any piece of equipment requiring a fibre connection to be connected to any other fibre equipment port. For instance, if a cabinet has a switch that requires a fibre connection for a SAN one day but needs a fibre switch connection at a later date, all that is required to connect the two ports is a fibre jumper change in the central patching area. The same is true for copper, although some data centres zone copper connections into smaller zones by function, or on copper length and pathway requirements. As with the fibre, any copper port can be connected to any other copper port in the central patching area or within the zone.

Cabling standards are written to support 2-3 generations of active electronics. An “any-to-all” configuration assures that the fixed portion of the channels is run once and remains highly unchanged if higher performing fibre and copper cabling plants are used. As a result, there will be less contractor visits to the site for MAC work as the channels already exist. Faster deployment times for equipment will be realised as no new cabling channels have to be run. They are simply connected via a patch cord. Predefined pathways and spaces will not impact cooling airflow or become overfilled as they can be properly sized for the cabling installed. Bearing in mind that the standards recommend installation of cabling accommodating growth, not only will day-one connectivity needs be supported, but also anticipated future connectivity growth needs are already accounted for.

With central patching, switch ports are not dedicated to cabinets that may not require them; therefore, active ports can be fully utilised as any port can be connected to any other port in the central patching area. Administration and documentation are enhanced as the patch panels are labelled (according to the standards) with the location at the opposite end of the channel. Patch cords and jumpers are easy to manage in cabinets rendering a more aesthetically pleasing appearance as cabinets will be tidier. In contrast, with point-to-point cabling, labelling is limited to a label attached to the end of a cable assembly.

With a structured high performing copper and fibre cabling infrastructure, recycling of cabling is minimised as several generations of electronics can utilise the same channels. Being able to utilise all switch ports lowers the number of switches and power supplies. All of these contribute to green factors for a data centre.