The Benefits of a Structured Cabling Master Plan

By Rolf Fuessler, APR, FSMPS, Fuessler Group, Inc., Boston December 10, 2004

More often than not, data center managers resort to a dynamic approach in populating a data center with IT equipment. This approach accommodates the ever-changing requirements of business operations, which in turn drives the need for new and often the latest IT equipment available. Any void felt in IT capacity/capability requires an almost instantaneous solution due to our heavy reliance on IT equipment and infrastructure that has come to be the life line of any business.

Equipment availability today has become less of a speed bump due to the quick response time by vendors/manufacturers in supplying product. But, if a data center manager is faced with a poorly designed IT infrastructure, the whole process suddenly comes to a grinding halt. To avoid such a situation it is essential to bring in an IT design engineer (preferably an RCDD – Registered Communications Distribution Designer) during the master planning stage of a data center project.

Among other benefits, an IT design engineer can recommend ways to maximize the structured cabling systems ability to flexibly respond to ongoing changes in equipment planned today and adaptively respond to future equipment technologies as well. Some key recommendations that an IT design engineer should make during planning are:

• Telecommunications rooms: MDFs, IDFs and ER should be designed with a 15% to 20% expansion in mind to accommodate future equipment requirements.
• Placing telecommunications IDFs in central locations in the data center enables easy cable management as well as the efficient addition of future equipment.
• Planning for future equipment population and adjacencies facilitates design of pathways for expansion space, which in turn provides near-new construction efficiency for future cable installation.
• Design of a high-performance cabling infrastructure capable of supporting a variety of telecommunications needs, including voice, data, video, electronic security, and building control provides the best ROI as it provides the flexibility to meet both current and future infrastructure requirements.
• When selecting a cabling solution it is beneficial to get a performance warranty that will cover the network’s actual delivery rather than a specific product. Such a warranty on a cabling infrastructure guarantees that a system installed today will be functional for several years. It also ensures that new applications defined after installation will work on a system in the future.
• Placing switches in the center of server rows enables easy and cost effective cable management as well as the efficient addition of users. It also shortens cable runs, which translates into cost savings up front and later when MACs are necessary.

An effective design strategy can minimize MACs and reduce cabling system life-cycle costs. In the planning stages of a new data center, it is crucial to spend time anticipating future needs, which allow for expansion and technology upgrades in a cabling infrastructure. A qualified IT design engineer, when involved in this process, will ensure that prudent planning and intelligent design are combined with industry standards. This results in a cabling infrastructure that has a good chance of staying useful for several years, saving money over time, and providing building occupants with access to cutting-edge telecommunications solutions.