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Snakes on a backplane: Server-room cabling horrors

Unwired planet? Get real

Twisted Pair The internet is not something you can just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. Nor is it a series of tubes. It’s an unimaginably large collection of computers connected by cables and radio waves.

The more computers you have, the more cables you need. And that’s a problem.

We’re now moving into the era of software-defined networking, which has the potential to help us deal with these nightmares. Less hardware means fewer cables, while improved scaling and ease of use means lower operating costs. The poor geek you send to figure out why the server has dropped off the network risks tripping over something and taking down the whole network every time he steps foot into the hellish wastes of a data centre maintained by the IT services sinews of Cthulhu.

Below is what one of our data centres looked like before it moved to a new building and five years of love and care:

Cabline disaster 1.1

And after the move:

Cabline disaster2

Look at the toll the years have taken on it:

Cabling disaster 3

Uptime is one of the primary benchmarks which an administrator’s life in a company depends on. Needing to take down parts of the network for incremental upgrades ticks off the pointy-haired boss, and we’ve all known days where staff have been sent home because email went down and they were left unable to do their jobs.

Unfortunately, administrators are also stretched pretty thin. We don’t always have time to make our data centres look immaculate on top of putting out fires, planning upgrades and maintaining the network as it stands, so we do whatever is necessary to keep the ship moving – like this zero-U solution from Jim Millard:

Cabling disaster4

In the real world, a problem will often arise that demands quick and resourceful thinking to solve. You don’t have time to plan out an upgrade that will solve the problem, run it by management, buy the gear, wait for it to arrive, install it and configure it. You need a solution that works with whatever you have access to:

Cabling disaster5a

Sometimes, that means finally terminating those ends you had sticking out of the wall. Unfortunately, software-defined storage does not act as a comb for untangling knots.

Is your data centre looking like a forest of metal and plastic? Let us know – send pics for your data centre cabling horrors to ®


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