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Data Centre Cabling

data centres

The term Data Centres have their roots in the huge computer rooms of the early days of the computing industry. Early computer systems were complex to operate and maintain, and required a special environment in which to operate. Many data cables were necessary to connect all the components, and methods to accommodate and organize these were devised, such as server racks to mount equipment, raised floors, and cable trays (installed overhead or under the elevated floor). Also, old generation of computers consumed a great deal of power, and had to be cooled to avoid overheating. Security was important – computers were expensive, and were often used for military or large commercial purposes. Basic design guidelines for controlling access to the computer room were therefore devised.

The TIA-942 Data Centre Standards describes the requirements for the data centre infrastructure. The simplest is a Tier 1 data centre, which is basically a server within any small to medium size organisation, following basic guidelines for the installation of computer systems. The most stringent level is a Tier 4 data centre, which is designed to host mission critical computer systems, with fully redundant subsystems and compartmentalized security zones controlled by biometric access controls methods. Another consideration is the placement of the data centre in a subterranean context, for data security as well as environmental considerations such as cooling requirements.

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A data centre can occupy one room of a building, one or more floors, or an entire building. Most of the equipment is often in the form of servers mounted in 19inch racks or cabinets, which are usually placed in single rows forming corridors between them. This allows people access to the front and rear of each cabinet.

data centres tiers

table showing the different tier levels a data centre has to adhere to

Racks of telecommunications equipment in part of a data centre.

IT operations are a crucial aspect of most organizational operations. One of the main concerns is business continuity; companies rely on their information systems to run their operations. If a system becomes unavailable, company operations may be impaired or stopped completely. It is necessary to provide a reliable infrastructure for IT operations, in order to minimize any chance of disruption. Information security is also a concern, and for this reason a data centre has to offer a secure environment which minimizes the chances of a security breach. A data centre must therefore keep high standards for assuring the integrity and functionality of its hosted computer environment. This is accomplished through redundancy of both fibre optic cables and power, which includes emergency backup power generation.

Data cabling is typically routed through overhead cable trays in modern data centres. But some are still recommending under raised floor cabling for security reasons and to consider the addition of cooling systems above the racks in case this enhancement is necessary. Smaller/less expensive data centres without raised flooring may use anti-static tiles for a flooring surface. Computer cabinets are often organized into a hot and cold aisles arrangement to maximize airflow efficiency.

Data Centre Telecommunication Space

The data centre telecommunications spaces include the Main Distribution Area (MDA), Zone Distribution Area (ZDA) and Equipment Distribution Area (EDA).

The MDA houses the main cross-connect (MC) which is the central point of distribution for the data centre structured cabling solution.

The ZDA is defined as the space used to implement a zone distribution architecture. The ZDA, when used, acts as a consolidation point between the MDA and regional areas or zones within the data centre.

Incorporating this architecture into one’s data centre cabling design allows for a onetime installation of the backbone cabling and provides flexibility to accommodate frequent reconfigurations at the zone, required for moves, adds and changes.

The EDA is the space allocated for end equipment, including computer systems and telecommunications equipment. For optimised performance in meeting data centre requirements, the topology of the cabling infrastructure should not be selected independently; infrastructure topology and product solutions must be considered in unison.

Telecommunication Data Centre Equipment and Spaces

GR-3160 provides guidelines for data centre spaces within telecommunications networks, and environmental requirements for the equipment intended for installation in those spaces. These criteria were developed by industry representatives. They may be applied to data centre spaces housing data processing or Information Technology (IT) equipment. The equipment may be used to:

  • Operate and manage a carrier’s telecommunication network
  • Provide data centre based applications directly to the carrier’s customers
  • Provide hosted applications for a third party to provide services to their customers
  • Provide a combination of these and similar data centre applications.

Effective data centre operation requires a balanced investment in both the facility and the housed equipment. The first step is to establish a baseline facility environment suitable for equipment installation. Standardization and modularity can yield savings and efficiencies in the design and construction of telecommunications data centres.

Standardization means integrated building and equipment engineering. Modularity has the benefits of scalability and easier growth, even when planning forecasts are less than optimal. For these reasons, telecommunications data centres should be planned in repetitive building blocks of equipment, and associated power and support (conditioning) equipment when practical. The use of dedicated centralized systems requires more accurate forecasts of future needs to prevent expensive over construction, or perhaps worse — under construction that fails to meet future needs.

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