Data Center Wiring Standards

Rick Kunkel <> writes:

> Can anyone tell me the standard way to deal with patch panels, racks, and
> switches in a data center used for colocation?

Network Cabling Handbook by Chris Clark is a bit dated (5 years old)
but probably should be on your bookshelf anyway, particularly since it
is ridiculously cheap used/new on Amazon (I got my copy a couple of
years ago after a friend tipped me off that they were on sale for
$5.99 on clearance at Micro Center). It's mostly geared to the
enterprise but it does have a chapter on doing communication rooms
which is probably a good starting point. ISBN 0-07-213233-7

Also, no substitute for visiting your competition and taking a survey
of how others, particularly larger datacenters, are doing it. :slight_smile:

Having seen so many different things over the years, I don't actually think
there's any one particular right way to do it.

Is the data center carrier neutral? If so, that tends to lead to solutions
where circuits need to be run point-to-point (whether physically or

Are customers expected to be requiring large amounts of bandwidth? If not,
aggregation based solutions may make more sense (such as putting a switch in
each rack).

What's the smallest and largest customer footprint? If you're going to sell
5 racks to a customer, in a shared cage with doors and side panels, and the
customer needs multiple gigE connections internally, do you want to try to
solve that problem as part of your site strategy, or do you figure it out on
a case by case basis?

Possible solutions are varied.

For a colo where they'll be buying your bandwidth, and nobody's using
gigabits of it, for example, there's an excellent manageability argument
to be made for running a (single, pair of) gig uplink to each cabinet and
having a 24- or 48-port 1U switch in the cabinet. You will have a minimal
amount of wiring, which makes problem resolution easier, and you can even
do vlan stuff to allow customers with equipment in different cabinets to
have virtual private segments.

I've seen providers that put a 24-port patch panel in each cab and then
ran it back to a central switching point, which is arguably more useful
but eats up a lot of wiring, and you have a fundamental problem in that
some cabs may be populated with colo'ed 1U's (so you hit the wall or have
to add another panel) and others have a single customer with a bunch of
goofy equipment, and they just want a link to their own router/firewall,
so you only use 1/24th the cable.

Facilities like Equinix probably don't have a lot of realistic options
other than what they already do, given the sheer complexity of it all.

... JG

Thanks much for all the info folks. I'm sure I can amalgamate this info
into a good plan, or at least a pie-in-the-sky place to reach for.

On a related but dissimilar topic: What are people using for storing
customer assignment info and stuff? Right now, we've got an Excel
spreadsheet covering patch panels, another covering colo customers and the
types of usage plans that they're on, and our general customer database
that hasn't been updated since the colo biz has picked up, and is thus
currently poorly equipped to deal with it. Additionally, we use RTG for
usage stuff, and a combination of well-commented DNS zone files and
customized Excel spreadsheets for managing IP Space.

Needless to say, the integration of these things is pretty non-existent.

Are people using off-the-shelf products (freeware or otherwise) for these
types of things, or are they custom designing their own? I've recently
started to create a "proper" database that stores patch panel, switchport,
customer, VLAN, and usage information, but the queries I'm dealing with in
an attempt to extract information from it are so complex that I just can't
seem to justify spending the time on this, when -- regardless of the
low-techiness of them -- the current method of spreadsheets and such gets
by. Eventually though, I'm sure it's the scalability that will be the

I've messed briefly with IPTrack (or was that the old name for it?) for IP
address management, but nothing else too much.

Any suggestions?

Thanks in advance,

Rick Kunkel

In my experience, most folks roll their own IP management software. Most
coming from spreadsheets such as yourself, end up with some sort of custom
written provisioning software that integrates into their existing
applications. I've seen very few commercial products in use, though I can't
say whether or not they were any better or worse than the home grown

    IIRC, there were two major open source projects, FreeIPDB, and
Northstar. Both had some promise for a decent open source IP management
suite. As far as Switch Ports/Patch panels, I've not seen anyone keep real
good track of usage other than switch port descriptions.