I’ve been noticing a trend recently in enterprise networking where managers and engineers alike are more concerned (obsessed) with the physical appearance of their rack, wires, and network equipment than they are with the actual pragmatic design and stability of said network.
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A Little is Good
Now a certain amount of order and cable management for your equipment is certainly beneficial. It keeps your cables out of the plenum space where air must freely flow, prevents them from tugging on the equipment ports, and tucks them out of the way so you are less likely to disturb them by accident. Even a little Velcro to bundle the cables together is definitely useful, but there is a fine line between practical cable management and prohibitively clean management.
Pretty != Well Designed
I suppose it can be claimed that a well groomed network is a well designed and stable network, but we all know better. I personally have seen beautifully wired networks which were constant victims of outages and problems due to poor technical design and management, and have also seen spaghetti monsters which have had near 100% uptime and few to no problems. I know I am not alone in this observation.
Too Much of Anything
If your cable management is so strict and excessive that it makes adding, changing, or removing a cable exceedingly difficult, chances are you will avoid changes altogether; hindering your ability to update and maintain your systems. Avoid the vanity.
Remember these tips when assessing your cable management needs:
- Keep it practical. Make sure you are solving a functional problem with your cable management.
- Don’t overdo it. Ensure your ability to add, remove, or replace cables it not hindered by an excessive amount of Velcro, combing, or complex cable routing.
- Velcro, not zip ties. With the occasional exception of power cables, tie your cables up with Velcro. It is reusable and doesn’t require a tool to remove. It may be desired, however, to require a tool to remove power cables.
- Separate your media types. CAT5 cables can take a great deal of tugging, twisting, and general abuse. Twinax and especially fiber cables do not respond to the abuse as kindly; and they typically cost much more to replace once damaged. Putting some separation between them, or even bundling them separately can often avoid accidental damage to sensitive cables when you get violent with the CAT5.
- Layers. If some cables are touched and maintained more than others, put them on top. Don’t bury your high maintenance cables under the ones you rarely need to move (like power cables).