Built to scale – How integral are high density solutions?

Built to scale

With monumental increases in data traffic, comes a greater focus on higher performance network architectures as well as infrastructure consolidation explains Andreas Rüsseler, CMO, R&M. But how integral could high density solutions be in accommodating this?

Over the next three years, consolidation, automation and efficiency enhancements will drive bandwidth needs to a level previously unseen. Until recently, scaling up to add bandwidth automatically implied using up more space. Today, however, high density racks make it possible to optimise the use of space without having to build out or completely re-install existing infrastructure. Solutions as such, offer a lower cost per port than existing platforms; providing a flexible upgrade path to accommodate needs for many years to come.

For systems that may have to support several consecutive generations of hardware and bandwidth standards, the traditional 72 ports per unit UHD solutions won’t cut it. High density solutions can provide a flexible upgrade path to accommodate needs for many years to come and, in many cases, offer a lower cost per port than existing platforms. It is also possible to increase port density and improve organisation of ports and cabling. Thinking ahead, when specifying and implementing a HD solution, adhering to structured cabling standards such as TIA-942 becomes simpler; as do MACs and maintenance.

Density vs complexity

Both density and complexity tend to go hand in hand. In relation to cabinets, HD connectivity can introduce all kinds of challenges. When developing a high-density solution, a variety of factors need to be taken into account. One approach is removing the conventional retainer from LC Duplex patch cords. Manufacturers need to overcome the limitations of traditional latching mechanisms on copper and fibre connectors with patch cords designed specifically for high-density environments.

Increased density can often result in unmanageable cabling. Outlets may be so close together that unplugging cables becomes a challenge. This makes fault-finding, moving, adding, changing and cable tracking to be severely hindered. Cables should have a very high fibre count, be easy to terminate and it should be possible to handle them in the same way as smaller cables. Organising trays and cable management in a way that respects fibre cables’ bend radius avoids performance limitations, damage and downtime. Poor cable management can result in inter-symbol interference, damage and failure; resulting in data transmission errors, performance issues and downtime. It is recommended that you double-check measurements and the quality of terminations; testing wherever necessary, labelling and colour coding, avoiding tight conduits and ensuring no cables or bundles resting upon others.

Higher density infrastructure requires more energy and produces more heat, so the approach to cooling must be changed. This can vary from traditional hot and cold aisles to chip cooling or liquid cooling based rear-door heat exchangers. Racks can also be significantly heavier, and, in many cases, ‘standard’ racks and enclosures won’t be able to support the increased bulk. HD subracks and patch panels that are fully populated with cable systems and patch cords may well bend ‘regular’ racks out of shape, potentially placing a damaging strain on 19” equipment and cabling. Therefore, it is worth investing in 19” racks that are specified for the increased weight of higher density solutions. Of course, it also wise check whether the supporting floor can cope before HD-ready racks and cabinets are installed.

As the number of connections in small spaces continues to grow, information remains key to preventing errors and fault-finding. Automated tracing and monitoring of all changes to a physical network, including switches, servers and patch panels, improves operational efficiency and facilitates passive infrastructure management. An integrated hardware and software system can automatically detect when cords are inserted or removed. As such, the system offers functions for mapping, managing, analysing and planning cabling and cabinets. The systems may also be used to take care of asset management, planned and unplanned changes and alarms. The entire infrastructure is represented in a consistent, up to date database, offering precise, real time information on the current state and future requirements of the data centre. Cabling and connected equipment, can be documented on an ongoing basis, being monitored and administrated from a common software tool.

Accommodating data-hungry technology

Preconfigured cabinets in different configurations can provide internal connectivity that is presented in the way that is most suitable for its respective application. More importantly, they offer a larger number of connections that fit into a small space without compromising performance, airflow, flexibility and resilience. In addition to port locks, preconfigured cabinets could be supplied with the intelligent access control, using key cards, biometric verification or remotely control via IP.

Systems that evolve organically from low to high density will always run into problems, limit growth and ultimately be more expensive, so planning is extremely important. Room lay out, choice of cabinet (size and configuration), patching systems and cable management methods should all be planned with tomorrow’s requirements in mind – this way, any density increases will be less disruptive and expensive. Modularity is key to agility and risk mitigation; modular connectivity, modular cooling and modular power will all facilitate greater operation continuity and greater availability of services.

With huge data traffic increases and new applications driving network operators to look at higher performance network architectures. Data-hungry technology solutions may be expanding at amazing speeds; however, the backbone can’t simply be replaced every few years. Soon, far more bandwidth will be needed than current infrastructure can provide. If specified and employed properly, high density solutions can play an important role in accommodating this growth.

Introducing high density racks, cabinets and enclosures offers an opportunity to diminish footprint. Freed up space can be used to accommodate new equipment or future expansion. In the end, higher density provides the flexibility to grow as densities continue to shift. Although high density infrastructure implementation is often seen as an enormous challenge, with the correct planning and tools it really doesn’t need to be. In fact, when done correctly it presents an opportunity to achieve more with less.



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  • John

    I have bookmarked your article to read later. Looks very interesting..

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