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Ensuring a robust cabling infrastructure strategy for optimum data centre performance

Ensuring a robust cabling infrastructure strategy for optimum data centre performance

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With more companies investing in data-led technologies, organisations are aiming to improve their competitiveness within markets. From sensor applications within factory machinery to running a large company, increasingly the information required for success now relies upon high-speed data, hence the importance of efficient data cabling networks. Mark Froggatt, Technical Director at BASEC, answers some key questions when it comes to structured cabling networks and cable considerations.

How have cabling requirements changed in line with increased digitalisation? 

Increased digitalisation has led to higher demands for data, but also energy. Higher transmission rates and greater bandwidth requirements has led cable construction and design to change in order to accommodate end-user needs. Design changes include increased levels of screening and additional protection within data cables. This, along with the growth of Power over Ethernet or PoE, has led to enhancements in cable constructions with respect to their pair geometry, material selection, conductor size and screening. All of these changes have enabled constructional adaptations to be in line with the increased demands placed on the cable itself. End-users are now opting to use tested and approved cables to ensure reliable transmission which fulfils data demands and minimises possible device failures and downtime.

How can organisations prepare a cabling strategy to meet data growth requirements?

In order to plan a robust cabling infrastructure strategy, organisations must consider their current and possible future data requirements. Future-proofing operations to the finest available industry standards is the best option. Using the best available cable technology to pre-empt future demands will depend on the future aspirations of the organisation and the cost of installation. However, it is always important to bear in mind the cost of having to reinstall at a later date if the infrastructure design is not adequate for growth. Environmental considerations should also be made when installing the cable infrastructure. If an organisation intends to streamline its production processes by implementing data-driven manufacturing equipment, the cables used in these systems will be exposed to more harsh environments to that of an office, for example; vibration from nearby machinery. With this in mind, it would be recommended to use cables that have been Mechanical, Ingress, Chemical and Electromagnetic, or MICE, approved.

What are the benefits of ensuring cabling is purchased from a manufacturer which is certified by a third-party approval firm? 

Third-party approval is an assurance that the manufacturer in question has been assessed on an ongoing basis for manufacturing capability and product conformity. This means that a credible and accredited third-party has assessed the above and the manufacturer has a clean bill of health on an ongoing basis. Any problems or non-conformities with product or process will be addressed over the course of a three-year certification cycle. Therefore, third-party approval is designed to give end-users piece of mind that the cable has been approved to a high-level of quality from a non-bias organisation, which also gives manufacturers verified proof of their product quality. With more end-users seeing the benefit of third-party approvals, it is now the norm for contractors to specify certified product, and as such, more manufacturers are pre-empting this demand and seeking third-party approvals beforehand. 

What are the key elements of the cable verification and certification process? 

Typically, cables will have already undergone testing as part of the manufacturer’s internal quality control process, verification from a third-party approvals body impartially confirms product quality. At BASEC, the cable will be put through more rigorous testing than that of a manufacturer, to assess the cable limits and ensure it complies with industry standards. Additionally, as part of the approvals process, BASEC accesses the manufacturing plant and processes to measure its capabilities and ensure consistency of production.

What are some of the safety concerns that organisations can sometimes overlook when it comes to cabling and how can these be addressed? 

There is a strong relationship between data cables and fire testing due to their methods of installation and compound make up. Data cables tend to run between rooms, on different floors and therefore are more likely to contribute to fire spread, if one was to occur. Furthermore, they are made up of polyethylene, a highly flammable material. That paired with their bundling installation method means high volumes of potential fire fuel is concentrated in one place. Therefore, fire testing and Construction Products Regulation CPR classification to enable CE or UKCA marking for transmission cables are a key part of standard policy.

Installation of cables are critical in respect to current rating, this is an influencing factor when it comes to the ability to dissipate heat. Regulatory bodies have recognised this and therefore included installation regulations in all three of the main overarching standards: BS/ISO/IEC 11801; BS EN 50173 series; ANSI/TIA 568.

What is your recommended best practice advice approach for organisations when it comes to data cable testing? 

When implementing a structured cabling infrastructure, there are several stages to take into consideration on approach:

  • Building operation design requirements and intended uses of network
  • Networking architectures may also need to be developed to accommodate specific user needs, including the required data rates, channel reach and extended patching
  • Selecting the correct cabling infrastructure is key to a successful installation. End-users can undertake assessments of their vendors’ products or they can engage with an independent third-party
  • Transmission line configurations and network implementation will include the build of switches, routers, channels, links, patching, plus testing and optimisation

How does BASEC maintain its reputation for carrying out professional and rigorous assessment services? 

As a UKAS-accredited certification body, BASEC is also independently assessed on an ongoing basis to ensure that the services offered are in accordance with the relevant practices and international standards. This covers a whole host of aspects such as impartiality, professionality of services and reliability of testing and certification. This, alongside customer testament, ensures that BASEC’s reputation and recognition as the mark of cable quality remains.

With the rising expectations of a structured cabling network, it is more important than ever to implement a high-quality cabling system to accommodate and perform now and to support increasing demands of the future. Therefore, using third-party approved cables not only safeguards product quality and performance levels, but also minimises the risk of data failures and outages in the longer term.

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