Cable Labeling as Part of Data Center Management Part II

In this blog entry I will discuss the need for proper labeling of cables, servers, and storage hardware. I have been in many data centers over time and have seen extremes from no labeling to everything being labeled. What I will try to assist you with in this blog entry is find a happy medium between the two.

 

Cable Labeling – The importance here is to ensure that each end of the cable is labeled, as well as any junction box interconnects that may exist for the same portion of glass or copper. This will ensure that when there is a physical plant problem of some kind, it will make it extremely easy for you to locate and run down the issue.

 

The same process holds true when it comes to labeling your power cords to include the source and destination for the device and the PDU’s. This will ensure you have the same physical tracing abilities as you have for networked cables. There are many misconceptions that you need to spend a slew of money on an expensive cable labeling system (1k and more).  However I have found that all you really need is a laser printer and some sheets with printer labels on them. These printable labels will work on both copper and glass. The link below shows many of the options available and are all reasonably priced.

 


http://www.barcode-labels.com/products/cable-labels

Cable Labeling examples – You will want to ensure you start with a standard for labeling your cables. I have listed an example or two below:

 

Fibre Cable            Power Cable

SwitchName          DeviceName                                        

PortNumber           PortNumber

SwitchLocation      DeviceLocation

DeviceName          PDUName

PortNumber           PDUPort

DeviceLocation      PDULocation

 

As important as the actual labeling of these cables is, the maintenance of those labels over time is even more critical since device names, ports and locations can change over time. Keeping up with these changes will ensure that everything in your cable plant is always easily identifiable.

 

Server Labeling – It is also important to ensure that you label the front and back of your servers. Typically I have seen the name of the server as well as the asset tag in the same location, if possible. The same rules apply to server labeling as cable labeling: Make sure it is done with labeling equipment or printable labels and pick a visible location on the front and back of the server. This will ensure anyone can locate it versus having to dive into the server rack to locate the server label.

 

Storage Array Labeling – It is not unlike server labeling but it will depend somewhat on what kind of storage subsystem you are using as to where the labeling will go. If it comes pre-racked, I would take the approach to not only label the front and back of the rack, but also to go inside the rack, and label the control and disk shelves in the front and back. This may seem a bit like overkill, but you will thank yourself when it’s two o’clock in the morning, and there is an issue you need to resolve with a disk-shelf or control shelf.

 

Other things to keep in mind is if your Storage Manufacturer provides logical names to the disk shelves and controllers that you use those names to label the physical equipment. This makes it extremely important if you manage all of your storage remotely (Co-Location), and need to have operations of maintenance people from the manufacturer perform the maintenance.

 

In summary, remember the more planning you do on the front-end makes your life that much easierwhen it comes to dealing with issues on a physical level. Let’s face it, we all have some form of SLA’s to adhere to with our customers. It may not seem like it but proper labeling will allow you to ensure that the issues can be addressed with speed and accuracy.

 

Part 1 in this series examined the importance of properly installing and maintaining the networking cables.

Editor’s Note: The link to cable labels was updated on Feb 13, 2012.

Tim Anderson

About Tim Anderson

Tim serves as a Senior Analyst HA/Infrastructure for DCIG

7 Comments

  • Ebrahim Al Huremi says:

    The given hints and info were realy helpful and provide a good approach to lead your data center team down the correct path. My questions are:
    1. Who is supposed to carry out this task? i.e. network team, data center team or both?
    2. If we are already in the mess as described in the wrong cabling as I saw in the given two pics, what is the proper solution to overcome that mess? It was handed to me exactly as it looks in that picture – as spaghetti.
    3. Which is the time frame needed to clear up that situation and the contingency plans if we encountered some conflict with cable connection?
    It is really very necessary to carry out recording and labeling which has to be the direct references for any case.
    Ebrahim

  • Tim Anderson says:

    Ebrahim,
    Thank you for your comments.
    1. Should be a combination of teams each one of them attacking there area respectively.
    2. I have also been in the situation of spaghetti in the past. I handled it by taking advantage of a planned data-center outages to clean up the situation. I was able to pre-label and pre-run all my new cable runs prior to the outage so it was a lot of up-front work with minimal service interruptions, followed by an evening of ripping out the old and adding the new.
    3. The timeframe really depends on the amount of cabling you would need to go thru, as well as any redundant runs you may have in place. But unfortunately in a poor cable plant there will almost always need to be a service interruption of some-kind to ensure to take out the old a replace with new and/or clean up the old and re-use it.
    I hope this helps you find your way thru the mess.. Regards Tim Anderson

  • Cassie Fyten says:

    Labeling both ends of the PDU cable is very important, as stated.
    You can purchase pre-fabricated custom cable assemblies from PDU Cables . Custom labels come standard among other custom options – such as; color conduit to identify your A feed from B feed, custom cut cable and tail lengths, mounting hardware options, in-stock breaker options, several cable device/type options, as well as a liquid-tight, SO or MC cable option.

  • phoenix says:

    Hi ,
    Currently involved in network transistion project for moving network equipments from one datacenter to another.
    Kindly advice on
    1)Checklist of cables specifications which needs to be taken care of during this transistion
    Further what is the best way to tag cables and the equipments prior to the movement ? So that it will be easy once we move to the other datacenter?
    Any best practises for cabling and tagging and marking?
    Any good product available in market for tagging & marking on cables?
    Thanks,
    Phoenix

  • Tad Williams says:

    Cabling is one of the most important skills. Otherwise it’s a mess!
    printer

  • amy amster says:

    CMA Cable has an exceptional customer service department. Providing assistance throughout the entire design process. They utilize innovative Custom Cable Assembly techniques to better serve their customers. To assure product performance, minimize tooling costs and reduce total product cost, contact CMA Cable.

Leave a Reply