Jan 4, 2016

Infrastructure Matters – What is True Structured Connectivity?

True Structured Connectivity Solutions specify all ports on all devices are represented by a port on the front of a patch panel at a Central Patching Location (CPL). In doing so, it facilitates move, add, and changes in the data center, which reduces potential for human errors and reduces the number of connection points which lowers link loss. . Essentially all director, server, and storage ports connect  to ports on the backside of patch panels at the CPL.   When a server needs to connect to storage, all “patching “ activity takes place on the front side of the CPL, away from the active running devices.These connections are made with patch cables from assigned patch panel ports for the server port, director class switch ports, and the storage port,resulting in a quick connection of servers to storage devices without interacting with live equipment.   True Structured Connectivity derives from IBM's "Fiber Transport System" (FTS) in 1990, shortly after IBM introduced the first fiber attached mainframe. At the time, network switching companies introduced the director-class switch to accommodate these systems. The TIA-942 Data Center Standards adopted FTS into what is now section 7.5.1, states every port on every active device is represented by a port on the front side of a panel at a Central Patching Location (CPL).   Most enterprise data centers today have server infrastructure that rival 1990's mainframe capabilities. Virtual Infrastructures and mission-critical database are now coupled with flash storage arrays to meet new performance requirements, and the FTS  standard  exquisitely ensures infrastructure keeps I/O flowing.   The Benefits of True Structured Connectivity   True structured Connectivity brings many benefits to the data center. First and foremost, active equipment does not need to be physically touched to perform move, add, and change activity. All reconfiguration of server and storage connectivity is done at the CPL.   Another value of true structured connectivity is the time it takes to bring new equipment into production. The IT team does not need to run individual cables from switch to server or switch to storage, involving either pulling up floor tiles or running overhead cables.   True Structured Connectivity calls for pre-cabling of all director class switch ports, and strategically placed Zone Patching Locations to the CPL. The problem is the rack can house either a server or a storage system. Until the installation occurs, knowing what will connect where remains an unknown. The patch panel at the CPL and ZPL handles the "game-time" decision of making the connection from the newly deployed server(s) and/or storage devices to the nearest ZPL and final connections, using a jumper cable between ports to make the patch connections at the CPL. To further simplify connectivity, Data Center Systems uses a Mimic Panel that directly “mimics” the ports on the director-class switch and other devices.   Carl's Conclusion   Structured cabling is not new, but few companies, Data Center Systems being one, can provide you with a true enterprise class true structured cabling solution. Most cabling companies got their start by implementing local area networks (LAN) and using a LAN/Campus approach that can introduce light loss and complexity. In my next entry I'll discuss the difference between LAN/Campus and Structured Cabling.