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It's the cabling, stupid!

Why neglecting your networking cables could be the dumbest thing you ever do.

NEW YORK -- Your days of not worrying about cabling are over.

The multitude of standards and codes governing cabling in the modern data center can make even the savviest server farmer's head spin. But all that complication is really designed to provide what all data centers constantly seek.


According to Carrie Higbie, global network applications market manager for The Siemon Company, while cabling is a seemingly innocuous facet of the data center, cabling is at the heart of the entire infrastructure and can be vital to efforts such as compliance and security.

Upshot: Don't underestimate cabling.

"You need an end-to-end solution … there's definitely a cause and effect between cabling and electronic performance," Higbie said. "You have to look at everything in your data center as a combined solution."

Even though Dave Rubeck, an operations manager with Verizon, does not deal with cabling issues in-house, Higbie's words hit home. It's no secret that most data center managers don't necessarily give cabling concerns the TLC they need, and Rubeck said the main reason for that is because it's often out of site -- thus out of mind.

And it's tough to track down problems when you can't find them. Rubeck said the best way to prevent that from happening is by keeping yourself up to speed on the latest standards and codes so you'll be ready to fix problems when they occur.

Which, inevitably, is going to happen.

"Every three years something gets changed out, so if you're not trained to stay ahead of the game, you're behind it. Going forward is the best thing to do."

Cabling issues aren't to be taken lightly, simply because the facts say otherwise. According to Higbie, 70% of network outages are related to cabling. Worse yet, 80% of subsequent repair time is spent diagnosing the problem, and the combination can cost an organization an average loss of $90,000 per hour in downtime for business-critical systems.

Higbie is a strong advocate for intelligent patching -- a physical layer management and auditing tool that allows data center managers to see where devices are on their networks to aid troubleshooting and fault detection. IP is designed to help a data center monitor its cables, making the search for the problem much easier.

But don't look for vendors as a panacea. It's up to data center managers to make sure their cabling needs are up to speed. Judy Boggess, the assistant chief information officer for UMass-Boston, said she thinks the recent standards meant to unify cabling issues are an important part of making sure that happens.

"Vendors don't have any incentive for you to come to the real bottom line. It's something that the customers -- the users -- have to do for the institution, and it requires a great deal of work. Better frameworks would make that simpler," Boggess said.

Higbie agreed, but she took it one step further. Not only do electronics vendors have no interest in helping companies reach a proper return on investment, they wouldn't even know where to begin.

"It's like going to the dentist and asking them why your foot hurts. What's the point?" Higbie said.

This article originally appeared on

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