Best practices for data centre cable management

Data centre cabling is not the sexiest of topics when it comes to data centre management. However, arguably it’s one of the most important considerations. Ultimately, it’s the connections between data centres and businesses that will enable future success.

What is data centre cabling?

Data centre cabling can be defined as the network of cables used in a typical data centre. There are two main data centre cable types: structured and unstructured.

Structured cabling design uses predefined data centre cabling standards, with pre-set connection points and pathways. It typically begins with testing to ensure good performance with the cables subsequently organised and labelled. While a structured cabling system may take longer to install and initially be more costly than an unstructured approach, overall operational costs are lower, and system lifespan longer.

Unstructured cabling does not use predefined data centre cabling standards, connection points, or pathways. The energy cost can be higher and cabling management can be difficult.

Why data centre cabling matters?

The connectivity that cabling infrastructure provides forms the operational heart of every data centre and supports the transactions, enabling businesses to make crucial decisions every day. Cables must be carefully managed. Neglecting this part of the infrastructure can lead to higher operating costs and/or expensive downtime and outages.

Understanding data centre cable types

Most data centres typically use four main types of network cabling. These are:

  • AC/DC power cable – With AC current, as supply flows through the cables, the current’s polarity changes, alternating as it flows in one direction, and then changing as it flows in the other. DC current, however, does not change polarity.
  • Copper – Copper cables use electrical signals to pass data between networks. There are three main types: coaxial, unshielded twisted pair and shielded.
  • Fibre optic cable – Fibre optic cables contains strands of glass fibres inside an insulated casing. They are designed for long-distance, high-performance data networking and telecoms.
  • Ground – Ground cables connect a system directly to the earth. When high voltage or irregular electrical currents occur, the ground cable transfers electricity to the ground rather than the electrical system.

What are the main data centre cable standards?

  • ANSI/TIA-942-A Infrastructure Standard for Data Centres – This specifies the requirements for telecoms infrastructure of data centres and computer rooms, covering infrastructure, site location, architectural, electrical, mechanical, safety and security.
  • ANSI/BICSI 002-2019 Data Center Design and Implementation Best Practices – This standard covers all major systems in the data centre and lists requirements as well as guidance on best methods of implementing a design to fulfil needs.
  • ASHRAE 90.4-2016 – This standard includes recommendations for the construction, design, maintenance and operation of data centres. It also focuses on the use of both on-site and off-site renewable energy and provides thermal guidelines
  • CENELEC EN 50173-5 Information Technology – Generic Cabling Systems Part 5: Data Centres – Harmonised with TIA-942, this EU Standard specifies requirements for cabling within data centres to support emerging and existing applications.
  • ISO/IEC 24764 Information technology – Generic Cabling Systems for Data Centres – Based on both TIA-942 and EN 50173-5, this international standard specifies both balanced copper and optical fibre cabling systems targeted for deployment in the data centre.

Understanding data centre cable colour codes

Maximising uptime is key when running any data centre. In delivering this uptime, making the role of network cables clear to all users is vital. The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) is responsible for publishing optical fibre cable colour coding standards. For indoor environments, different colour codes for different fibre grade cables are defined by the TIA.

There are currently six separate fibre optic cable designation specifications, covering both optical multimode fibre (OM) and optical single mode fibre (OS). The following is the existing colour-coding for these standards:

  • Orange for Multimode OM1
  • Orange for Multimode OM2
  • Aqua for Multimode OM3
  • Erika violet or Aqua for Multimode OM4
  • Yellow for Single mode OS1
  • Yellow for Single mode OS2

Best practice for data centre cable management

  • Use structured cabling – Structured cabling systems are orderly, and their design is meticulous to reflect the needs of each working environment. This makes them easier to manage. Moreover, structured cabling systems are easy to update, scale, and flexible.
  • Choose the right cabling solution – When designing a data centre, it is important to consider future transmission speeds and what kind of cabling infrastructure will be most effective in supporting them. Every data centre environment is different and that also applies to the kind of cabling that is most appropriate.
  • Validate the design – Before buying equipment or cables, ensure that there are sufficient connections and the right type of connectors in place.
  • Calculate cable lengths carefully – Calculate cable lengths carefully for each run before starting any implementation. This minimises clutter and streamlines installation and troubleshooting. It also reduces costs.

Best practice for installation of data centre cabling

  • Develop an easy-to-read installation plan – Vague or confusing installation instructions can lead to costly rework. The installation plan should detail every cable and connector type and provide clear connection instructions
  • Think about compatibility – You can’t install a cable from a switch to a device without ensuring that that switch has compatible ports. It is key to validate the compatibility of your connections before starting the installation process.
  • Measure cables before installation – Accurately measuring cable lengths ensures the data centre remains free of loose cables and reduces costs by eliminating wasted cable.
  • Keep documentation up-to-date – Inaccurate, out-of-date patch cabling documentation makes it challenging to provision new services, maintain equipment or troubleshoot connectivity issues.
  • Test cables regularly – This is key to ensure that the infrastructure is working and will support bandwidth and system needs.
  • Growth plan – When assessing data centre cable management plans, it is important to think both about the existing needs but also future requirements. That way, you avoid costly and time-consuming alterations and position yourself to meet the company’s growing demands.

Data centre cabling with Telehouse

At Telehouse, our dedicated team of on-site engineers can connect your private network to partners in our ecosystem using a wide range of full cabling options.

We install a variety of copper and fibre optic cables for clients, including:

  • 3002 coax (AKA T1/E1/2Mbps/75 Ohm)
  • 2003 coax (AKA T3/E3/DS3/34Mbps/45Mbps)
  • RA7000 coax
  • CAT5e UTP RJ45
  • CAT6 UTP
  • Beldon 9508 X.21
  • Multimode Fibre (62.5/125 or 50/125 micron)
  • Singlemode Fibre (9/125 micron or circuit types STM1/STM4/STM16)

Our data centre cross-connects can help you extend your network reach, reduce latency and costs and improve performance. We do this through private, direct interconnections to your chosen service providers at our campus. Cross connect cable types include

  • CAT6
  • Coaxial cable
  • Single mode / Multi mode fibre

Telehouse’s network connectivity services also provide quick and efficient access to a rich ecosystem of more than 900 connectivity partners in our London Docklands Campus. These include Tier 1 and Tier 2 carriers and major internet service providers (ISPs), application service providers (ASPs), cloud service providers (CSPs) as well as mobile, network and content providers.

To find out more, get in touch at:

T: +44 (0) 20 7512 0550 E:

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