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Understanding Standards to Futureproof the Data Center

Understanding Standards to Futureproof the Data Center

3 May 2018 | Reading Time: 3 minutes


Driving Data Center Value 

How prepared are you, infrastructurally, to cope with ever-advancing stored data demands?

For data center managers, it’s an important question to address. After all, stored data is predicted to continue growing at 40% per year, and with billions of IoT devices generating increasingly exponential volumes of data to be processed, analyzed and stored, sufficient data center infrastructure is a necessity in order to support such an ever-expanding workload.

To meet demand, data centers are evolving at an accelerated pace. There have never been so many options for those in charge of data center planning and design. For example, should you build, lease or move to cloud? What types of optical fiber should you deploy?

It can be difficult to navigate all these options and requirements, as well as keeping to data center standards. However, adhering to standards is crucial consideration if you are to futureproof your data center.

The Impact of Standards on Modern Data Centers

So what do those responsible for data centers need to know to enable them to achieve the most value – and futureproof the data center today?

A wide range of standards outline the requirements that modern data centers and their contents must adhere to. These can range from local building codes, to guidelines from ASHRAE on cooling, to a number of requisites placed on the IT equipment. Furthermore, there are several standards related to the structured cabling infrastructure itself, as this serves as the platform for IT equipment in the data center.

Considering the relentless growth in data traffic and requirements to provide high-bandwidth, low-latency connections, we have seen a substantial amount of activity within the standards bodies to define higher speeds. For data center managers, it is important to keep up with the latest developments in applications and cabling standards (the two main types of data center cabling infrastructure standards) to ensure the cabling infrastructure can support these higher speeds with minimal disruption.

Which Standards Should You Be Aware Of?

There are two main types of standards, relevant to data center cabling infrastructure that it’s important to be aware of:

Applications standards define the applications that will run on the cabling infrastructure, and also define the distance that an application can operate over a given media type. There are three applications standards that are most commonly deployed in data centers:

  • IEEE 802.3 (Ethernet standards) have been particularly active, and currently have draft standards underway for applications up to 400 Gb/s.
  • INCITS T11 (Fiber Channel) covers storage area networks (SANs), with published standards for up to 128 Gb/s with a roadmap out to 1Tb/s.
  • Infiniband Trade Association is used primarily for high-performance computing applications, with a roadmap with options for up to 600 Gb/s.

Cabling standards provide more detail around the physical media and define the channel that supports the applications. There are three main cabling standard bodies; each of these has a general standard defining structured cabling, as well as a standard specifically for data center applications to reflect the need for higher speeds, increased density and an array of architectures:

  • TIA (Telecommunications Industry Association) – North America
  • CENELEC (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization) – Europe
  • ISO/IEC (International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission) – Global

Note that while there are differences between these standards, there is agreement around the minimum recommended cabling categories and connector types. Keep up to date with standards developments here.

Keeping Up With Changing Standards To Futureproof the Data Center

It is likely that data center cabling infrastructure will need to support multiple generations of equipment and speeds in the future. Keeping up with the latest standards is critical if data center managers are to future proof data center solutions. For new builds, deploying the highest bandwidth cabling as per the data center cabling standards can help to drive the most value, greatest efficiency, and highest speeds long-term.


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