Data Center

Key Benefits of Optical Distribution Frames for Modern Data Centers

Key Benefits of Optical Distribution Frames for Modern Data Centers

22 June 2018 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

To Ensure Efficiency and Optimal Performance: Take Control of Data Center Cabling

The consistent demand for greater bandwidth to accommodate new applications in the data center is driving higher fiber counts; as increasing numbers of data centers are now designed and built to run high-speed applications for LAN/SAN. These high-speed applications are based on fiber-optic transmission, and as a result, fiber-optic cabling is now (and is likely to remain) the predominant transmission media.

With a steady increase of optical connections to manage, a key challenge for technicians is how to add optical density to the fiber frame while still maintaining proper accessibility, flexibility and manageability at the lowest possible cost. As more and more fiber-optic cabling is added, data center operators can often encounter an ‘out of control’ situation in terms of fiber count, density and space. This can potentially result in reduced availability and a higher cost of operation.

Solving the Optical Connection Challenge

As a way to resolve the issues discussed above, high-density patch panels are often utilised, but these should be used with caution as they can make the problem worse if not handled correctly. After all, trying to fit high-density cabling into cabinets that are designed to house active equipment can create a complex and tangled mass of cabling – particularly in configurations that lack effective cable management.

So how do we prevent the cabling ‘spaghetti bowl’? There are two parts to the solution:

  • Choosing a different cabling architecture

Need to simplify your configuration? Try choosing a different cabling architecture. A centralized cross-connect configuration in the main distribution area (MDA) eliminates patching from the core equipment cabinets. In this case, all active core ports from LAN/SAN are mirrored in central cross-connect cabinets, which results in safer operation and creates a simplified design for future growth.

  • Having the right cross-connect solution

While the equipment cabinets that are designed to accommodate servers are often equipped with fiber patch panels, these often provide limited cable management for the patch cords connecting to the active equipment. While this situation may provide acceptable connectivity, it won’t provide the adequate cable management required for cross-connects. The answer here lies in adopting a best-in-class cross-connect solution, which will typically consist of frames or cabinets that have been designed around the fiber patch panels, and can provide patch cord management that accommodates the volume and types used both today – and in future.

The Solution: Optical Distribution Frames (ODFs)

To address these challenges and improve infrastructure management today, as well as equip facilities for future growth, data centers must be designed to consider optical distribution frames (ODFs) functioning as cross connects in the MDA.

Benefits of ODFs for Modern Data Centers

Optical Distribution Frames (ODFs) have been in use for some time and are typically used in telecommunication providers’ central offices where tens of thousands of optical fibers converge at a single location. Now that data center operators are encountering similar infrastructure complexity challenges, the use of ODFs to manage data center cabling has become a sensible and beneficial option.

As cross-connect ODFs are optimized for cabling and not for equipment, they are able to solve the two largest data center cable management problems:

  • Those caused by application migration towards parallel fiber-optic applications
  • Those caused by the expected growth of the data center

Both of these challenges have caused a requirement to deploy much more fiber in the data center, and as a result have required massive patch cord changes in both number and size. ODFs are an ideal solution here as they are optimized for cable management, offering bend radius protection for fiber patch cords and over-length storage for efficient use of the ODF – even with thousands of patch cords in it.

Considering benefits further, cross-connect ODFs that have been designed correctly, function very effectively as the single point of distribution for all LAN, SAN and telecommunication services in the data center. As a result they deliver best-in-class cable management and reduced operation costs, and offer a number of advantages, such as:

  • Easy servicing – Pre-cabled ODFs allow fast moves, adds and changes
  • Increased availability – Cabling can be added or changed without disrupting running systems
  • Optimal flexibility – Equipment can be connected regardless of its location
  • Enhanced security – Requires no direct patching at the switch/SAN director

You can learn more about data center technologies, architectures, challenges and solutions here.

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