In IT, there are many words of advice.  It seems that these days everyone seems to be marketing the “best” and “only” solutions for everything from power and cooling to data transactions.  It can be very difficult to cut through the hype and get to something tangible in the way of savings and/or benefits to your organization.  In recent linked in discussions, one that caught my eye was “Does CIO stand for Career is Over?”  One can certainly argue that the role has changed drastically over the last several years.  IT is no longer a necessary evil, but rather a way to balance needs and technology to further business requirements. 

So who do you listen to for your decisions?  I personally think that CIO should stand for Chief Investigating Officer.  A little CSI above and beyond think tanks, marketing literature tempered with some practical experience go a long way.  I recently read a think tank article from Gartner suggesting that you purchase your cables as part of the network purchase and throw structured cabling out of facilities’ departments.  To me that was extremely irresponsible reporting. 

As electronics companies work to lock down the cables with encryption, interoperability will be a mess.  Couple that with servers that one day have connections on the left and in future upgrades the connection is on the right and now your cable is too short, the moves adds and changes alone will create the very nightmare pictures that we see posted on the internet and are very grateful we didn’t inherit that mess.  There are multiple standards for structured cabling both in and out of the data center.  These standards were developed to alleviate the problems caused by point to point connections and the spaghetti they cause over time. 

TIA-942A, ISO 24764 and the BICSI Data Center standard all show the benefits of a structured cabling system.  Cabling is like a highway system in a town.  Options are necessary so that you can place your equipment where it makes the most sense for power and cooling in the room and to keep down port oversubscription (ports purchased that can’t be used) so that green efforts in data centers can continue.  Why on earth would you want to land lock equipment based on the length of a cable that was purchased with the electronics?  Why on earth would you want to use proprietary cables that can ONLY be used with certain vendors’ equipment?  Isn’t that a huge step backwards for the industry as a whole? 

I was in a data center not long ago that had purchased about 60 ea. 15m CX4 cables.  The 15m of slack was dressed into an overhead pathway only to bring the pathway crashing down.  Pathway and space management both in and around cabinets is impossible with the cable as you go approach.  They cannot be properly sized or maintained.  I have also seen data centers where the pathways look much more like an exhibit at the Smithsonian.  Cable abatement is a code requirement.  But it is very difficult to remove one cable that ends up being unusable when it is under 50 others.  In practice, the cable ends up abandoned and contributing to the museum exhibit. 

For years we fought for open systems.  Why would anyone consider taking such a huge step backwards?  I challenge CIOs to do their own investigation before taking the word of a think tank person that obviously has never inherited a mess or worked through the many iterations of a data center.  Realistically your cabling and cabinet won’t change, what will change is the equipment that goes in them.  I see no reason to replace the cable plant with each generation of electronics.  That to me is just silly.