Articles

  • NEW: Hiwatch by Hikvision Security Range

    HIWATCH NOW AVAILABLE AT CMS PLC

    HiWatch (by Hikvision) - A range of professional HD cameras, NVRs and accessories that applies the advantages of internet and networking technologies to the world of video surveillance.

    The camera range includes IP,  indoor and outdoor, vandal proof bullet and mini dome, and a series of speed domes featuring important functions like 3D PTZ intelligence management. All cameras have HD resolution and skillfully engineered, high performance components.

    The HiWatch digital video recording platform is the ideal solution for creating an innovative HD  IP CCTV architecture. A single comprehensive software solution enables vertical management of the entire system. It supports up to 256 devices, 4 monitor outputs, live and playback viewing, maps with alarm functionality, pop-up video cameras, event logs, remote configuration and multi-level user management. The Software Client Platform is available for Windows and Phone and mobile app versions are available for iPhone, iPad and Android.

    THE EASY TO USE, PLUG-AND-PLAY SYSTEM IS NOW AVAILABLE IN MULTIPLE VARIATIONS ON THE CMS PLC WEBSITE! 

    ALSO AVAILABLE WITH : WD Purple Surveillance Hard Drive

    • The WD Purple drive is designed specifically for 24/7 DVR and NVR surveillance solutions and is optimized with AllFrame 4K™ technology for system playback and performance.
    • WD Purple drives support 3x the workload rating of desktop drives, making them more capable of handling the higher demands of video surveillance systems.
    • Interface: SATA 6Gb/s, Form Factor: 3.5 Inch and RPM Class: 5400
    • Download Datasheet Here
  • ISSUE 27 HAS LANDED!

    https://www.cmsplc.com/catalogueorder/

  • Technically Speaking: Encircled Flux

     

    In fibre optic loss testing, the most important condition is properly setting the 0-decibel (dB) reference with the light source, power meter and reference cables. Conditioning the light from the light source to and through the launch cable has never been an exact science.

    When you couple a fibre launch cable to a source, there is a lot of variability in what the light output of the launch cable looks like; that variability can make a big difference in a loss measurement. When using different light sources 50% differences in loss measurement were common, so something had to be done. It is however complex because of the core structure in the MM fibre and the variability of the light-emitting diodes (LED).

    CMS Technical Manager CMS Technical Manager

    This complexity has led to a bit of controversy over how to condition sources properly so international standards groups came up with a new way of testing “encircled flux” (EF), which was adopted into U.S. and international standards.


    Different types of light sources produce different types of launch conditions. For example, a light emitting diode (LED) overfills a multimode fibre with too many mode groups while a laser under fills a multimode fibre with not enough mode groups. Over filling a fibre tends to produce link-loss measurements that are too high while under filling a fibre tends to produce link-loss measurements that are too low.

    In other words, certification tests involving under filled launches that can obscure actual high-loss events such as misaligned connectors, which can lead to false “pass” results, that may ultimately hamper cabling infrastructure performance.

    So Encircled Flux (EF) is a multimode launch-condition metric that serves to  alleviate these problems. Its first intention is to reduce link-loss variation when using different light sources so test results are similar, independent of the supplier. This variation has been limited to ± 10% for link loss higher than 1 dB. EF was developed to keep up with components used in high-speed networks, e.g. 10/40/100-Gbit Ethernet. It was not until high-speed transmission over multimode fibre became a reality that EF measurements became important.

    In conclusion, when testing MM fibre networks use an EF compliant source with a tuned reference cord that strips out the unwanted modes.

    Geoff Day - CMS Technical Manager

  • The future's bright for 10GB switches!

    Geoff Day, Technical Manager at CMS plc.

    Geoff Day, Technical Manager of CMS plc walks through the evolution of 10GBase-T technology developments, the impact on small to medium size businesses, and the predicted market trends for 10GB switches.

    It’s hard to believe that the original 10Gbe standard (802.3ae) was ratified eleven years ago. This standard was developed to update the preceding IEEE803.2 standard for 10Gb fibre transmission. At this point large enterprises were the early adopters of this technology, as they already had significant experience of fibre connectivity and were able to justify the price of the hardware against the business needs of uptime, redundancy and speed. For the small to medium size business however the technology was generally unattainable as the price was prohibitive. Fast forward to 2006 which saw the IEEE802.3an standard ratified, enabling 10GBase-T to be deployed using twisted pair copper cabling, you would have expected a significant uptake in the use of 10GB copper switching technology as a result, but it didn’t happen. It’s only now that we are starting to see a dramatic increase in the uptake of 10GB switches and all the predictions indicate that there will be a seismic increase in its deployment in the next few years, across businesses of all sizes.

    To understand this a little more, we need to examine the drivers behind the use of 10GBase-T technology.

    Driver 1: 10Gigabit Ethernet and the server edge

    Many medium size organisations are optimising their server rooms and data centres by consolidating servers to free up NG-GS716T_NG-GS724T_Switchesspace, power and management overhead. This usually involves consolidating applications and eliminating the old “one application per server” convention and often the next step is server virtualisation. Server virtualisation supports numerous applications and operating systems on a single server by defining multiple virtual machines (VMs) on the server. Each virtual machine operates on a standalone basis yet shares the server processing power, ensuring no processing power is wasted. However server virtualisation is heavily dependent on networking and storage and require more storage than one physical server can provide. Network attached storage (NAS) and storage area networks (SANs) can provide additional storage for virtual machines but connection speeds are critical to avoid delays. 10Gbe provides ten times the speed of conventional connectivity for virtualised environments.

    Driver 2: 10Gigabit Ethernet SAN versus Fibre Channel

    There are three types of storage in a network: Direct attached storage (DAS), Network attached storage (NAS) and NG-FS105_NG-FS108_Desktop SwitchesStorage area networks (SANs). SANS have emerged as the most flexible and scalable solution for data centres and high density computing applications, but the main drawback to SANs has been the cost and complexity of installing and maintaining the fibre channel. It is for this reason that the use of SANs has largely been confined to large enterprises.

    The introduction of a new standard the Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI) is now making 10GBe an attractive alternative for SAN applications. The latest iSCSI capabilities allow 10Gigabit Ethernet to compare very favourably with the SAN interconnect with the added advantage that it can be run over the existing copper cabling infrastructure. The advent of the iSCSI standard offers businesses a number of advantages in the form of:

    • Reduced equipment and management costs: 10GbE networking components cost less than fibre channel components and require less specialised skills for installation and management
    • Enhanced server management: the iSCSI standard enables servers to boot from an operating system image on the NAS, eliminating the need to boot each server from its own direct attached disc
    • Improved disaster recovery: all information on a local NAS can be duplicated on a remote NAS for fast and efficient disaster recovery

    Excellent performance: even transactional virtual machines, such as databases can run over 10Gigabit Ethernet and iSCSI storage.

    Driver 3:10Gigabit Ethernet and the aggregation layer

    Until very recently network design best practices recommended equipping the edge with Fast Ethernet (10/100) and Switchesusing Gigabit uplinks to either the core (for 2-tiered networks) or distribution layer (for 3 tiered networks) Today, traffic at the edge of the network has increased  exponentially as applications have multiplied and the price point for Gigabit Ethernet to the desktop makes has resulted in significantly higher adoption rates and this has increased the oversubscription ratios of the rest of the network. This has resulted in a bottleneck between large amounts of Gigabit traffic at the edge of the network and the aggregation layer or core, which are still traditionally running on GB switches.

    10 Gigabit allows the aggregation layer to scale to meet the increasing demands of users and applications. It can help to bring oversubscriptions ratios back in line with network design best practices and provides some important advantages over aggregating multiple Gigabit Ethernet links;

    • Less fibre or copper usage: a 10 Gigabit Ethernet link uses fewer physical links compared with Gigabit Ethernet aggregation, which uses one link per Gigabit Ethernet link. Using 10 Gigabit Ethernet reduces cabling complexity and uses existing cable efficiently, whilst massively improving the network performance of those links.
    • Greater support for large streams: traffic over aggregated 1 Gigabit Ethernet Links can be limited to 1 Gbps streams because of packet sequencing requirements on end devices. 10 Gigabit Ethernet can more effectively support applications that generate multi Gigabit streams due to the greater capacity in a single 10 Gigabit Ethernet link.
    • Longer development times: 10 Gigabit Ethernet provides greater scalability than multiple Gigabit Ethernet links, resulting in a more future proof network. Up to eight 10 Gigabit Ethernet links can be aggregated into a virtual 80- Gbps connection

    It is clearly evident from these 3 key drivers that there are some very compelling reasons for business users to deploy the 10GBase-T technology using copper cabling and switches, yet there has still historically been a reluctance to adopt the technology outside of large enterprises.  The reasons for this are multi-fold and some of the key reasons were:

    • Price Point.  The price point for the first generation of 10GB switches was still regarded as prohibitive by small and medium sized businesses
    • Power consumption: Again first generation 10GB copper switches were power-hungry and this was a concern to network managers, particularly in date centre environments where power consumption is critical and costly
    • Latency:  Network managers were concerned that the latency using copper solutions compared unfavourably with fibre and may prove problematic.
    • Lack of knowledge of business network speed and capacity: Many business users were unaware of the load on their network and didn’t, therefore, perceive a need to upgrade

    So if we sum up the situation in a nutshell: the 10GBase-T standard offers numerous advantages to users but they are not adopting the technology because the hardware has been considered too expensive and not sufficiently efficient. In order for the situation to change and for mainstream adoption in the marketplace, the switch manufacturers needed to address these issues and remove the barriers.

    And that is exactly what has happened. The switch manufacturers have knuckled down to tackle these issues and remove the barriers to entry for SME’s. In January this year NETGEAR™ announced the industry’s first affordable 10Gigabit Ethernet switch for small and medium sized businesses (and any network supporting less than 500 users) with a price point of less than £1000 for 10Gbe switching. Pricing for 10GB switches has reduced by up to 60%. This removal of the biggest barrier to entry means a paradigm shift for users. They can now consider 10Gbase-T as their standard platform. They can also look at consolidating their switch requirements, removing the need for multiple Gigabit switches and potentially saving money into the bargain.

    Whilst price was the biggest hurdle, there have been other developments in switch technology. New model switches have much lower power consumption than their predecessors and 10Gbase-T copper latency figures are typically between 3 and 4 microseconds, compared with 1 to 12 for 1Gbe, making it viable for the majority of non-critical applications

    Market Trends and predictions for 10GB switches

    So now that the technology and pricing issues have been addressed, how will this affect the adoption of 10GB switches in the marketplace?

    Well, dramatically is the answer. 2013 is purported to be the year 10GBase-T finally takes off. Industry research conducted by Crehan Research predicts forty-fold increase in 10GB shipments over the next five years. They also predict that 2014 will be the tipping point where the majority of switches shipped will have 10Gbe ports.

    So as the market is poised for mainstream adoption of 10GB switches, the future looks bright. Small and medium size businesses can enjoy all the benefits of the technology and deploy them into their networks confident they are future-proofing their infrastructure to cope with the ever increasing demands on them. Additionally as the volumes of 10GB switches manufactured and shipped increases, we can expect prices to continue to reduce over time.

    What’s not to like about 10GBase-T technology?

  • IP security: a win-win for end users and installers

    Geoff Day, Technical Manager at CMS plc.

    A look at the rise in IP security, the advantages of digital technology and the opportunity it offers to network installers.

    Increasingly CCTV systems have moved from analogue to digital transmission and IP security systems offer greater control, management flexibility and storage options. This article reviews the dramatic growth in IP security focusing on CCTV and IP cameras to illustrate the benefits to both end users and installers.

    Technology advancements

    Before we get into the nuts and bolts of IP security it is worth taking a short historical view of CCTV systems to understand how far technology has advanced.

    It is claimed that the use of the first CCTV system was recorded in 1942 in Germany by Siemens AG. This was followed in the US in 1949 as they launched the first commercial CCTV system called Vericon. These early systems didn’t have the ability to record images and so required constant monitoring. Obviously this was very labour-intensive so recording systems were developed sometime later but these were pretty basic using magnetic tape technology which still required manual operation and management. As a result of this somewhat primitive technology the use of video surveillance was very limited. The major breakthrough came in the 1970’s with VCR technology, which had the ability to record and erase data. In 1984 the first digital video recorder was produced by Dallmeier.

    CMS CCTV Control Panel for NCN - Dec 2013

    The UK started trialling CCTV systems in the 1970’s and 1980’s primarily for crime prevention and is now considered a “super user” of CCTV cameras with claims that the average person is seen by 70 CCTV cameras on a typical day.

    The global political environment has acted as a catalyst for the exponential growth in the use of video surveillance and alongside government institutions many commercial organisations have deployed more sophisticated systems as a standard element of their building infrastructure.

    CCTV cameras in focus

    Analogue cameras were the original CCTV camera and can record straight to a VCR. The image capture rate is quite low and the resulting images can be relatively poor quality and not always sufficient for securing convictions for crimes. Analogue signals can be converted to a digital signal which enables the recordings to be stored on a PC or Digital Video recorder. In this application the camera must be plugged directly into a video capture card in the computer and this converts the analogue signal to digital. The cards are inexpensive, but the digital signals are compressed which can compromise their quality.CMS DF4920HD-IR for NCN article - Dec 2013

    IP and IP-enabled CCTV cameras offer a number of advantages over analogue units including wider distribution and use of video images, ease of installation and lower maintenance costs combined with the ability to install these cameras on existing Ethernet cabling systems.

    IP cameras are available in 2 formats

    1)      Centralised IP cameras, which require a central Network Video Recorder to handle the recording, video and alarm management

    2)      Decentralised IP cameras, which do not require a central video recorder as they have a built in recording function and can record directly to local storage media such as flash drives, hard disc drives and standard network attached storage devices

    The first centralised IP camera was launched in 1996 and was followed shortly after by the decentralised camera in 1999.

    Most recently the introduction of High Definition megapixel IP CCTV cameras and associated recording devices, have been a major watershed in the industry in terms of the quality of images being produced, which have a dramatic impact on the ability to identify suspects and achieve successful convictions.

    IPSec Network Security Standards

    IPSec is a series of open standards that provide security for the transmission of sensitive information over unprotected networks such as the Internet. IPSec network protocols support the encryption and authentication of data packets, and operates at level 3 of the OSI layer.

    The combination of the IPSec protocol and development of IP Cameras has revolutionised the way in which video surveillance can be deployed and the ability to implement a security solution on the traditional network infrastructure has, undoubtedly increased its adoption in commercial organisations.

    Advantages of IP security systems

    If we examine IP security in the context of CCTV and video surveillance, we can see it offers a number of benefits.

    Use of infrastructure

    By adopting IP security, all security devices can be connected via the existing cabling infrastructure, negating the need for additional proprietary cabling.

    Management

    By deploying IP cameras on the network, management of security is centralised as part of the overall network management process. By using internet and Ethernet connections, network or estate managers can check security remotely using a laptop. This saves on the time and expense of travelling to specific location. Equally all information about security can be interrogated via a central control point, such as a control room. This can result in manpower cost savings through centralised control.

    Flexibility and scalability

    Using the existing network and cabling infrastructure allows a high degree of flexibility and scalability. IP cameras can be easily added or relocated without any disruption to the network. Obviously the cabling infrastructure will need to build in some buffer to accommodate this, but this is standard practice in most network installations.

    Centralised storage

    The latest decentralised IP-based CCTV cameras can support the recording of images and data directly to network attached storage devices.  This means network managers can utilise storage devices to their best advantage. It is of course still possible to have a dedicated storage device to capture this information, and this decision will lie with the network manager.

    Camera control

    Transmission of commands for pan, tilt and zoom can be conducted via a single network cable. Equally, two-way audio can be transmitted via a network cable. Examples of this are in retail applications such as petrol stations where the sales clerk can provide instructions to the customer at the petrol pump.

    Wireless Network capability

    IP cameras can function on a wireless network.

    Of course if the CCTV system is going to be deployed over an existing cabling system it will use resources. A typical CCTV camera with resolution of 640 x 480 pixels and 10 frames per seconds in MJPEG model with require about 3 Mbits/s from the network. In addition, provision will need to be made for storage of video data and whether to use a dedicated or shared storage device. Network managers will also need to build in a redundancy path for the CCTV system in the event of a failure.

    For a new build project adequate planning and provisioning for the incorporation of the CCTV system on the network is fairly straightforward and the plans should address all the aforementioned issues. When CCTV systems are added after the original cabling system has been installed, careful attention will need to be paid to the additional demands the CCTV system is placing on the network.

    Opportunities for installers

    The advent of the IPSec protocol and the development of IP cameras has effectively opened up an additional revenue stream opportunity for installers. It makes sense for them to install the systems as part of a network cabling installation, or indeed as an addition to an existing cabling infrastructure. Obviously installers interested in this new opportunity will need to invest the necessary resources gain an understanding of the products available on the marketplace, how to integrate CCTV products into the network and the capacity planning and budgeting that need to be undertaken as part of their deployment.

    Summary

    The world of CCTV cameras have seen dramatic technological advancements over a relatively short period of time. Camera capabilities and performance have advanced significantly. It is however the development of the IP security protocols that have facilitated the adoption of IP cameras as part of a standard network installation, and this has removed a barrier, de-mystifying the technology and making it more accessible to end users. For installers this is a great opportunity to maximise their revenues from customers by integrating the security offering as part and parcel of their standard service.

  • Advantages of using Pre-terminated Cabling Systems

      Geoff Day, Technical Manager at CMS plc.

    A review of the many advantages of using pre-terminated cabling systems, particularly with respect to data centre applications.

    Pre-terminated cabling systems have been in use for a number of years. When they were first launched they were considered a somewhat quirky or alternative kind of cabling solution, nowadays they are regarded as the “norm” for Data Centre applications. This article looks at the real benefits of using pre-terminated solutions and the specific advantages they offer in the Data Centre environment.

    Time saving

    Pre-terminated solutions help to save time in a number of ways. Firstly as the products are terminated in a factory environment and delivered to site, minimal engineering or assembly work is required on site. Many leading pre-terminated fibre solutions are provided in a cassette format, allowing the installer to “plug and play” multiple connections with one cassette, this in itself contributes towards time saving when compared with the traditional method of individual connections. Pre-terminated solutions also save testing time. The pre-terminated solutions can be tested at the factory and transported to site. This 100% testing at the point of manufacture minimises the occurrence of faulty connections. It is still best practice to test the installed system on site, but those niggly connection problems are pretty much eliminated, saving testing and rework time on site. HK Sept trip 007In Data Centre environments, the architecture has changed dramatically in recent years to allow for flexibility and scalability and the modular “pod” design has become popular. With pre-terminated solutions, complete pods can be built off site and delivered to site as and when required. This can help enormously with planning and implementing Data Centre expansions. A recent study by a leading manufacturer of pre-terminated cabling solutions revealed that using cassette based pre-terminated systems could reduce installation times for copper solutions by 85% and for fibre solutions by 95%. This is a substantial saving in terms of both labour time and project completion timescales. This time saving also impacts on the ROI for a Data Centre by shortening the investment to revenue timescales.

    Manpower saving

    With conventional cabling system projects, installers carefully map out the resources they need to be on site for the life of the project. Often they will use multiple tiers of skillsets to carry out specific tasks, such as making connections, testing and troubleshooting. The use of pre-terminated solutions simplifies the entire manpower planning process. As all the connections are pre-terminated, this mitigates the need for manpower to make terminations on site, the manpower can move straight on with laying out the cabling infrastructure and making connections go live. As the pre-terminated links have been pre-tested, this vastly reduces the need for troubleshooting and retesting.

    Space Saving

    In the world of Data Centres, space is at a premium, so anything that contributes to space saving is welcomed. Fibre is increasingly used in Data Centres primarily to achieve the highest data transmission speeds of 10Gbits/sec often with upgrade paths to 40Gbits/sec. Pre-terminated fibre is much higher in density than copper solutions. Using high quality MTP connectors it is possible to accommodate 576 fibres in a standard 1U panel. This is a substantial improvement in space utilisation with the added benefit of premium performance.

    Minimal on-site disruption and waste

    Traditional cabling installations require loose components and tools to be brought to site. Installers need space to store the components and work areas to make terminations. There is also some wastage as a result which ultimately needs to be removed from site. Using a pre-terminated solution vastly reduces wastage as the pre-terminated links are “made to measure” and if they are delivered to site at the appropriate time, they don’t need to be stored and can be put to use immediately. Additionally some manufacturers have developed recyclable reels for pre-terminated links in the effort to minimise waste materials and this has been well received by installers and end users.

    Cooling benefits

    Heating and ultimately cooling are big issues where Data Centres are concerned. One of the key drivers for the adoption of pre-terminated solutions for Data Centre applications is the increasing need for hiHigh Density MTP2gh density cabling. Cabling blocks airflow so the higher the density of the cable, the better the thermal management– an important consideration for Data Centre applications. The modularity of current pre-terminated solutions provides installers with a lot of flexibility in terms of configuration within the Data Centre. The “pod” design of Data Centres, which include top of rack (TOR), middle of row (MOR) or end of row (EOR) configurations can easily be achieved using the array of trunk cables, array cables and plug and play cassettes, when used in conjunction with high density frames. Cables can be configured to optimise airflow, thus reducing cooling costs.

    Security Benefits

    Whilst it may not seem immediately apparent, the use of pre-terminated cabling solutions offers a number of security benefits, something which is of paramount importance in a Data Centre environment. These security benefits come in a number of guises and we can examine them individually in more detail. On-site- security: On-site security is an issue for most commercial organisations, but perhaps more acutely in a Data Centre environment where SLA’s and downtime can result in costly penalties. When using a pre-terminated solution less manpower is required for the installation, meaning less engineers working on site at any one point in time, making the job of managing “contract personnel” simpler. In some cases organisations use their own teams to install pre-terminated solutions as the process requires less specialist skills and this reduced the level of third party contractors on site. LC Keyed image Network security: In a Data Centre environment, network security is critical, and in a co-location environment even more so. Most pre-terminated fibre cabling solutions offer the option of colour coded and keyed connectors and adapters that enable the identification or segregation of parts or paths within a network infrastructure. By deploying colour coding client zones can be clearly identified and managed. The use of keyed connectors can also help to minimise accidental or malicious network access in ultra- high security environments such as government or military facilities. In some cases, additional product security is provided by manufacturers who supply cassette systems include a seal on the cassette. If the seal is broken this can indicate that the cassette may have been tampered with and whilst this doesn’t prevent individuals opening a cassette it certainly acts as a deterrent.

    Summary

    Pre-terminated cabling systems offer a number of advantages for a variety of different network installations, and are particularly suited to Data Centre environments for reasons of time saving, space saving, cooling and security. It is, however, important to recognise that to reap all the benefits that a pre-terminated solution offers, there is a serious amount of planning that needs to be carried out prior to installation. Attention to detail in the site survey process and the ensuing plan is critical or these benefits will be lost or additional cost incurred. A pre-terminated solution is a pre-planned solution – when done well it works very well. If it is poorly planned the “gains” can soon be lost.

  • NETGEAR ™ 10GB Fibre stackable switch from CMS plc

    XSM7224S copyThe NETGEAR™ XSM7224S stackable switch is now available from CMS plc. This enterprise-grade, 10GB stackable managed switch offers high performance and functionality at a price point affordable for SME’s (NETGEAR also provide a 24 port 10GBase-T version that lowers the price point even further).  All 24 ports of 10GB SFP+ interface are 10GB/GB capable, as are the four additional 10GBase-T combo RJ45 ports, allowing existing 1GB devices to be easily connected whilst providing 10GB for future server/storage upgrades.

    The XSM7224S enables enterprise-class security and offers a full set of Layer 2+ management features including VLAN, QoS, static routing and DHCP services.  It can also be upgraded to a full Layer 3 switch, providing advanced routing protocols such as OSPF, VRRP and multicast for converged applications.

    This switch is supplied with a removable power module for the mains power supply and a second internal redundant power supply is available as an option.  Two removable fan trays provide front to back cooling airflow for use in data centre hot aisle/cold aisle applications

    This switch can be deployed as a data centre Top-of-Rack switch, as a distribution layer 10 GB aggregation switch or as a core switch for small and medium businesses growing networks.

    This switch is supported by the NETGEAR’s industry leading warranty and support package which includes: a Lifetime hardware warranty, 24x7 technical support and a 3 year NBD onsite hardware replacement.

    For more information on this product go to the CMS plc website https://www.cmsplc.com/netgear-prosafetm-24-port-sfp-10gb-l2-stackable-managed-switch-1.html

  • Cable Management: Ignore it at your peril!

    Geoff Day, Technical Manager at CMS plc.

    Managing the physical cable in a communications room or Data Centre shouldn’t, on the face of it, seem too daunting, but in practice, it can present plenty of challenges along the way. There are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration when mapping how cables are routed and organised.  If insufficient consideration is given to cable management as part of the planning process, which sometimes happens, this can result in problems post-installation. Investment in the planning and implementation of robust cable management can ensure a system that is easy to both maintain and expand at a future point in time.

    So what are the elements we need to consider when planning for good cable management?

    Cable properties

    Firstly, we need to be cognisant of the impact of poor cable management on the cable itself. Whenever a cable changes its direction, any bends, kinks, or twists in the cable can impact on its electrical properties, ultimately affecting its overall performance. This applies whether using copper or fibre cable and is the reason why it is essential that bend radius parameters should be adhered to.

    Infrastructure and Environment

    The building infrastructure will impact on the cable management planning and implementation process. New buildings can effectively, be regarded as “green-field” sites as far as the communications room and cabling are concerned. They will still require careful planning but there will be no incumbent hardware or containment to deal with. Refurbishments can often prove more challenging: with floor or ceiling cavities, cables and containment in situ, that can’t always be removed. These can impact on the containing and routing of new cables, and, as most seasoned installers will know, existing cables aren’t always removed.

    Cabling Standards

    There are a number of industry standards that need to be followed: all of which include recommendations on the treatment of cables in installation. These include:-

    BS6701 – Telecommunication Equipment and Cabling

    EN50173, ISO11801, ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B – Generic IT cabling for Customer Premises

    EN50174 – IT Cabling Installation

    EN50130 - Bonding & Earthing in buildings with IT Equipment

    ISO/IEC TR14763-2 – Implementation and operation of customer premises – part 2 Planning & Installation Transparent Trunking

    In addition to this there is TIA-942 which is the Telecommunications Infrastructure Standard for Data Centres and ANSI/TIA606-B which is the administration standard for telecommunications infrastructure, which covers labelling, which is an integral part of cable management.

    The standards are designed to cover all potential eventualities in real-world installations and it is most likely the combination of the standards, combined with the variety of different building infrastructures and layouts that have led to the plethora of cable management products that are available on the market today.

    Best Practices for Cable Management

    It isn’t possible within the confines of this article to cover all the details documented in the standards, so I will cover what I deem to be the most pertinent points.

    • • Services need to be separated – power and data cables need to be separated and the standards provide detail on the separation distances and how cables should be kept apart. There are different parameters for separation dependent on the cable construction and containment used.
    • • Cables must be earthed and bonded
    • • Adequate containment for the cables should be provided either overhead or under a raised floor
    • • Containment can be either: a solid plastic structure which fits together to create a pathway or a metal framework that can be cut and shaped to create a pathway
    • • Sufficient space should be left in containment to allow for future expansion
    • • Service loops should be provided on the network to allow the installer to: work at a convenient location to reconfigure hardware or re-terminate cable. If possible service loops should be stored on the containment on dedicated tray work.
    • • In the case of Data Centres  and in accordance with the TIA-942 standard
      • • They must be designed with separate racks and pathways for each media type.
      • • Data and power cables must be placed in separate pathways or separated by a physical barrier
      • • Sufficient space must be provided between racks and cabinets and in pathways for better cable management, bend radius protection and access.
    • • Don’t forget that patch cords need to be managed within the rack space

    Cable Management products

    Again it isn’t possible to cover all the available cable management products in this article, but I have highlighted some key products which form an integral part of most typical installations.

    Cable Management Checklist:

    I have listed below a few of my top tips for cable management

    • • Don’t skimp on planning and implementing cable management, if you do it will come back and bite you later!
    • • Always conduct a thorough site survey as this will highlight any unusual cable management needs
    • • Think about the infrastructure and environment you are working in
    • • Ensure you are aware of all the standards requirements
    • • Never fill containment – it should not be more than 50% full
    • • Choose the right containment for the cable you are using
    • • Good labelling is a critical part of cable management

    Containment

    Selecting the right containment for the cable you are using it critical and there are many different options available on the market including solid metal, mesh metal, plastic raceway and trunking. Metal containment is typically used for copper cables and the cable type will determine the level of cable separation required within the containment. Plastic raceway is typically used for fibre cable containment.

    Trunking is generally used where there is insufficient space below floor or above ceiling but is not the first choice for containment as it is somewhat more intrusive. At CMS plc we have recently uncovered a niche application, in secure environments, for clear trunking for applications where the cables need to be visible to the network manager.

    Above- the- rack containment

    Above-the- rack raceways offer Network and Data Centre managers more options for cable routing in the communications room or Data Centre. Using roof- mount raceways frees up under-floor areas and helps to improve cooling efficiency, which is particularly important in a Data Centre application. The installation of fibre cables above the rack is becoming increasingly popular, but it isn’t confined to fibre, it can be used for copper too. Often these raceway products can be attached via the rack, negating the need for any ceiling fixtures.

    In-rack cable management

    In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of different cable management products for use in racks: this has primarily been brought about by the increase in the number of Data Centre installations: where space is at a premium, cables are densely packed and network performance is critical. For many years horizontal rack managers were the only product in town: now there are horizontal rack managers, vertical rack managers in a whole variety of shapes and sizes all designed to contain cables whilst maintaining that ever-important bend radius requirement.

    The other stuff

    Then we have a huge range of other cable management products which all have their own unique features making them ideal for specific applications. Traditional cable management products which have been around for many years include: floor boxes, data grommet boxes, flexible conduit, cable ties and grips, cable matting.  Many of these products are simple in their construction but still widely used today alongside the newer products that have been designed specifically for the Data Centre environment.

  • 19" Cabinet and Rack Revolution

    19” cabinets and racks have been around for years but the demands of technology in the last decade have forced a revolution in their design. What was once a relatively simply designed steel construction is now a more sophisticated structure that performs an integral role in the functioning of a data centre.

    The exponential increase in data transmission, via the internet, online services, video, telephony, mobiles and tablets have  increased the need for data storage, bandwidth and processing capability. The growth in data centres and the need for increasingly higher density racks and cabinets have forced manufacturers to review their product designs.

    Key issues that need to be addressed in today’s cabinet design are:  power/heat dissipation, security, monitoring and equipment housing.

    Power/heat dissipation

    Higher density servers means more servers per cabinet and this impacts on the heat generated from within each cabinet. A simple cabinet today can generate triple the amount of power compared with ten years ago; a high end server cabinet can generate twenty to thirty times more power and the proportionate heat to go with it. This dramatic increase in heat has rendered cooling one of the critical issues in both cabinet and data centre design.

    For an individual cabinet, heat is typically extracted by front to back airflow through mesh doors. Computer room air cooling units (CRAC) feed cool air into the cold aisle and then out in to the hot aisle. From there, heat travels back to the CRAC units for further cooling. In extreme cases, fans may need to be added to rear doors to pull hot air through the unit more quickly.

    Within an individual cabinet, it is essential to control airflow so that back-to-front (hot side to cool side) is eliminated. It is also important to install cabinets where the cooling can be upgraded over a data centre’s lifetime.

    Security

    Cannon CabinetSecurity is obviously an issue where a cabinet is located in a hosted data centre, but is not confined to co-location environments. Traditionally simple security features such as passive key operated locks or even code operated ones were considered sufficient. Now more sophisticated technologies are used such as software controlled code, iris or thumbprint recognition, with in-built alerts if there is a security breach. All of these technologies need to work at cabinet level and can be linked to CCTV and video systems for local or remote monitoring. In some cases cabinets can be configured for 2 person authentication, meaning that two specified personnel must be present before the cabinet will unlock. Again security systems are advancing all the time and it is important that users select cabinets that can accommodate security upgrades over their lifetime.

    Monitoring

    As the data centre environment becomes more complex and higher in density – there is more to monitor at both the data centre and cabinet level. Most of the devices installed in a data centre environment will provide information to the Network Manager as to their functionality. This level of “Intelligence” has now moved down to cabinet level with the development of Intelligent PDU’s that can be managed locally or remotely at socket level to ensure that power and heat levels are being optimised and managed efficiently. These PDU’s are located within the cabinets and can be vertically or horizontally mounted.

    Equipment housing

    Whilst there is a standard measurement system in place such that all vendors’ equipment will neatly fit onto a 19 inch cabinet, the reality is not always that straightforward. In some cases equipment won’t fit. It is important to deploy cabinets that are designed with in-built “adjustability” to accommodate devices with more quirky dimensions. It’s also important that cabinets can retain the highest levels of back-to-front airflow isolation even when they are housing lots of different sizes and shapes of equipment.

    Modularity

    By nature of their shape, cabinets have always been fairly modular in design, but never before has this modularity been so important. Firstly when selecting a cabinet for purchase from a quality vendor, it is possible for customers to  “build” their  cabinet by selecting the necessary component elements for their specific requirement. Post installation, cabinets that are fully modular in design can be altered to cater for a change of their use or to incorporate upgrades over time.

    The small business user

    Not all cabinets are used in a data centre environment, but the good news for the smaller business user is that the demands of the data centre environment have accelerated the design and variety of cabinets available on the marketplace, such that many of the features are included in free-standing cabinets used in the business environment. This has also positively impacted on the cost of cabinets available today.

    So,  there are a number of factors to consider when purchasing a cabinet. You need to ensure that you can adequately address the power, heat, security and access issues. You also need to be confident that the cabinet can be upgraded extending its life beyond the current application. Experience shows that well established and reputable cabinet and rack manufacturers are developing their products on a continual basis and that it pays to invest in a good quality cabinet that will last.

  • Power Monitoring and Management in Data Centres

    Geoff Day, Technical Manager at CMS plc.

    Having sufficient power to run your Data Centre is essential, but it is an expensive commodity. Geoff Day, Technical Manager at CMS plc, provides a top level overview of the issues surrounding the management and monitoring of power in a Data Centre environment. 

    Power is essential to the efficient and reliable running of a Data Centre, but if it isn’t managed well it can prove costly to Data Centre managers and owners. As power costs are rising and its availability is limited, Data Centre managers are working within tight constraints. This means that they need to capacity plan, manage and monitor their power usage effectively in order to provide the service levels required cost effectively. Whilst this is a tightrope to be navigated, there are a number of design and installation best practices and an array of products that can be used to optimise power usage in a Data Centre.

    Estimating Power Requirements

    Estimating the power requirements for a new Data Centre is by no means straightforward. In the case of a co-location environment, it is difficult to accurately predict the power usage of each client, so assumptions would probably need to be made on a “per rack” basis. But if these assumptions are incorrect, whether under or overstated, there is an ongoing cost and impact. In the case of a dedicated Data Centre owned by one organisation with a good view of their near term requirements, the rapidly shortening hardware replacement cycles, which are now typically less than three years, makes the job of predicting future power requirements increasingly challenging. The obvious answer to both of these scenarios is to build in a buffer to provision for the difficulty in accurately forecasting power requirements, but again this has an associated cost.

    Data Centre Design

    The design of the Data Centre will also have a significant impact on its power usage. In addition to the power required to support the IT devices, additional reserves are required to support the operation of the Data Centre in the form of cooling equipment, UPS’s, PDU’s, lighting and switchgear. Industry estimates suggest that typically less than 50% of the power supplied to a Data Centre is used to support the IT devices. The Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) metric has been developed to indicate the efficiency of a Data Centre and this is expressed as follows:-

    PUE = Power to the Data Centre

    -------------------------------------

    Power used to support IT Devices

     

    The smaller the number for PUE the better, but in the real world, a figure of 1, whilst perfect, is not realistic as there will always need to be additional power to support the Data Centre operation.

    This is where the design of the Data Centre comes into play. The design and layout of a Data Centre has a significant impact on the heat generated and consequently the cooling equipment required. Cooling and power are inextricably linked so it is important that the design of Air-Lokkthe Data Centre optimises airflow as much as possible so as to minimise the power required for cooling equipment.  The use of cold aisle containment in the Data Centre can assist the flow of hot and cold air to best effect, minimising the energy used by computer room air conditioning (CRAC). There are many additional products that can also be used to assist airflow such as blanking panels, floor grommets and roof tiles and these are relatively inexpensive and easy to install and retrofit.

    Monitoring Power

    Monitoring Power consumption is equally critical to the efficacy of a Data Centre. If we assume that there is sufficient incoming power, based on accurate planning and the design of the Data Centre has been optimised to manage airflow in a way that minimises the use of cooling equipment, how do we manage power consumption on an ongoing basis to prevent outages, or downtime which can be extremely costly?

    The good news here is that there are many products and tools available on the market that can assist with power monitoring, and these vary in levels of sophistication and the associated price tag.

    Inline meters can be installed in racks to measure and report the power usage within a rack, but as they are rack mounted they take up valuable real estate.

    There are a wide range of PDU’’s available on the market place referred to as “Intelligent PDU’s” and these have varying levels of functionality including: reporting power usage, switching outlets on and off, sending alerts to software packages if triggered by an event outside pre-set parameters. These intelligent PDU’s are also configured to be used to bill clients for power consumption. They can easily be custom built to meet a specific rack requirement and can be vertically mounted so as not to use up horizontal rack space.

    There are a number of software products available that enable the power monitoring and management at rack or cabinet level. These are useful mid-level products and ideal for use where racks are dedicated to specific clients in a co-location application.

    At the upper end of the spectrum, Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM) Software is available, which enables Data Centre Managers to manage pretty much every element of a Data Centre on a real-time basis. Typically these DCIM solutions enable the management of assets, provide network connectivity maps, power paths, floor plans and cabinet layouts. These software solutions assist with capacity planning and change management within a Data Centre, as well as reporting on trends and assisting with future capacity planning and provisioning of IT devices.  A number of these DCIM solutions also integrate information from third party Intelligent PDU’s so that information can be managed from one dashboard.  DCIM solutions are feature rich and obviously have a cost associated with them that can price them out of reach in some applications.

    The good news for Data Centre Managers is that there are products available at all levels to assist with the efficient management and monitoring of power in a Data Centre. From the simplest to the most sophisticated application, there are products available that are fit for purpose.

    The process of planning, managing and monitoring power in a Data Centre is not for the faint hearted, and there are some general best practice principles I would recommend.

    1. Planning – detailed planning is essential

    2. Estimate Power requirements at rack level

    3. Optimise airflow to minimise energy spent on cooling

    4. Deploy monitoring tools that are appropriate to the application

    5. Ensure you are able to monitor power consumption at rack level

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