When data center cabling becomes art

We have posted pics of some truly messy data center cabling in the past, but this time we figured it was time to do the opposite: Show how some people have managed to organize cables into something close to art.

Artful cabling 1
Courtesy of Digital:Slurp.

Artful cabling 2
Courtesy of ChrisDag.

Artful cabling 3
Courtesy of mbm3290. Swedish colors! How could we NOT include it?

Artful cabling 4
Courtesy of mmayo.

Artful cabling 5
Courtesy of Jef Newsom.

Artful cabling 6
Courtesy of Precision Fiber Optics.

Artful cabling 7
Courtesy of tim d.

Artful cabling 8
Courtesy of Network1 Cabling. (We’re not sure this is practical or not, but it LOOKS impressive…)

This post is dedicated to Daniel Norman, cable guy extraordinaire at Loopia.se. ;)

137 comments

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  2. I’d love to see those ‘masterpieces’ after about 6 months – all those pics seem to be taken on the first day of installation. We all start our cable jobs looking like that.

  3. Yes they look great but are not exactly practical from an everyday perspective – if one cable goes you have to clip off dozens of zip ties and then tidy it all up again…

    Better to use a quick release strap or a tube shell..

    Still those pictures look very impressive :)

  4. That looks like my house… oh, dear. I seem to have just fallen asleep! *looks at cornered off part of room that has “KEEP OUT” sign on it* :D

  5. These are wonderful! I love the inherent beauty of technology- things that look cool as a consequence of what they do, how they do it, or how we use them. Hard drive platters, wire bundles, circuit boards, schematics, etc. I love these things and use them in my own art- http://www.markcrummett.com.

    These pictures remind me of the physicality of the ‘net. The Cloud is still solidly attached to Planet Earth.

  6. This is good, but the cables appear to be missing labels. In our world (Engineering labs with >15k servers) Every cable must be labeled on both ends with (source/destination) to avoid many hours of frustrating troubleshooting work. Velcro ties should always be used instead of nylon.

  7. art: I took that photo and if you clicked through to the flickr page you would read “Power and primary ethernet are hooked up here. Next is to hookup all the management ports.”. There’s only one network port for a reason: Those machines are part of very large HPC genomics cluster where availability of a single node isn’t a concern. There are typically dozens of nodes down at any given time. It doesn’t matter. Spending extra money to pointlessly wire a second network port would in fact be the offense worthy of flogging.

  8. “… ahhh, we’re finally finished, Ed.”

    “Yes, Thom, it’s a WORK OF ART! Three weeks of backbreaking work.”

    “Hey let’s take a picture!”

    “Wait a minute… three nodes test bad. Can you read me the labels?”

    “… Labels?”

    “Aw crap. Break out the dykes.”

    “*Sigh* I hope you weren’t planning on going home this weekend.”

  9. Once I visited a HP data center near Stuttgart in Germany. They had equally neat cabling, the room was cool, quite silent (despite the air conditioning), clean and very impressively structured. Under the floor was a lot of space for free airflow (about 1.5 meters high) and cable ducts, and those cable ducts even were hung up in mid-air so they won’t get wet immediately in case of water inrush. In the upper room the floor tiles were arranged such that those with air vents were directly behind the hottest servers and those with cable outlets lay where the cables were needed, so no chance to get your feet caught up in cabling. Very impressive indeed, and (despite being kind of a showroom) the data center was in use for quite some years then.

  10. The first two pics are awesome, but most of the others are just krone patching which is pretty run of the mill. Bundles of hardwired CAT5+ is child’s play. It’s the massive mash of CAT5+, Power, and KVM cabling that is where the magic is. Digital:Slurp and ChrisDag I bow to thee :)

  11. Yeah, the behind the scenes infrastructure looks nice, but what do the Patch Leads on the other side of the panels look like?

  12. Too bad many of them are risking bringing their cables out of spec by using zip ties to manage bundles. The guys using velcro are doing it right.

    BICSI Guy

  13. I like the all the pics. They are one of the greatest cabling I have ever seen.
    Might be their Network administrators might have worked in DreamWorks Inc.
    Perfect coloured wires wherever required.

    Great work! to those who have done that.

  14. Hi, I’m “ChrisDag” and just wanted to leave a quick note. I’ve done tons of cabling in my time but don’t get to do it as much because my company has finally figured out that they can use me for more profitable work than basic cluster assembly.

    The picture credited to me above was taken by me but the wiring is not my work. The picture was taken in a client datacenter during a consulting and technical training trip. I received permission to take and use the pictures as long as I was careful to not identify the organization.

    Just wanted to make this clear – it was a beautiful wiring job but the work is not my own.

    -Chris

  15. I’ve noticed most of these are the back of patch panels, which are pretty easy to make look good. The challenge is on the other side, where you have to plug all of those into a switch of some sort. At least where i’m at, that stuff changes all the time as people move, add new network devices etc.

  16. Funny how we are calling this art, yes it looks beautiful, but this is just amazing because most admins never take the time to do the job right. So in fact this is like doing your job right, and all those hacks out there doing sloppy work are just lazy. Don’t get me wrong, this is amazing and I am digging it for sure, just using my freedom of speech before its replaced in the constitution.

  17. Nylon tie wraps are perfectly acceptable. Velcro wraps are typically preferred in data centers and telecommunications rooms. ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-B states, “Cable stress, such as that caused by tension in suspended cable runs and tightly cinched bundles, should be minimized. Cable ties used to bundle cables should be applied loosely to allow the cable tie to slide around the cable bundle. The cable ties should not be cinched so tightly as to deform the cable sheath.” BICSI TDMM 11th Edition also supports this.

    Several of these pictures are of the back of the racks/patch panels. These cables should not be moving. They should be permanent. Therefore the need to remove the nylon tie wraps should be little or none.

  18. That took a tremendous amount of work to dress those cables. Very impressive. RackSolutions has a new product that completely eliminates the cabling issues associated with very dense installations. This product uses Keystone Jacks to provide the flexibility and versatility to install any type of cable directly where it needs to be and at the same time keeping the main cable trunks completely out of sight.

    http://www.racksolutions.com/server-racks-lan.html

    Will Beene
    Will@RackSolutions.com
    903-453-0835

  19. This could also be entitled: “heaven forbid a cable goes bad and some poor schmuck has to trace it” Sure it’s pretty, but it’ll be a pain in the butt to trace. I only notice one picture where the cables are labeled too. And, what about cable redundancy?

  20. I work at a Television centre in Toronto Canada, and we have 23 TV stations and support equipment. We do the same thing with all of our cabling, audio, video, network, fibre optic, etc.

    The nylon ties are fine as long as you don’t reef them down as tight as they will go and two clicks more… We due use velcro for the fibre optic cables;>)

    We also have started using the black nylon ties because of the breakage due to the UV from the work lights. We also only use removable ties, and run much bigger service loops to the equipment, so you can remove it for servicing without disconnecting everything…

    If you do the cable management right the first time, you don’t have to do it over again, and if you keep up with it during the changes… it always looks wonderful…

    Cheers,
    Dan

  21. I agree with the last poster. Velcro is supposed to be used when working with cat5, cat5e, cat6. Tie wraps should only be used for power runs, period. If you want to show that you really do have a clue and you’re a DC cable artist, stitch….

    EOF

  22. These are really good examples of the reward for time taken.

    To those that have disparaged these examples because they are on the “backside” I would suggest that they think about the fact that good cable organization requires time. Even on the “front side” it can be neat. You can take the time upfront or take the time later. when you take the time later it always happens to be in the middle of tracking a problem. The time gets expended trying to figure out and sort the cabling. I can assure this is true as I have more than two decades of working in cabling environments and every time I did not take the time upfront to make it neat or take the time to maintain it when I had to make changes invariably it came back to bite me.

  23. really nice! must have taken ages, but… think about this: you damage ONE of the hundreads of cables… :P you have to untie everyting to replace it…

  24. To el dorko and cyn

    The cables should be labeled when pulling, but in the end the port on the front of the patch panel should be labeled the same as the corresponding wall jack. No need to keep labels on the wire (mine are usually cut off when I cut it to length right before I land it) and no excuse for spaghetti.

  25. What’s the problem with zip ties, other than the potential damage when cutting them off and, of course, the waste? I use releasable ones which avoid both those issues.

    It’s easier to look neat when you only have 1 power supply and 1 NIC, as in some of these photos. Also when you have a full rack of identical boxes so all the PSs & NICs align horizontally.

  26. Not practical? Neat wiring is IMPERATIVE. Network computing breeds chaos. It all sounds perfectionist and anal until its 3am at the datacenter you’re up to your neck in a tangle half-assedly run cables.

    Cheers.

    _M.

  27. Ok, sent here again from another site. Why should a standard be impressive?

    I can appreciate pictures 1, 2 and 4 since they are the backs of server equipment without the management klunkyness.
    (and looks like Sun equipment should!)
    All the other pictures are just the backs of patch panels. Show me how the FRONT of those racks look and I might be impressed.

    Most of all what bugs me about this blog post is the comment for the last picture…

    “We’re not sure this is practical or not, but it LOOKS impressive…”

    What part of that is impractical? You can get up to 1152 ports in one rack with 24 double density patch panels. Then the only problem is the vertical space for racing all that damn cable.

  28. beautiful work. reminds me of the scene in the “Matrix”
    in which Neo’s cables all start popping out and he is
    flushed. I would have taken the blue pill myself.

  29. These pictures are beautiful. They show that someone actually cared about what they were doing. Whenever someone takes the time to incorporate neatness (yes, it always counts), utility (because it will be used) and art (because it shows, dammit) into their work I salute them and thank them.

    It also shows what thoughtless slobs can’t imagine. I spend the better part of each day rectifying the incompetence of idiots who think that a job consists of punching in and out on time and getting everything done “real fast, no problem. ”

    Two tips for home handymen: 1) Never use silicone caulk inside your house. Unless you are willing to remove it later. 2) Never paint anything in your house without first removing all hardware and associated fasteners unless you are willing to remove the fasteners and hardware later.

    Don’t know if you’re willing? Well then, just try removing silicone caulk from tile grout! Just try to engage a screwdriver in a slotted screw fouled with four coats of paint! Aaaaah. Nobody gets it.

  30. These are all a nightmare. You’re at a PC, and your network connection is not working. Its a blue cable going into the wall somewhere. You go to the network closet, and you have several hundred ‘blue’ cables terminating in your network closet, all ziptied in nice tight bundles, and no idea which cable is which. What do you do? Failed cable termination (the connector on the end) is very common.

    Do you start unplugging connectors? What about if you finally go through all 250 and figure out which one it is? Do you start cutting zip ties? You you have to deal with some psycho network guy who’s going apeshit because you’re cutting his cable ties and pretty work? Yes, yes, yes, what a nightmare. The network closet has become some kind of hands off cult church altar for this guy, and woe to any hacker who needs to get some work done and needs to fix it. And if its a cable itself that is bad, good lord, pulling it out is a lot of work, cause this guy probably went the whole length of the bundle every 1 ft with zipties. And you got to cut them all out, and put them all back without him noticing late at night, or he’s going to shit a brick.

    I propose this: what if every single cable were a different color. Your cable at the end is a semi light green one, boom, go to the network closet, boom, there it is, the semi light green one. Of course, they don’t make a thousand varieties of colors, but you could get 8 or 16 different colors. That would slash the number of cables you have to test by a factor of 8 or 16. Going through 256 cables now becomes only a matter of going through 16.

    Or how about a reference number printed all along the cable, or at minimum, at the ends where they terminate. If at the end your reference number is say 7634, all you have to do is go back to the closet and god forbid find cable 7634 (no where near as easy as spotting it by colors, but at least you’ve got a fighting chance).

    I’ve done network closets where everything is all nice ziptied and orderly and paths are laid out… loose and tight… and if your network is STATIC I imagine this could last a while. But guess what, networks are not static, at least mine are not, they are constantly being ripped up and rerouted and improved and reconfigured for changing situations. All those zip ties get cut, and it becomes at least in the interim while you’re working, something of a rats nest as you try to disagnose and establish connections. Sure, once you got it all working great, you can clean it up to look impressive to guests.

    In the thick of flux change, there’s nothing more beautiful than knowing exactly which wire goes which because of its color, or because of its distinct ending termination that seperates it from all the other cables.

  31. You can really tell when a good cable tech gets behind the rack and sculpts jobs like these. Great job guys!
    Now if only the customer would keep everything looking this nice. Companies should realize that a network admin has NO need for a punch tool, and while they may be the best at what they do, they are certainly not cable techs!! No disrespect intended, it is simply two totally different carrer paths.

  32. For all those people that say this is more of a pain than it’s worth are wrong. If you have labels on all your wires and you build slack into your cable like the last few pics, you can easily identify cables and have slack to replace a failed connector. Not to mention there is a smaller chance of connector failure due to the strain relief on the connector versus the cable dangling to the ground with the weight of all that cable pulling on the connector.

    Also, when I run big bundles of coax we square bundle the cable, using jigs to make sure cables don’t get crossed. Then, even without labels, you can see where your cable goes into the bundle, say row 2 column 3, go to the other end, find the cable thats in row 2 column 3 and there you go.

    They also make these things called patch panels that make it a lot easier to reconfigure your network. That way, your infrastructure wiring should never get touched, minimizing the chances of creating an outage digging around through bundles of cables to find the one you need, potentially damaging multiple connectors.

    All our cables are colour coded based on use, e.g. white:ASI, blue:Baseband Audio/video, black:L-band, Orange:EAS, purple cat-6:gig-e transport streams, green cat-6:management, etc…

    I’ve seen the way a lot of network guys run calbes, it’s no wonder they worry about failed connectors and people walking through their data centers. Fiber laying on the floor, fiber ran out in the open, no bend radius consideration, pinches in fiber, cable loops sticking out of racks just waiting to get snagged on someone waling through. I’d lie awake at night too if my network looked like some network guys.

  33. One thing I really hate about working in IT… All the negativity. This can’t be done because of that. That can’t be done because of this. How about some positivity?
    What I’ve learned about people who knock great work is that they are usually jealous or feel threatened because they are too lazy to take the time to do it right.
    These are the same people who usually don’t document things like a “professional” should.
    If you don’t think these are great installs you should look at your work and ask yourself if you do a “professional” job, or just a “good enough” job.
    Also, when someone sees the wiring in your data center or above the ceiling or wherever it may be, they see it as a reflection of what level of quality work you (and your whole department) do. The same way people make a judgment about you by your appearance.

  34. This a like a good centre fold picture :>

    The only thing missing which I don’t recall seeing in any pic are cable management arms.

    You need these to truly work with your racks or else you have to disconnect cables from the rear to be able to move the servers on the rails.

  35. I’m sure that I’m just showing what an old fart that I am, but I worked for what was once the Bell System and almost of all our equipment was installed by Western Electric installers (now Lucent and others). Man, they were always required to look that good and laced it into the racks with “12 cord” (waxed nylon string). Impressive indeed when they laced in 000 gauge power wires neatly like that. (about 1 1/4 inches diameter) This does look good and I have seen the bad, but those guys could only make pretty stuff. (it was all grey though)

  36. If any of you have a cabling vendor that does not do this for you, get a new vendor. This is and should be the standard of all installations. If you need someone to do that type of work for you I would suggest Tel-Tech Networks in Arizona or WBE Telcom in Northern California.

  37. *Sigh* – There’s always one, or in this case several

    Do none of you muppets know that you can get zip ties that can be released?

  38. Wow. I’ve been putting off a HUGE re-cable of a very messy patch panel I inhereted (5 years ago). I suddenly want to drop everything I’m doing and go tackle it now. Thanks! I needed that.

  39. Well…honestly this is how all cables should look…but then again, I am part of the Union…I guess the rats have put their hands on anyone’s cables that don’t look like this…

  40. Well looks pritty impressive, just think of the massive alien crosstalk and FEXT.
    Shame the engineers that install the “media” aren’t payed like the rest of the I.T. trade.
    A complete injustice, when in the UK we have to compete with bored chippys, trying their luck at another trade (it’s just a cable, pull it harder!!!) and sparkies(two core and earth, where does the orange and green wires go?)and migrant cowboys under cutting British engineers and doing a bad job at it. Like our trade isn’t suffering as it is already

    More recognition is needed for sub contractors as it’s us that do the majority of the networking donkey work.
    If it wern’t for us comms (cable monkeys) engineers, nerds would have no communictaion media as that’s below them to install cabling!!
    I mean how many MCSE or Cisco engineers have ever been cable monkeys…very few I’d guess.
    Power to the data cabler…

  41. Great artwork. However it looks like these wired cabinets exceeded the owners budget. The new server racks and data cabinets on the market these days are very inexpensive. There are many places to buy online. I found the quality and value of the network support furniture you can get to be above my expectations. Make sure you ask about the quality before you buy. Check out the data server racks if you get the opportunity.

  42. I agree with some of the comments is that once problems arise and you have to move a cable then that is where the work begins. Nice work though.

  43. Paul Kotas and Doug both got it right- nothing wrong with zip ties as long as the sheath isn’t distorted, and and the cable will be numbered on the front of the panel. Personally I prefer my looms slightly more random for xtalk reasons. Nice work though.

  44. wow i like it so much, thanks for inspiring me more about network design and everything. love it… God Bless you all Guys…

  45. This is another example of neatness run amok. Your data centre should be a fortress where nobody who thinks a clean room is a productive room is allowed to go. Neatness makes work impossible. I would quit if I worked in that place

  46. This post clearly has to be in all porn-block filters! Now I can’t get up to get a new cup of java from the coffee automat!

  47. Although impressive artistically, I wonder if all that time and effort bundling would be better spent elsewhere, and instead consolidating cables and connectiors into loose tubes, larger jackets, and connectors like an MTP, which can provide up to 72 fiber connections in a single point.

  48. The server patchcables look really nice, however the network cabling looks kinda sloppy in the last pic. Nylon wraps are actually good for up Cat 5e or less. Also if the installation is certified, you won’t have a cable go bad so you don’t need to worry about removing those tie wraps. A properly done installation will run properly until it is outdated and needs to be replaced anyway.

  49. It looks organized… not good. It should be seperated into groups of 24 at the point in leaves the ceiling or floor. Velcro should have been used as well. You need to see real professionals work, that would blow you away.

  50. last image the innerduct is not protecting the fiber. Should have used an armored fiber in the data center. Also, OM3 ‘aqua’ 50/125 micron fiber. Where is the rear cable management in the last image? Not much vertical management in majority of images.
    You call yourself cable installers? Well I ain’t buyin’!
    Just kidding.

    Bob :)

  51. This cabling picture take me back to when am working as Computer Engineer under Central Bank of Nigeria, Ibadan branch at Information technology Support Office,Since believed that am still going to work in my career here in America, because I like to be seen nice Computer/ Networking Engineering job established.

  52. Wonder how anal the person was who did that and how long it took. Not bad at all, just the most organized, well kept set of mass cabling I’ve ever seen in my life.

  53. :O i’ll jammed my head if i have to do it everyday. it look like mess but its an art. and extremely hard work for a cable man. guess what if any of those cable damaged.. can’t think of it.

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