Standards help guide data center administration

A designer of data center cabling systems and the standards that govern them answers questions about the specifications' similarities and differences.

A designer of data center cabling systems and the standards that govern them answers questions about the specifications' similarities and differences.

by Patrick McLaughlin

Jonathan Jew, a partner in the data center design firm J&M Consultants (www.j-and-m.com), has spent countless hours volunteering on committees within standards-making bodies including the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA; www.tiaonline.org) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO; www.iso.org). In a recent interview with Cabling Installation & Maintenance, Jew provided some perspective on the landscape of current and future standards affecting data centers

Q: Can you compare or contrast the primary objective the TIA was trying to accomplish with the development of TIA-942, and what its primary objectives are with the publication of the standard's first revision

A: For TIA-942, the objectives were to accomplish the following:

  • Establish an initial standard for structured cabling in data centers
  • Get people to implement structured cabling in data centers
  • Encourage involvement of telecommunications and IT in the data center design process
  • Encourage better communication between disciplines in planning data centers

As TIA-942-A is being developed, structured cabling in data centers is pretty common and is considered a best practice. It's also common for telecom and IT to work cooperatively with architects and engineers early in the design process. Standards bodies such as the ISO/IEC and CENELEC (www.cenelec.eu) as well as countries including Australia and Mexico have data center standards. Specific objectives for 942-A are:

  • Harmonize with international standards where appropriate, such as on the LC connector interface and on longer optical-fiber horizontal cable lengths based on application and media; to standardize terminology such as equipment outlet (EO) and external network interface (ENI); and to recommend a minimum of Category 6 twisted-pair cabling as well as LC and MPO connectors
  • Energy efficiency
  • Add a space called intermediate distribution area (IDA) for larger data centers
  • Fit TIA-942-A into the new TIA structure of common standards and premises standards

Q: In the five years since its publication, how many amendments have there been to TIA-942 and what have those amendments covered?

A: There have been two amendments. The first was additional specifications for coaxial cable and connectors used for T3s, E1s and E3s along with revised circuit distances. The second was a set of additional guidelines for data centers. It included modification to temperature and humidity limits to save energy; specifications for three-tiered lighting, also to save energy; the addition of Category 6A; and updated tiering tables to reflect the current state of knowledge.

Q: You had a leadership role in developing the BICSI-002-2010 Data Center Design and Implementation Best Practices document. Can you assess the extent to which this document and TIA's data center standard are complementary to one another?

A: BICSI-002 does a pretty good job complementing TIA, CENELEC and ISO/IEC data center standards. We were careful not to duplicate content. The BICSI best practices document exceeds the minimum requirements where appropriate and it provides a lot of content in areas not covered by the TIA standard, including architectural, security, electrical and mechanical systems.

Contributors to the document included 150 subject matter experts from around the world in a wide variety of disciplines related to data center design, including architects, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, structural engineers, security experts, fire-protection experts, insurance risk assessors, telecommunications cabling experts, network engineers, information technology experts, data center engineers and consultants, project managers, commissioning agents, energy efficiency consultants and manufacturers.

Q: Concerning the fundamentals of data center architecture, design and operation, do differences exist in different regions of the world, or are there essential "truths" that apply to data centers regardless of where they are?

A: There are minor differences between regions, mainly related to codes and local preferences regarding products. The types of computers, LAN and SAN switches, applications and protocols are the same worldwide so fundamentals and best practices are pretty much the same.

Patrick McLaughlin is our chief editor.

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