Cabling taking its place in green movement

Over the past two years, Cabling Installation & Maintenance has regularly reported on the products, technologies, and systems that serve data center environments.

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Over the past two years, Cabling Installation & Maintenance has regularly reported on the products, technologies, and systems that serve data center environments. An article we published in January 2007, when we kicked off regularly monthly coverage of data centers, told of data center site selection, including the fact that the availability and price of electric power have become primary considerations. In the months that have followed, it has become clear that power consumption is an overriding issue among data center managers across the United States and around the world.

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Not too many years ago, cabling professionals would occasionally hear a refrain that said this industry is striving to reach a level of consumer confidence at which the 8-pin modular plug-and-jack interface on everyone's office wall is as reliable as the electrical receptacle on the same wall. When we plug our appliances into the wall, we know we're going to get power. Manufacturers, distributors, designers, and installers in the cabling industry were encouraged to achieve a level of performance at which a user could have just as much confidence that plugging an Ethernet jack into the wall would produce a reliable connection.

The irony is that in some places today, the Ethernet connection on the wall instills more confidence in the user than does the electrical outlet. Widespread blackouts have made headlines over the past few years. Now more and more data center managers are finding themselves running out of power before they run out of real estate. Power availability and reliability have become ever-present and often-nagging issues within data centers.

Power is only scarce, of course, when consumption is significant. And data centers are power-consuming behemoths. The networking equipment within data centers consumes huge amounts of electricity, and the air-conditioning systems used to cool that equipment can also be considered energy hogs. While organizations like The Green Grid work in earnest to reduce data center power consumption, the heating/cooling, power-consuming Catch 22 remains an everyday dilemma for many data center managers.

And somewhat suddenly, in the midst of these challenges, the world has "gone green." Or, perhaps, the rest of the world has been going for some time and the United States is jumping aboard the green train. Messages about energy efficiency and consumption reduction are everywhere, including in our pages. With the following series of articles, we're trying to shed light on the realities of going green in the cabling industry today—with a primary focus on the word "realities." On nearly a daily basis, each one of us is bombarded with messages about the green movement. Information comes across our television screens, through the radio waves we listen to during our ever-more-expensive commutes, and for me at least, it floods my e-mail in box.

In the interest of full disclosure, one of the "green" messages that may have pounded your in box recently came from us. In May we hosted a Web-based seminar entitled "Green Cabling." Two of the three articles in this special report—those written by Michelle Carter and John Schmidt—are based on presentations they made during that seminar. Additionally, we offer an article authored by our freelance writer Betsy Ziobron who cast a net over a cross section of the cabling industry and discovered several ways in which its professionals can achieve energy efficiency.

This will not be the last you'll hear about all things green. As we were putting this series of articles together we found information and opinions we'll share with you over the months ahead. As always, we hope the information herein helps you, in one way or another, in your day-to-day work.

Patrick McLaughlin, is chief editor of Cabling Installation & Maintenance.

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