Deploy networks faster with preterminated cabling

Preterminated systems offer several benefits and require upfront planning and analysis.

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Preterminated systems offer several benefits and require upfront planning and analysis.

By Charlie Bogolawski, Leviton Network Solutions

Many of today’s businesses rely on advanced, ever-changing technology to increase their agility and flexibility while reducing cost. At the same time, they require mission-critical networks that can deliver resilient, fault-tolerant applications for their employees and customers. Because data centers are a capital investment essential to achieving corporate goals, businesses demand unfailing reliability and fast deployment of these critical spaces, while information technology and data center professionals strive to manage complexity and costs.

Modularity is becoming increasingly popular in data center design to properly control scalability and manageability. Whether a top-of-rack, middle-of-row or end-of-row configuration is deployed, modular designs require minimum investment while allowing for flexibility, growth and maintaining low latency when accessing data.

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Preterminated cabling systems can help accomplish a number of objectives, including facilitating a migration strategy from, for example, 10 to 40 or 100 Gbit Ethernet. After careful consideration of factors such as optical fiber count, connector type, insertion loss budgets and others, data center administrators can determine if a solution like the 24-fiber MTP-to-MTP trunk (top) or the 72-fiber LC trunk (bottom) are essential pieces of their preterminated cabling systems.

The information technology systems (ITS) industry is also seeing an evolution in how data center projects are designed and deployed. While a traditional three-phase design-bid-build is still a viable way of doing business under many circumstances, design-build is better geared toward purpose-built facilities such as data centers that are constructed from the ground up and that demand more specialized expertise.

Preterminated optical fiber and copper cabling solutions are becoming increasingly popular. Designed for rapid deployment, preterminated cabling eliminates the need for field terminations. This can significantly reduce installation time and increase network performance to exceed industry benchmarks. Preterminated cabling is also factory-terminated and tested before it leaves the manufacturer. It is ideal for data centers that demand performance, flexibility and scalability while still keeping costs and material waste in check.

Build a better infrastructure

Preterminated cable provides a plug-and-play solution for links between switches, servers, patch panels and zone distribution areas in the data center. These solutions include a variety of trunk cables, array cables and plug-and-play cassettes that give data center managers choices to suit specific needs. When compared to field-terminated cabling, there are many reasons to consider preterminated optical fiber and copper cabling.

It increases speed of deployment. Field termination is the most time-consuming, labor-intensive part of the cable installation process. Once preterminated cabling is delivered, it can be unpacked, readied for deployment and connected quickly. In many cases preterminated cabling can cut installation time by up to 80 percent over field terminations.

It removes the need for transmission-performance testing. With preterminated cable assemblies, transmission testing of assemblies is performed by the manufacturer before shipment and test reports are included with the assemblies. This leaves only continuity testing for copper and 10-percent insertion loss and continuity testing for fiber, which reduces the time spent testing on-site.

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In many cases preterminated copper systems, including components like the Category 6A (top) and Category 6 (bottom) systems shown here, are the appropriate choice. When planning to deploy a preterminated system like these, users must carefully determine cable lengths by taking into consideration factors like bend radius, service loops, and distances to, from, and within each cabinet.

It reduces downtime with faster, more flexible MACs. With preterminated solutions, data center managers can make changes quickly based on network growth, business decisions, or shifting requirements. In disaster-recovery situations that call for fast, temporary data communications setup, preterminated cabling can minimize business downtime and establish communications quickly. It can also be disassembled quickly when the situation is resolved. The components are reusable for more efficient moves, adds and changes (MACs).

Users avoid time-consuming rework. Increased network speeds have tighter link budget requirements that can be challenging to achieve with field terminations. Preterminated cabling provides more consistent channel transmission characteristics, as the experience level of the field technician no longer becomes a factor. Precision factory-termination processes take place in a clean, well-lit environment, unlike termination in uncontrolled field conditions. This increases the likelihood of clean and uncontaminated optical fiber ports, enables lower loss budgets and provides overall better electrical transmission. Factory terminations are also guaranteed under warranty, which offer peace of mind to data center managers.

It cuts cleanup time. Preterminated solutions allow for quick cleanup due to minimal leftover materials and scrap. Also, because there is less waste and material to clean up, preterminated solutions also help meet green design, waste reduction and material reuse goals.

Tips for choosing the right cabling

Although it doesn’t require as much time-or as many installers in the field-preterminated cabling does require additional upfront planning and a detailed analysis to establish the cabling and termination routes and lengths needed. From determining the overall architecture, cabling media, pathway systems, elevations and rack-level details, to understanding the customer’s unique requirements for scalability, density, manageability and deployment schedules, there are considerations that go into planning a preterminated cabling infrastructure.

Some key considerations to remember include the following.

  • Architecture and configuration-It is important to understand what type of architecture and configuration will be deployed, such as traditional three-tier switch architecture, fabric switch architecture, end-of-row, middle-of-row, or top-of-rack configurations. This will help determine the placement of equipment and servers and ultimately impact the cabling termination routes and lengths required.
  • Cabling media-Determining applications and required cable media for copper and optical fiber links is a key part of the planning process. This might include cost considerations, bandwidth needs, distance limitations, equipment interfaces, power consumption, pathway space and overall lifecycle cost. The environment itself also should be considered, including any electromagnetic or radio frequency interference (EMI/RFI).
  • Migration and scalability-Knowing the migration strategy and future plans will go a long way in selecting the right preterminated cabling components. For example, if there is a need to support a migration from 10 GbE to speeds of 40 or 100 GbE, careful consideration must be given to the optical fiber count, connector type, distances, insertion loss budgets and ease of switching out cassettes or other connectivity components.
  • Pathways-The position, elevations, required separation and type of pathway system used can impact the cable lengths. For example, determining whether cabling will be run overhead or underfloor, knowing specific rack heights and clearances, accommodating required separation and selecting the cable support system (e.g. ladder rack, cable tray, trough) will all need to be determined before calculating cable lengths between equipment and patch panels.
  • Cable runs-To carefully determine preterminated cable lengths, it is important to know the rack-level detail of the installation. Bend radius and service loops must be considered, as should the distances to, from, and within each cabinet. With preterminated cabling systems, it is important to order lengths that do not come up short while avoiding too much slack in cabinets and pathways. Proper sequencing is also important to ensure that longer cable trunks are laid into trays first for an overall cleaner installation.
  • Additional considerations-From density and airflow in the cabinet, to preferences for polarity and color-coding, proper planning for preterminated cabling solutions requires an extremely detailed analysis of the customer needs and specifications. The deployment schedule must also be carefully reviewed and communicated with the manufacturer to ensure on-time delivery of materials.
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Preterminated systems are factory terminated and tested before leaving the manufacturer. Shown here is a number of tagged Leviton trunks before termination and testing. When purchasing a preterminated system, it is recommended to use a manufacturer that provides quality documentation.

Tips for choosing the right manufacturer

There are many options when selecting a preterminated assembly manufacturer to work with. Search for a qualified, reliable provider that can offer services and features such as guaranteed cabling performance, design assistance and large quantities of preterminated assemblies on time.

All preterminated copper or optical fiber purchased through a manufacturer should be tested and verified by a third party to exceed TIA and IEEE standards. The manufacturer should also provide 100-percent testing in a quality-controlled environment before the cabling is shipped out to the worksite.

You should look for these qualities in a manufacturer.

  • Quality documentation and warranty, meaning that each product is labeled with a unique serial number for full traceability. Also look for lifetime product, system and performance warranties.
  • Complete design service. Look for a manufacturer that offers technical experts either remotely or on-site at no additional charge to help with topology and infrastructure layout, along with elevations, pathways and specifications.
  • ISO 9001 certification, which includes third-party auditing of manufacturer sites, functions, products, services and processes.
  • Dedicated 24/7 make-to-order facilities that can take on large orders while providing fast turnaround. Orders that are too large (or small) may be pushed to the bottom of the production pile in some manufacturing environments, but make-to-order facilities prevent this problem.

Addressing data center infrastructure efficiency, deployment time, performance and scalability has driven adoption of preterminated structured cabling systems. As data center managers aim to increase bandwidth and processing capacity, they will look to integrators that can serve as project managers and oversee deployment, helping to implement design plans that maximize space efficiency and reduce operational costs. Quality cabling manufacturers can offer fair pricing, as well as work to establish a true partnership through the warranties, guaranteed performance standards and design services. u

Charlie Bogolawski, RCDD, CDT is the director of technical sales for Leviton Network Solutions (, where he leads a team of specification engineers and technical sales personnel, spearheads training and develops sales tools.

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