By Patrick Mclaughlin
Way back in 1997, one of my first assignments for this magazine was to write about the development and availability of a product used to shape up telecom rooms that had become rats' nests of patch cords. The device, called PerfectPatch, allowed technicians to shorten a patch cord and by removing the slack, eliminate the unruly mess of cords that made a nightmare out of any move or change.
Not long after learning about the product, I saw it on display at a trade show. The display's concept was ingenious. As the show began, the two racks were populated with an unfortunately typical mess of patch cords. Throughout the course of the show, over multiple days, the booth workers used the PerfectPatch to straighten up the mess. I liked that the PerfectPatch folks left the booth floor bare concrete. No puffed up carpet and padding like you'd normally see in a trade show booth. The bare floor made the display all the more realistic, and countless show attendees stopped to share their own stories about walking into telecom rooms that could be considered abominations.
The reality is that telecom room management, of which patch-cord management is a significant part, is an uphill battle. In this magazine we often publish case studies of cabling projects, complete with beauty shots of racks filled with immaculately manicured cords. I know what many of you think when you see these photos: "I'd like to see what those racks look like in 12 or 18 months." So we decided to do that too. For several months we've been putting what we call "must-see photos" on our website; many of these photos have been cringe-worthy cable-management disasters. But our metrics tell us these photos are pretty effective clickbait, because you can't seem to resist looking at them.
But hopefully these trainwreck images from telecom rooms will be the exception rather than the rule, and sooner rather than later. It was refreshing for me to collect information and ultimately write the article in this issue (page 13) that explores the concept of patch cords as an enabling agent of cable management rather than as the long-suffering victims of neglect. Some of the products discussed in the article have been put to use for years, improving conditions in environments including data centers as well as telecom rooms.
The makers of PerfectPatch used the catch phrase, "If you can't adjust, you can't manage." While it may narrowly refer to adjusting the length of a patch cord, it also may more widely refer to adopting practices and products that improve a cabling system. Let's hope the tide is turning for patch cords.