Paper compares top-of-rack and structured-cabling architectures

Document from the CCCA’s Data Center Committee says ToR’s benefits, including reduced cabling-infrastructure costs, must be weighed against other financial and flexibility costs.

Fresh off the establishment of its Data Center Committee, the Communications Cable and Connectivity Association (CCCA) has produced a white paper titled “Navigating the pros and cons of structured cabling vs. top of rack in the data center.” According to the CCCA, the paper “examines the many factors to consider when evaluating top of rack (ToR) and structured cabling configurations. Topics include the impact of those configurations on total management; scalability and upgrades; interoperability; equipment, maintenance and cabling costs; port utilization; power consumption and cooling requirements.” The association says its Data Center Committee plans to produce more white papers.

CCCA executive director Frank Peri commented, “The pace at which data center hardware and space configuration changes is daunting. CCCA recognized both a need and an opportunity to help guide data center cabling decisions by providing the latest studies, options and expert views from the industry’s leading cable and connectivity manufacturers. As with our other working groups, the goal of the CCCA Data Center Committee is to add our voice to the development of industry codes, standards and other importance resources.”

Based on the content of the ToR-vs.-structured-cabling white paper, that voice urges consideration of data center manageability, including operational structure and policies. As the paper says, in a ToR configuration, moves/adds/changes “can be more complicated and time-consuming—especially in large data centers with hundreds of cabinets. Changes must be made in individual racks or cabinets, rather than at one convenient central patching area.” The implementation of a ToR architecture, the paper explains, the direct connection of switches within a rack to servers within the same rack eliminates the central patching space. In these ToR scenarios lacking central patching, “Identifying the specific rack or cabinet requiring the change can be a complicated process,” the paper adds.

The paper similarly addresses considerations including scalability and upgrades, interoperability, maintenance, switch-port utilization, power consumption, cooling and others.

Bob Carlson of The Siemon Company, who chairs the CCCA’s Data Center Committee, said the committee plans to implement an active, ongoing, global communications program using a variety of venues. “The global data center environment is dynamic and challenging for those designing the cabling network,” Carlson said. “Cabling systems design and topology choices have a significant impact on server and port utilization, operating efficiencies and even energy consumption. The new committee strives to provide information and insights that are relevant globally to assist design professionals and end users make well-informed cabling decisions.”

You can download the paper directly from the CCCA here.

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