Michael Adams, VP Strategic Business, Global Accounts, Panduit Global
Panduit’s latest 28-gauge cabling system offers up to 50% space saving and reduced costs over 24-AWG cabling systems in data centres. Developments in cabling technology and the changing needs of installations are the impetus for 28-AWG copper wires in these installations. 28-AWG cabling offers significantly smaller diameter wire than the ubiquitous 24-AWG copper conductors generally used in network and cabinet rack scenarios.
Size Is Everything
A Category 5e cord with 28-AWG wires is 3.78mm in outer diameter, which is 48 percent the size of a typical Category 5e cord with 24-AWG wires. A Category 6 cord with 28-AWG wires is 3.8mm in OD, which is 41 percent the size of the typical 24-AWG Category 6 cord, while a Category 6A cord with 28-AWG wires is 4.7mm OD, 45 percent the size of a typical 24-AWG 6A cord.
The requirement to provide increased IT capabilities in the same or smaller spaces has often led to over-crowded telecommunications rooms within many organisations. This leads to congested cable pathways, insufficient space for new equipment and the challenge of patching bulk when using high-density patch panels. Copper patch cabling within a rack or between racks often determines how operators can meet the challenges in these areas. With today’s primarily used 24-AWG cabling systems there are situations where a rack or cabinet can accommodate more equipment, however, there is limited space to effectively add the patch cabling that would be required. In this type of situation, 28-AWG patch cabling is an effective solution to cabling systems space limitations.
Common patch cabling challenges include congestion that makes moves, adds and changes (MACs) a time-consuming undertaking, as well as the use of layouts that consume space, making it difficult to work with patch cabling bulk.
Data centres have witnessed many new challenges in the past number of years driven by new network capabilities. These have forced the industry to consider new ways to solve the critical space issues within racks and cabinets. 28-AWG cabling can be used immediately in most scenarios to help solve space challenges by increasing pathway capacity, enabling higher-density layouts, facilitating easier cable management, and ultimately lowering costs.
One example of the space saving gained by using 28-AWG cabling can be seen in the use of a typical vertical cable manager, which has a finger opening of 25.4mm. A typical 24-cord bundle of 24-AWG cords has a diameter of 34.8mm, larger than the actual gap in the cable manager. This then makes the ‘normal’ cable bundle difficult to work with. In comparison, a 24-cord bundle of 28-AWG cords has a diameter of 22.6mm, therefore it fits easily into the cable manager.
If we consider the pathway space within a typical 101mm vertical cable manager, the advantages of using 28-AWG are even more apparent. Assuming using Category 6 patch cords in a 4-inch manager, and using a 50 percent fill ratio, which is considered full for working capacity, a typical 4-inch vertical manager can fit either 213 24-AWG cords or 523 28-AWG cords, which is more than double the capacity.
At the patch panel, the use of 28-AWG cords results in more open space between the cords where they are connected. The typical space between 24-AWG Category 6 patch cords at the panel is 8.0mm. When 28-AWG Category 6 patch cords are used the space increases to 10.1mm, or 27 percent more open space between cords. This space gain offers: better port number visibility, especially on high-density panels; easier cord management due to space for fingers and plug access, as well as improved routing of cords, and better airflow for improved equipment cooling. It also allows for new configurations, including the use of fewer, or no, horizontal cable managers. The use of high-density panels is more effective because the patching bulk is reduced. Even a layout like direct-switch patching, or port replication is practical when 28-AWG cabling is used rather than 24-AWG.
When 28-AWG cords are used in the same situation, less space is occupied, bundle sizes are reduced, the use of high-density panels fitting 48 ports in 1 RU is accommodated and horizontal managers are eliminated. This set-up allows a much more compact side-by-side layout that reduces the amount of cord required by 60 percent. This reduces costs in terms of material as well as installation time.
This is an exciting area in copper patch cabling that offers immediate advantages in current install scenarios. With advantages such as increasing pathway capabilities, achieving higher-density layouts, easing cable management and reducing both initial and ongoing costs in telecommunications rooms and data centres, perhaps small is beautiful.