Cabling Colour Schemes

Why rainbow effect can be good

Written by Phil Reed – Comtec Head of Presales and Technical Architect

In many datacentres and server rooms companies have defined a colour scheme for their cables based on usage.  For example, you might decide to use green cables for those that carry network management packets, red cables for those carrying data, grey for those used by your monitoring system, and blue for cables connecting to your network backbone. Or perhaps grey for cables connected to servers, yellow for cables connecting patch panels to switches, pink for cables connecting to printers. While this is a commonly followed approach, it has some drawbacks. First, if you’re a proponent of neat and tidy and like to wrap ties or Velcro strips around your cables to neatly organize them, having a few basic colours like this may not be of much help when you’re struggling under time pressure to solve a problem. For example, if you have tied together a bunch of green cables in a cabinet, then following each patch cable from panel port to termination point will probably be difficult without making mistakes. Unless you take the time of course to untie your cable wraps, but that is a pain, isn’t it?

Another problem with coding cable functions by colour is that you assume it is always correct. For example, if yellow represents cables that carry data then when you are troubleshooting you will automatically assume that the yellow cable you are holding is carrying data. Which it may be, or it may not if the cable was placed incorrectly or repurposed wrongly previously.

A proposed solution is one where you just use a lot of different coloured network cables and not assign any specific meaning or function to any single colour and then note it in the switch configs. The advantage this has over dedicated colour patterns is that with no pattern, no dangerous assumptions are made.  Instead, you must check with the switch config.   It is much easier to follow a single cable through a bunch of tied up cables if the colours are all randomly mixed together like this.  Maxing out a number of different colours leads to easier identification and fewer chances of neighbouring cables having the same colour.  The cables should still be tidy using cable wraps or ties.

This alternate colour scheme has proved to speed up problem solving and eliminates dangerous assumptions.

Cable Lengths – key to tidiness

A key component to keeping cables tidy in cabinets is to use the correct length cable, the major cause of messiness is using cables which are too long and the extra length is often left hanging in the rack..   With modern production methods it is easy to order cables of various lengths to ensure tidiness.