Feeling the Flow

Data centers live and die according to their ability to cool their systems. If a data center loses its ability to keep cool, then its systems will fail.

Part of the data center management team’s responsibility is ensuring the systems do not get too hot. The team must also, in the event of overheating, shut down the systems. But, of course, neither shutting down systems nor letting them overheat are desirable options. One re-sults in a temporary interruption of data flow, and the other produces a longer—possibly permanent—data flow interruption.

Therefore, air flow is critical in data centers to pump cool air in and hot air out. Anything that blocks or otherwise inhibits air flow can be destructive or fatal to data center systems.

One air-flow blocking culprit could be the actual telecommunications cables. There is an abundance of cable in data centers, as it is the medium that transports data. There is cable in the raised floor plenums, on data racks, in server cabinets and connecting to the servers. All this cable can potentially block the air flow. Ensuring that does not happen also falls into the responsibility of the data center management team.

A new product may help electrical contractors and their data center clients minimize airflow blockage from cabling. Berk-Tek, a Nexans company, has launched a new line of micro data center plenum (MDP) fiber optic cables designed specifically for data centers.

MDP’s most notable feature is its cross-sectional area, which is 50 percent smaller than equivalent fiber count indoor cables, meaning it will carry the same number of optical fibers in roughly half the space.

“We started with the Adventum loose tube fiber optic cable,” explains Berk-Tek’s MDP marketing material, “and considered the demands of data centers: high performance, high density and minimum airflow restrictions. Fibers are grouped in four fiber subunits for the strongest mechanical and optical performance. Buffer tubes are small, flexible and surrounded with aramid yarns, which pro-vide 200 lbs. of pulling strength and minimal bulk for a cable that is 50 percent smaller than standard stacked ribbon.”

In data center applications, new MDP cables will reduce cabinet and pathway congestion, considerably enhancing air flow and facilitat-ing more efficient cooling. MDP cables are available with plenum ratings from four to 72 fibers, in multimode and single-mode construc-tions. They are offered with aluminum or steel interlocking armor, as well as preterminated cable assemblies with multifiber MTP/MPO connectors or single-fiber type connectors such as SC, ST or LC.

“The MDP product boasts a size and weight that is half that of competing cable designs, and has made possible specific enhance-ments to system performance, reliability, modularity and flexibility in our NetClear solutions for high-density data centers and storage area networks,” said Beni Blell, RCDD, Berk-Tek fiber optic product business manager.

When asked about the cost of MDP, Blell said, “MDP cable is at cost parity with other loose tube, laser optimized, fiber optic ca-ble constructions and offers significant cost-saving benefits compared to ribbon-fiber cable constructions that are common in data centers today.”

What impact does this product potentially have? The power demands of active components in data centers are rising dramatically, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to effectively cool them. One benefit of using a dense, small-diameter optical fiber cable such as MDP would be the cost savings from increasing air flow. The increased airflow can then, in turn, potentially increase the overall utility of a data center. A data center with improved airflow then may be able to add servers. That results in making the entire facility more efficient, possibly deferring a company’s need to expand data center floor space—or build a new one. A final cost benefit is that this product requires less cable support structure, such as cable tray, to support the same amount of cable bandwidth.

As data centers become increasingly vital in modern global networks, their surging powering and cooling requirements are the major issue to address to support that growth. Berk-Tek’s MDP cable may prove to be a useful tool in supporting those crucial requirements.

MUNYAN is a freelance writer in the Kansas City, Kan., area, specializing in business writing and telecommunications. He can be reached at www.russwrites.com.


About the Author

Russ Munyan

Freelance Writer
Russ Munyan is a freelance writer in Olathe, Kan., specializing in technical and business writing. He can be reached at www.russwrites.com

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