Spaghetti cabling

Andrew McKaskill

Racks and Racks of Spaghetti, photo by: Andrew McKaskill

As always, I’ve been focusing on the positive and forward looking aspects of unified fabrics for data centers. I got a few interesting emails after my last blog entry on the problems people have now that need solving, not least the cost, reliability and sheer complexity caused by the current situation.

One of the emails included a link to this blog entry on vibrant.com, which has a great collection of cable mess pictures. In his email to me Chris wrote “most of our racks are carefully organised and formally tied off in bundles. Server replacement is relatively easy if you just want to exchange one with another that fits in the same space. The problem comes when you need to reconfigure a few servers, add some appliances, maybe remove an email backup or firewall appliance and relocate in a different rack, you undo the cable ties and everything starts falling apart. While none of our rows looks this bad, many of the racks within the rows end up looking like this.”

He goes on to discuss some of the related problems this causes and often the complete lack of momentum in solving the problem because of how labor intensive and expensive it can be, both in cost and downtime to deal with these issues. Another email included a link to this discussion forum on techrepublic.

I have to admit, this is an area I have little or no experience with. Nancy has yet to take me on a tour of the test bed we use across the hall for the high-end Power systems, and as I’ve been locked away working on design mostly for the past 5-years, I’ve not witnessed the explosive growth in large scale data centers. Since I’m doing customer validation sessions now, don’t be surprised if when I come to your office, I ask to see the machine room.

2 Responses to “Spaghetti cabling”


  1. 2 Monty August 20, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    What a relief it is to see that (for me)! Imagine the above but where the servers are constantly coming and going, test beds are being moved hither and yon, new lab environments moving in, etc. It can get quite comical. Customers will be relieved to know that cable pulls are part of our regular testing on POWER systems… in addition to the testing done via ‘unscheduled’ cable pulls due to spaghetti cabling 🙂


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About & Contact

I'm Mark Cathcart, formally a Senior Distinguished Engineer, in Dells Software Group; before that Director of Systems Engineering in the Enterprise Solutions Group at Dell. Prior to that, I was IBM Distinguished Engineer and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. I'm an information technology optimist.


I was a member of the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative Steering committee. Read more about it here.

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