DataCenter color-coding cabling schema

Owen DeLong owen at
Sat Mar 19 05:40:12 UTC 2016

> On Mar 18, 2016, at 18:42 , Jay Hennigan <jay at> wrote:
> On 3/12/16 12:15 PM, Joe Hamelin wrote:
>> I know at Clearwire data centers we used gray for network, blue for
>> management and orange for RS-232 console.  At least for the initial build.
>> Later re-work or additions were whatever the tech had on hand ;)  They also
>> had labels on each end of each wire showing the path through the system,
>> sometimes up to six lines.  It did make it easy to bring up a data center
>> and find cabling errors.  To see the system last more than a year or two up
>> upgrades would take some strong rules and oversight.  I think it would be
>> worth it if your management system can keep the religion.
> That's the issue, keeping it that way. "Gray for network" is likely to result in mostly gray cables which won't really help to differentiate things in the long run. Breaking it down further can get tricky in terms of definition. Each network has a color, but then there's this trunk link....
> We had a customer who had a scheme involving five different colors. When they did the initial build their wiring vendor came in with barrels of new cables of various lengths and colors and it looked really nice with cable management and all.
> After a couple of years it was pretty much random in terms of color coding. Keeping multiple lengths on hand for dressing in raceway without incurring either tons of slack or bow-string taut wires is tough but possible, doing that in half a dozen colors can be daunting.

Yes and no.

If you have a requirement that all cabling between racks goes via fixed cabling from patch panels and patch cables are only used for intra-rack runs between equipment in the same rack and/or equipment<->patch panel in the same rack, it gets a lot less so. This can also help keep a lot of other things more sane in the long run as well.

I found that you could deal pretty well with any intra-rack run (assuming 7’ racks) if you stocked the following lengths:


That’s a total of 12 lengths. We kept those in stock in Yellow (SMF), Orange (MMF), Other colors all Cat 6: Blue, Red, Purple, Green.

Total of 72 part numbers to keep track of. We got one of those roll-around bin carts that had 4 rows of 9 drawers on each side. Worked out perfectly to have 72 kinds of cables. (IIRC, we did 3 columns per color working up in size from left to right).

We had a guy who was responsible for making sure none of the bins were ever empty. I think he checked the cart twice a week and ordered once a month most months. I think we tended to keep at least 5 on the cart and topped the bins up to 20 for most sizes and 40 for the popular size/color combinations.

We didn’t have any trouble maintaining the system and as long as the right color was available, we got pretty good compliance from the people installing cables. (Our “retraining” method for people who ran a wrong-colored cable didn’t hurt, either.)



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