Don't touch that cable if you know what's good for you

As your data center inevitably fills up with detritus and disarray, take a step back before you tackle it on a whim

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In yet another rack, someone decided they didn't want to bother racking some piece of gear, so it's sitting on the server below it. When this is discovered, it's guaranteed that the server forming the foundation needs to be replaced and can't be moved unless and until the equipment riding on top of it is removed, which wasn't in the original plan. Oh, and the original rack rails are long, long gone.

Eventually there comes a point when the mess begins to make every task more difficult -- when you need to take a step back and decide to rip everything apart and put it back together again. Sure, you can try to bend space and time to replace that switch by removing rack side panels and shoehorning it out of there, but it might be a better plan to suck it up and fix the source of the problem. Congratulations, your 10-minute project turned into several hours at best and an entire weekend at worst.

Then again, this isn't always a good idea. However tempting it may be to rework objects off the cuff, you need to be cognizant of the potential threat of an unplanned housecleaning. While it may seem that it'll only take a few minutes to unplug a half-dozen ports and reroute the cables, you might instead find that several needed to be in certain ports due to auto-negotiation problems or some other specificity (though you made sure they were all in the same VLAN) -- you've just significantly lengthened your day.

Sometimes that urge must be resisted and instead channeled into planning to do it right, with forethought and research. In other words, it could be best to tackle the whole thing at once, rather than while trying to do something else.

After a certain amount of time and a certain amount of churn, it's definitely in your best interests to bite the bullet, schedule downtime if at all possible, and start anew. In a data center, it's not spring cleaning, necessarily. It's more like leap year cleaning -- it should happen once every four years or so.

Otherwise, there will come a time when the avalanche of mystery cabling and long deceased components will force your hand. By definition, that's guaranteed to occur at the worst possible time.

This story, "Don't touch that cable if you know what's good for you," was originally published at Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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