Data centers are only effective when they run – and a layer of visual management can drastically reduce the opportunity for human error, which leads to money-wasting downtime.
Using color codes allows technicians to get immediate information about network connections literally at a glance – a very powerful tool in making sure mistakes aren’t made during maintenance or fixes. Although the print legend on the cable will tell you what grade of cable you’re working with, it can be extremely hard to locate and read.
Color codes offer a universal way to identify and separate nearly anything. Let’s take a closer look at how color codes can be used in data centers to reduce human error and make maintenance easier.
TIA has established standard color codes to identify fiber grades in indoor environments. It’s important to note, however, that other colors may be used in your data center’s color scheme, as long as the print on the outer jacket of the cable identifies the fiber grade properly. In other words, there is flexibility within this standard. As a result, it’s important to know about any special agreements between the manufacturer and purchaser that may have changed a standard color.
The TIA color-coding standard is as follows:
As you can see, some fiber grades are represented by the same colors: Orange represents OM1 and OM2, for example. This may lead to confusion for technicians, and opens up the potential for two different fiber grades to be accidentally mixed together. Because OM1 and OM2 have different core diameters, there is a potential for huge loss when fiber grades are mixed and matched. High bit error rates can also occur, negatively impacting data throughput and slowing down network performance.
Mixing and matching OM3 and OM4 fiber can be particularly troublesome. It may work initially, despite the mix-up, so you may not realize the mistake has even been made. But, over time, as temperature swings are encountered, patch cords are moved and active components begin to age, bit error rates creep up intermittently. The mixing of OM3 and OM4 fiber may never be diagnosed as the root cause of this problem, so data center managers may waste money by unnecessarily replacing electronics in an effort to solve the problem.
As a result of these issues, Belden standardized the use of erika violet for OM4 fiber. This helps ensure that OM3 and OM4 aren’t accidentally mixed and matched due to human error, ensuring uptime and decreasing the opportunity bit error rates.
Using color codes to label patch cords is another way this visual identification system can reduce the potential for human error. One example: Highlight mission-critical patch cords in red, and then teach all technicians that a red patch cord should only be moved with proper authorization or under supervision. If you pursue this path, keep the fiber connector color consistent with fiber-grade color standards, so the techs can still easily identify different fiber grades.
A port icon system involves color codes – utilizing port icons that slide over fiber adapters – which can be helpful in identifying different network routings in accordance with internal needs. By tagging each patch panel port, you simplify and streamline network management.
Using any color you wish, you can use color codes on connector boots to make routine maintenance and moves, adds and changes easier by helping technicians preserve correct parallel groupings for switch ports. If you change your connector color, however, you may want to ensure that your fiber cable color represents the fiber grade to avoid confusion. You can also change the color of a connector boot to differentiate between different aspects of the network, making it easy for technicians to view the contrast within a panel.
How do you use color coding to keep your data center running smoothly?
Let us know in the comments section below!
Matthew is the Global Product Line Manager for Copper/Fiber Connectivity within the Enterprise Platform. An avid hockey fan originally from the Toronto area, he endures a painful existence cheering on the Maple Leafs year after year. Matthew holds a BSc in physics from the University of Waterloo and an MBA from Miami University (Ohio)