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Cable Labeling as Part of Data Center Management Part II

In this blog entry I will discuss the need for proper labeling of cables, servers, and storage hardware. I have been in many data centers over time and have seen extremes from no labeling to everything being labeled. What I will try to assist you with in this blog entry is find a happy medium between the two.


Cable Labeling – The importance here is to ensure that each end of the cable is labeled, as well as any junction box interconnects that may exist for the same portion of glass or copper. This will ensure that when there is a physical plant problem of some kind, it will make it extremely easy for you to locate and run down the issue.


The same process holds true when it comes to labeling your power cords to include the source and destination for the device and the PDU’s. This will ensure you have the same physical tracing abilities as you have for networked cables. There are many misconceptions that you need to spend a slew of money on an expensive cable labeling system (1k and more).  However I have found that all you really need is a laser printer and some sheets with printer labels on them. These printable labels will work on both copper and glass. The link below shows many of the options available and are all reasonably priced.

Cable Labeling examples – You will want to ensure you start with a standard for labeling your cables. I have listed an example or two below:


Fibre Cable            Power Cable

SwitchName          DeviceName                                        

PortNumber           PortNumber

SwitchLocation      DeviceLocation

DeviceName          PDUName

PortNumber           PDUPort

DeviceLocation      PDULocation


As important as the actual labeling of these cables is, the maintenance of those labels over time is even more critical since device names, ports and locations can change over time. Keeping up with these changes will ensure that everything in your cable plant is always easily identifiable.


Server Labeling – It is also important to ensure that you label the front and back of your servers. Typically I have seen the name of the server as well as the asset tag in the same location, if possible. The same rules apply to server labeling as cable labeling: Make sure it is done with labeling equipment or printable labels and pick a visible location on the front and back of the server. This will ensure anyone can locate it versus having to dive into the server rack to locate the server label.


Storage Array Labeling – It is not unlike server labeling but it will depend somewhat on what kind of storage subsystem you are using as to where the labeling will go. If it comes pre-racked, I would take the approach to not only label the front and back of the rack, but also to go inside the rack, and label the control and disk shelves in the front and back. This may seem a bit like overkill, but you will thank yourself when it’s two o’clock in the morning, and there is an issue you need to resolve with a disk-shelf or control shelf.


Other things to keep in mind is if your Storage Manufacturer provides logical names to the disk shelves and controllers that you use those names to label the physical equipment. This makes it extremely important if you manage all of your storage remotely (Co-Location), and need to have operations of maintenance people from the manufacturer perform the maintenance.


In summary, remember the more planning you do on the front-end makes your life that much easierwhen it comes to dealing with issues on a physical level. Let’s face it, we all have some form of SLA’s to adhere to with our customers. It may not seem like it but proper labeling will allow you to ensure that the issues can be addressed with speed and accuracy.


Part 1 in this series examined the importance of properly installing and maintaining the networking cables.

Editor’s Note: The link to cable labels was updated on Feb 13, 2012.


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