A Data Center is Born - part II

To the untrained eye, a server cabinet is nothing more than a tall, black metal box with locking doors on it. To the trained eye, however, it is a vessel of incredible potential.

In my last post, I described how SingleHop installs core cabinets and other support equipment when we add new datacenter space. Today, I’ll tell you how we set up the really important stuff—the cabinets that hold our customers’ dedicated servers.

To set up a client cabinet, we first have to punch down all eight cross connects, four from each core, into a patch panel at the top of the cabinet. At SingleHop, we handle all of our own cable termination to ensure maximum control over our networking infrastructure. Each cross connect needs to be terminated, tested, and labeled in the client cabinet and in the cores.

After the cross connects, we install our power distribution units and have them powered by the facility. There are two PDU's per client cabinet, each on separate 30-amp circuits with N+2 redundancy behind. After the PDU's are plugged in, they are programmed for remote administration, which allows for remote reboots.

Once the power and the basic networking are complete, our datacenter operations staff works with our network administrators to configure the public and private networking switches for the cabinet. The switches are installed in the client cabinets and properly cabled. After everything is confirmed working as intended, network administration adds the networking devices to our internal management system, and datacenter operations adds the PDU's to the same system. We are now ready to install servers into the cabinet in almost any configuration imaginable.

That’s a general overview of the work that goes into setting up cabinets in a new datacenter, but here are a few specific details to put things in perspective: there are eight wires in each cat5e cross connect, and eight cables to terminate on both sides for each core cabinet, making sixteen ends to terminate in all. That means each new client cabinet requires 128 wires to be in perfect shape and in place ready to transmit data. If even one is off, it can cause massive issues down the line, so they must be terminated correctly the first time, every time.

Since joining SingleHop about two and a half years ago, I have turned up approximately 165 client cabinets, recently with the help of my new Assistant Director of Facilities. That means we have terminated around 2,640 ends of cable, ensuring every single one of 21,120 strands of networking wire is in its place and working properly before each cabinet was installed with its first server.

Setting up a datacenter is an enormous task, and the work can be back-breaking and mind-numbing at times. Looking at the big picture can make an outsider dizzy, but we love it. We take pride in creating the best possible environment for our client's servers to thrive and grow, and we can't wait to get started on the next one :)