Cable Pathways: A Data Center Design Guide and Best Practices – Part 1

Cable Pathways: A Data Center Design Guide and Best Practices - Part 1

Everyone has heard the saying: it’s the little things that make the biggest impact. This holds true especially when designing a data center. There are many important aspects to consider—from power and cooling requirements, to servers and hardware. Good cable pathway designers know that multiple products must work together to ensure a successful pathway from point A to point B. Let’s talk about a few of the key elements.


Pathways allow the placement of data center trunk cables and cross-connect cables between racks and cabinets. Both overhead and under floor pathways should be designed to support the weight of cables in the initial installation and it should also facilitate the addition of future cables. Planning for 90-degree bends, waterfall dropouts and other vertical support methods should be incorporated in the initial design and will allow routing of cable without damage. Pathway products come in a number of different styles:

  • A ladder rack is made of tubular steel and comes in sizes from 6” to 36” wide. The installation of a ladder rack is simple and requires little trade experience. Ladder rack come with many accessories such as 90-degree bends, waterfalls and cable retaining posts. These accessories allow the routing of cable without damage.
  • A cable tray is a ladder rack with sides and may be steel, aluminum or fiberglass. These sides allow for a greater amount of cable to be supported. The maximum loading depth recognized by the NEC is 6”. The cable tray is designed to support both electrical and data cables and is typically more robust than a ladder rack. It requires a pre-design effort because it is not flexible to work with in the field.
  • A basket tray is a cable tray designed for light duty applications. The basket tray is lightweight and easy to install; however a certain level of experience is needed to properly install. Many of the accessories that accompany ladder racks also accompany basket trays, to ensure proper bend radiuses are maintained a proper transition to the equipment rack.
  • An underfloor cable tray is a product used primarily in data centers. The concept is the same as the overhead support apparatus. However, when using under floor cable tray systems, the air space may be a plenum air space, so all cable and patch cables would need to be plenum for proper air flow.

Shoreworx Communications can assist you in figuring out what is best for your needs. Call us today! 440-808-8448

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