A patch panel is undoubtedly an essential component in cabling systems as it provides a simple, neat and easy-to-manage solution. For example, if you want to wire a network system that includes multiple wall ports, patch panels will not only allow you to terminate cable elements, but the signal to be connected to the final destination. No matter how big or small your business infrastructure is, the patch panel is indispensable. So what is a patch panel? What are the exact benefits of using fiber optic patch panels? This article will provide some detailed information about the benefits and challenges of them.
What Is A Patch Panel?
A patch panel is, in fact, an array of ports on one panel used to connect and manage incoming and outgoing LAN cables. The following image shows a 128 fibers MTP to LC/UPC OM4 1U 40GB QSFP+ Breakout Patch Panel. Each port of patch panels connects fiber jumper cables to another port located elsewhere in your building. Circuits in an enterprise network can be easily rearranged by plugging and unplugging respective patch cords. Furthermore, the patch panel provides a single location for all input jacks, which greatly simplifies the troubleshooting problems.
Patch panels are usually attached to network racks, either above or below network switches and take up 1U or 1.75 inches of space. Patch cords connect the ports in the patch panel to ports in the network switch, which creates permanent port connections to the switch that won’t be interrupted during moves, adds and changes (MACs). Based on different standards, there are different types of patch panels. For instance, 48-port, 24-port and 12-port patch panels divided by the number of ports, or the more specific patch panels—Cat 5E, Cat 6, Cat 6A and Cat 7 cables. Since you have a basic understanding of patch panels, let’s move on to the next part.
A patch panel performs no other function except for acting as a connector, but it does offer a range of benefits:
- Use Standard Fiber Optic Cords
Since patch panel uses fiber optic cable to create interconnection, network designers can make changes and repairs without the delays and added expense associated with custom cabling.
- Flexibility and Scalability
The network can grow and change on-demand, without the costly, labor-intensive hassle of replacing channels end-to-end.
- Reduce Cable Congestion
Reduced cable slack means less clutter, less confusion and an easily organized, better-labeled cabling infrastructure. You can also manage cables in any direction–horizontal or vertical, front or back.
- Space Saving
By managing varying port densities and speeds in a single high-density patch panel, you save valuable rack space, helping to lower data center costs. A single patch panel can manage as many as (168) 10 Gb ports.
High-density and easy maintenance provide a low initial investment cost. With a patch panel, you can only buy the devices you need now, while leaving room for future expansion.
- Ease of maintenance
The advantage of using a patch panel is that it allows manual monitoring, testing, switching, routing, and other maintenance to be handled quickly because the cables in the front that connect to the more permanent cables in the back are configured and made so that changes can be made quickly and easily when needed.
With several patch panels available for sale, network users usually feel puzzled to select a patch panel solution with the features and capacity to meet their current needs, as well as the flexibility and scalability to adapt to and grow with the future needs. As noted before, patch panels can be divided into several types. According to different cable types, there are copper and fiber patch panels, which will be introduced in the next part.
Copper or Fiber Patch Panel?
A Patch panel can be connected with either fiber or copper cabling. The primary role of a fiber patch panel is to direct signal at a required speed. It is common sense that fiber is much faster than copper, and fiber patch panels are more expensive.
Structurally, copper panels have the 110-insulation displacement connector style on one side and 8-pin modular ports on the other. Wires coming into the panel are therefore terminated to the insulation displacement connector. On the opposite side, the 8-pin modular connector plugs into the port which corresponds to the terminated wires. With the copper panel, each pair of wires has an independent port. The following image shows the 48 Ports Shielded(STP) Cat6 Feed-Through 2U Gigabit Ethernet Patch Panel.
Fiber panels require two ports for a pair of wires. One port serves the transmitting end while the other handles the receiving end. While fiber panels tend to be faster than copper, this does not downplay the role played by the latter. And if there is more than one type of fiber optic connector used in the network, patch panels with hybrid adapters are necessary. These adapters can then be used to plug individual fibers into other devices. The adapters on a fiber optic patch panel can come in a variety of different shapes.
To sum up, the patch panels make it easy to organize the fibers in a business or home network. What’s more, working with the fibers within the tray of the fiber optic patch panel protects the fibers from anything in the environment that could damage them.