So, I have inherited a mess of a server room.

Rack 1:  5x 48 port patch panels; 140 in use |  3x 48 port switches
Rack 2:  4x 48 port patch panels; 120 in use |  3x 48 port switches
Rack 3:  3x 48 port patch panels; 95 in use  |  3x 48 port switches
Rack 4:  used for border routers, and VOIP equipment. also has 2x 48 port switches
Rack 5:  7x 48 port patch panels; 170 in use |  1x 48 port switch
Rack 6:  0x 48 port patch panels; 0 in use   |  1x 48 port switch

Note that this is a production environment. I cannot just unplug everything and start from scratch, as there is a total of 32 hours of downtime over the weekend and thats it.

VLANS are a mess as well, we have 9 different groups of PCs, and only 4 VLANS for them.

The first step would be to get all the VLANs correctly setup and configured IMO.

Past this, what is going to be the best way to get this wiring mess simplified? Right now there is no rhyme or reason to how it is wired, there could be a cable going from a rack 1 patch panel to a rack 5 switch, or a rack 3 patch panel to a rack 1 switch, etc. Toss in the VOIP power dist. units, and you could have it going rack 1 patch panel -> voip power @ rack 5 -> rack 2 switch.

My only thought so far would be to get a bunch of switches setup (example: 4x 48 ports for Rack 1) and move all the ports in use on rack one to those switches. Then repeat the process with more switches + any now empty ones.

Any other ideas on methods here?


2 Answers 2


It will take some time, but the results will be worth it...

Step 1: Document the mess so you know what is connected to every switch port and patch panel (Switch, port, patch, VLAN).

Step 2: Start with one switch and clear the deck:

  • configure a port on another switch with the appropriate VLAN
  • move the patch to the newly-configured switch port
  • verify the connected equipment is working properly

...and repeat until you've cleared the first switch. Make sure the switch is flashed with the lastest firmware and that all the ports are functional.

Step 3: Methodically move patches back to the empty switch, consolidating things as you go so you don't have to cross-patch between racks. Take care to update your documentation as you go.

This would also be an excellent opportunity to establish some cabling standards; you can use color-coded cables to identify critical equipment or individual VLANs, for example.

One thing you should certainly do is label both ends of every cable with a serial number so it will be easier to chase things down in the future (you'll find several good suggestions here). It's good to have documentation, but even better to be able to easily verify that the implementation matches the documentation before you need to move a cable...without having to painstakingly trace the path of the cable from one end to the other!

Once you have your first switch populated with newly-labeled cables, you can pat yourself on the back, take a picture of your neatly-cabled switch, and use it as motivation to come in the next weekend and knock out another switch or two!

The important thing is to keep at it--the first switch will take some time, but as you work though the process you will get more efficient at it and be able to complete more work the next weekend you come in. You won't get it all done in one weekend, but within a couple of months you should have everything cleaned up, have all your patch cables serialized, and your documentation complete.

The hard part is having the discipline to update the documentation as changes and additions are made.

Search ServerFault for questions tagged cable-management for some excellent ideas!

  • Awesome, I didn't want to write it up. Proper planning and pre-routing cables with your new cable management solution will make the job substantially less frustrating.
    – Warner
    Mar 9, 2010 at 23:29
  • We had a similar mess to the OP and used a bunch of old switches as a staging ground. Moving all the cables over to the temp switches and one by one bringing them back. Good write up.
    – einstiien
    Mar 10, 2010 at 2:04
  • I was in the exact same situation about a year ago. I did exactly as jnaab has detailed. It took a lot of time, but worked perfectly. I was able to chase a few nagging problems out of the system; and I know how to make any changes going forward.
    – Chris S
    Mar 10, 2010 at 2:46
  • The one thing I'd add is that having both "this end" and "remote end" labelled on a cable is Very Convenient.
    – Vatine
    Mar 10, 2010 at 11:21

The store called "Storables" has lots of cool network cable gadgets to hide cables in an office.


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