What is a rackmount ethernet patch panel?
A rackmount ethernet patch panel is essentially an array of ports from your networking system on one panel that can be mounted on or into a rack. Patch panels a great cable management accessory designed to centralize telecommunications and data equipment.
Patch panels can be quite small, with just a few ports, or very large, with many hundreds of ports. The collection of ports can create significant benefits in terms of maintenance and future upgrades. For example, you can easily add new devices without having to run new cables end-to-end. Also, because creating nodes shortens each cable run, running common maintenance tasks like testing cables or ports can be done more quickly. The labeling feature on some patch panels in the market makes both documentation and working on the cables easier and more straightforward.
For keystone (aka. Modular) blank patch panel setups, you can combine audio, video, or ethernet inputs onto one patch panel for functional flexibility. Furthermore, if one of the ports is broken, you can replace the keystone instead of replacing an entire PCB patch panel.
Horizontal vs Vertically Mounted
There are two mounting orientations for rackmount patch panels, horizontal vs vertically mounted.
Vertically mounted patch panels are common for smaller 4-Post rack setups where the patch panel will be mounted on one of the rear mounting rails similar to some vertical PDU’s setup. For example, NavePoint 12-Port CAT6 UTP Mini Patch Panel 1U, Black. Vertically mounted patch panels are most often used for small systems where 12 or fewer ports are needed.
Horizontally mounted patch panels are more popular than vertically mounted patch panels because they offer more ports and can be used for 2-Post rack setups. Horizontally mounted patch panels mounts on standard EIA-310 19" rack rails and often comes in 24 ports for a 1U unit (see NavePoint 24-Port CAT6 UTP Patch Panel 1U with Keystones, Black) and 48 ports for a 2U unit (see NavePoint 48-Port CAT6 UTP Patch Panel 2U, Black).
Shielded vs Unshielded
Revisit our previous blog post about “FTP vs UTP: Cutting Through the Noise" to learn more about shielded vs unshielded cables. If your intent to create a shielded system, you will need shielded cables, shielded keystones, and a shielded patch panel. Most patch panels in the market are unshielded, so make sure you find one that specifically mentions the shielded capability. From a design point of view, the difference between a shielded and an unshielded patch panel is the ground continuity. Unshielded patch panels often have insulators like plastic or insulating paint over sheet metal surfaces that can disrupt the continuity in grounding effectiveness. On the other hand, shielded patch cables are designed to ensure an effective continuity in grounding exists.
TIA-568A vs. TIA-568B
For details about the difference between TIA-568A vs. TIA-568B connections, visit our previous blog on “Introduction to RJ45 Connector". Most patch panels or keystones nowadays can be wired in either configuration, but make sure you double-check before placing the order.
Cat 5e vs Cat 6
The last thing to know about patch panels is Cat 5e vs Cat 6. Revisit our previous blog on “Cat 5e vs Cat 6" for more information on the difference between the categories. Regarding the selection of patch panels, make sure the patch panel or keystone you select meets or exceeds the category of ethernet your system intends to run. While NavePoint 90 Degree Cat5e Keystone Jack White 50-Pack and NavePoint 90 Degree Cat6 Keystone Jack White 50-Pack may look similar, the copper wires and contacts inside determines whether the keystone is rated for CAT5e or CAT6.
A rackmount ethernet patch panel is essentially an array of ports from your networking system on one panel that can be mounted on or into a rack. The collection of ports can create significant benefits in terms of maintenance and future upgrades. Vertically mounted patch panels are great for smaller installations with 12 ports or less, while horizontally mounted patch panels can house 24 ports for a 1U unit and 48 ports for a 2U unit. Finally, make sure the patch panel of your choice meets the requirements such as the CAT speed, the noise shielding, and the TIA-568 connection schematics. If you need any additional help or advice on which patch panel to use in your installation, contact the NavePoint sales team!