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Ask Slashdot: Recommendations For Beautiful Network Cable Trays? 250

Posted by timothy
from the get-clear-optical-cables dept.
First time accepted submitter murpht2 writes "My company prides itself on an office environment that follows a modern design aesthetic: open floor plan, bold colors on the walls, cool lamps in the corners. We're now engaged in a significant upgrade to our IT systems and we have a clash: the IT team leader wants to run network cable in trays hanging from the ceiling so all the client computers have high-speed access to the new servers; the guy in charge of the office design wants to keep things looking clean and the cable trays don't fit the bill. We're in a building made entirely of bricks and concrete, so we lack some of the between-the-wall spaces that are used in other settings. Any suggestions for beautiful cable trays or other alternatives?"
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Ask Slashdot: Recommendations For Beautiful Network Cable Trays?

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  • Lucky you (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TWiTfan (2887093) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:11PM (#45584525)

    My company prides itself on an office environment that follows a modern design aesthetic: open floor plan, bold colors on the walls, cool lamps in the corners.

    My lame company only prides itself on stupid shit like making good products and pleasing its customers.

    • by Havokmon (89874)

      My company prides itself on an office environment that follows a modern design aesthetic: open floor plan, bold colors on the walls, cool lamps in the corners.

      My lame company only prides itself on stupid shit like making good products and pleasing its customers.

      Right. What stock should I be selling?

    • That's great, as long as your company isn't in the business of designing offices

    • Re:Lucky you (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tlhIngan (30335) <(ten.frow) (ta) (todhsals)> on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:46PM (#45585021)

      My lame company only prides itself on stupid shit like making good products and pleasing its customers.

      Submitter never said what his company actually does.

      Perhaps having a "nice office aesthetic" is a requirement in the field they work in - perhaps it's even ... design! Last thing most customers looking for design work want to do is walk into a butt-ugly office that's full of drab (but functional) office furniture.

      And there are many fields where yes, the office aesthetic does matter, especially in creative industries. And customers expect it, nay, demand it - they want to see what sort of creative "product" the company has, and office design is one of them that's visible, beyond existing products on the market.

      Apple has shown that form is important - if not as important, as function. Having function is necessary, but so is form, as function without form is a complex mess no user desires. Though of course, sometimes they lean too far towards the "form" part at times.

      And sometimes, it's actually GOOD to work in an environment that's not just beige cubes in a beige office with beige tables and beige equipment.

      • by Shoten (260439)

        My lame company only prides itself on stupid shit like making good products and pleasing its customers.

        Submitter never said what his company actually does.

        Perhaps having a "nice office aesthetic" is a requirement in the field they work in - perhaps it's even ... design! Last thing most customers looking for design work want to do is walk into a butt-ugly office that's full of drab (but functional) office furniture.

        And there are many fields where yes, the office aesthetic does matter, especially in creative industries. And customers expect it, nay, demand it - they want to see what sort of creative "product" the company has, and office design is one of them that's visible, beyond existing products on the market.

        Apple has shown that form is important - if not as important, as function. Having function is necessary, but so is form, as function without form is a complex mess no user desires. Though of course, sometimes they lean too far towards the "form" part at times.

        And sometimes, it's actually GOOD to work in an environment that's not just beige cubes in a beige office with beige tables and beige equipment.

        Okay...but then, if something like a "nice office aesthetic" is core to their business, why are they asking for design advice on Slashdot? Either way, something is amiss here.

        • by TWiTfan (2887093)

          Makes me wonder if someone at MS is over at some designer message board right now asking for advice on software engineering. ;-)

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      My lame company only prides itself on stupid shit like making good products and pleasing its customers.

      Yeah, but these are Hipster Companies, where the design aesthetic of the network trays is far more important.

      I'm betting there's an awful lot of pretentious sense of how awesome they are, equipped with turtle-necks and the ability to win buzzword bingo by 9am every day.

      This makes me think of those Herman Miller chairs, which became the symbol of the .com era -- if your company had them, it was likely going

      • Re:Lucky you (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mythosaz (572040) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @01:42PM (#45585755)

        I spent the last decade in a job with a nice Herman Miller Aeron chair.

        I now work a job with your run of the mill crappy cubicle chair.

        While I make the same amount of money in the new job, it's considerably less satisfying spending my 8+ hours a day in this back-breaker.\

        Happy employees stay longer, work longer, and refer other good potential employees.

        Unhappy employees leave and work where it's nice.

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          I spent the last decade in a job with a nice Herman Miller Aeron chair.

          LOL, honest question ... was your company the original purchasers of them, or did they buy them from one of the many sales of such things after the .com era?

          My understanding is that in San Francisco for a while you could buy them in lots of 100 for about 10% of the original price. They literally became the symbol of companies which were spending lavishly but weren't going to last very long, because they were being bought as status symbo

    • Re:Lucky you (Score:5, Insightful)

      by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @02:35PM (#45586535) Homepage Journal

      My company prides itself on an office environment that follows a modern design aesthetic: open floor plan, bold colors on the walls, cool lamps in the corners.

      My lame company only prides itself on stupid shit like making good products and pleasing its customers.

      The two aren't in opposition to one another.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      With an attitude like that your company will never be able to hire the cool hipsters.

  • by alen (225700) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:11PM (#45584529)

    the guy in charge of the office will love it, no wires. very pretty

    • Re:use wifi (Score:5, Informative)

      by PktLoss (647983) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:17PM (#45584629) Homepage Journal

      Wifi is.. nice, but I wouldn't use it in a full office environment for everyday access. It's a big brick room, lots of computers, lots of interference. Not only is WiFi slower, but you end up with less throughput as interference requires random packets to be retransmitted.

    • by HiThere (15173)

      Well, not wifi, and not as cheap, but infra-red transmission might be an option. You need to position repeaters around properly, and figure lines of sight, but ti should be doable. Wifi has the benefit that you don't need to worry (much) about signal path, but this comes at the expense of lots of collisions. With infrared you could use, e.g., overhead wiring behind a false-front ceiling, and have the transmitters come out pointed down from within the light fixtures. So they're invisible. You need a rec

  • by Stargoat (658863) <stargoat@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:13PM (#45584573) Journal

    If it's a small office, you can use Ethernet over power lines [techrepublic.com]. I have not used it before, but it seems to be what you are looking for.

    That being said, it's difficult to give up the 1000 Mb connections from modern ethernet cables, along with POE for phones, etc. The designer by not putting ethernet cables in place did your business a disservice. A secure business requires secure ethernet.

    • Re:Sure (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bobbied (2522392) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:38PM (#45584891)

      If it's a small office, you can use Ethernet over power lines [techrepublic.com]. I have not used it before, but it seems to be what you are looking for.

      That being said, it's difficult to give up the 1000 Mb connections from modern ethernet cables, along with POE for phones, etc. The designer by not putting ethernet cables in place did your business a disservice. A secure business requires secure ethernet.

      Ethernet over power lines? Yikes, that's about as bad as WiFi for security and it will be SLOW, SLOW, SLOW if you use a lot of devices in a small space...

      The ONLY solution that is workable here is to plan to wire up everything that doesn't move. Everyplace you put a power plug, plan for a network drop next to it with one or more ports.

    • Re:Sure (Score:5, Funny)

      by dskoll (99328) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @03:27PM (#45587119)

      And after you set up Ethernet over power lines, you can set up Power over Ethernet equipment thereby eliminating all cables without needing to use WiFi!

  • by hellkyng (1920978) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:14PM (#45584579)

    Buy typical cable trays, and 3D print some sort of fancy colorful casings for them. You can use a variety of designs and colors for aesthetic appeal. Plus even if it doesn't look all that great it will still be "cutting edge" technology in use, which will likely appeal to your business folks. Plus you can throw a 3D printer in your budget...

    • Re:3D Print (Score:5, Interesting)

      by H0p313ss (811249) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:18PM (#45584639)

      Buy typical cable trays, and 3D print some sort of fancy colorful casings for them. You can use a variety of designs and colors for aesthetic appeal. Plus even if it doesn't look all that great it will still be "cutting edge" technology in use, which will likely appeal to your business folks. Plus you can throw a 3D printer in your budget...

      Interesting idea, but given that it takes the average 3D printer hours to create something only a few inches across it's not terribly practical.

      It would be more practical to hire a basket weaver... ooh... woven trays...

      • by TWiTfan (2887093)

        It would be more practical to hire a basket weaver... ooh... woven trays...

        Or, even better, a NATIVE AMERICAN basket weaver! Very hip. Very chic.

      • by MightyYar (622222)

        Interesting idea, but given that it takes the average 3D printer hours to create something only a few inches across it's not terribly practical.

        Maybe these hobbyist printers, but the industrial-grade printers can churn out a lot more than that. We rapid prototype critical parts of our product*, and we sell tens of thousands each year.

        *Technically, we are just rapid prototyping the shape for the investment casting.

        Anyway, the ideas is sound - just make pretty cable trays that fit within the aesthetic of the office. A competent cabinet maker should be able to make nice woodwork, and if the space is more industrial you can make something out of metal

        • by morgauxo (974071)

          Right.

          And how many firstborn children would your company charge to print custom cable trays for an entire large office? Would all the babies of Rhode Island suffice?

          Same question regarding printing and then using a casting to make the trays.

          • by MightyYar (622222)

            It depends. What is the material? They can probably use plastic if they are just for decoration. Sure, it will be more expensive than injection molding in quantity, but they aren't doing any real quantity. You could also vacuum form sheet plastic. None of this stuff is stratospherically expensive. If they are willing to have a carpenter come in and do stuff with wood, then they are already spending some coin on this project.

      • by DriveDog (822962)

        Or... have a contest. Maybe someone will design long narrow suspension bridges and you can turn on some fans and have a Tacoma Narrows incident right in the office.

        Whatever you do for trays or supports, where the cables are visible from below, go with specific colors to match the decor. I still can't figure out why with all the colors available for little-to-no extra cost, people go for... gray.

        Any chance of running them underneath the floor surface? Route channels in the floor, cover it with carpet?

  • Buy plain, decorate (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PktLoss (647983) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:15PM (#45584607) Homepage Journal

    I might not bother trying to find beautiful trays, but instead find regular ones, then decorate!

    Take something like this: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003AU3HG6?ie=UTF8&camp=213733&creative=393185&creativeASIN=B003AU3HG6&linkCode=shr&tag=preinheimerco-20&qid=1386087250&sr=8-5&keywords=wire+tray [amazon.com]

    Then put these underneath: http://www.whatisblik.com/shop/explore?theme=77 [whatisblik.com]

    Turn your office ceiling into a pacman arena!

  • by ausekilis (1513635) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:16PM (#45584611)
    Did this same person complain over the HVAC system? The only way I'm aware of to get away from seeing cable trays is false floor or false ceiling. If you don't have that option, your only choice is to try to make the cable trays "pretty", which is more or less making it look like the HVAC with large metal trays... it's up to you if you want solid or mesh, and you could probably paint them... You could also get creative with panduit for running down support beams or walls, just integrate the colors and make sure the panduit is thick enough to accomodate more than you currently have, running new wire is a pain in the ass.
    • by bobbied (2522392)

      I'd also add that beyond the HVAC system there will need to be power outlets everywhere to power all this computing equipment. Power outlets require wiring too. You cannot run power and network in the same conduit by code, but you certainly can use something that looks the same as what they where planning to use for power....

      You mean they didn't think of power? It's time to abandon this job if they didn't have a plan for power and the budget to pay for it because you work for idiots.

  • by xtal (49134) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:18PM (#45584663)

    Use brightly colored cables, get metal cable tray and rattle can spray paint it a contrasting color. I've seen it done very well, and it does add a near technical feel to a space.

    Any interior designer could help you; if you're going for image, then that's probably not a bad idea anyway.

    If you're not going for image.. drop tile. :)

  • by marienf (140573) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:19PM (#45584671) Homepage

    They're both right: The network guy about trays being a great solution, and the office designer about trays being butt-ugly.
    However, why not work some type of panelling below, rising to the sides of the trays? I'm not a designer by far, but is seems to me that
    hiding the trays cannot be exceptionally difficult, and can be done with much freedom of style. And all of that should be open from the top,
    and far enough from the ceiling to keep easy access.

    Next, the cables coming down. The covering should accomodate cabledrops without these having to "spill over", and in a way that keeps them very accessible. simple holes? Also, the cables themselves could be surrounded by some spiral or other form, lending them style and possibly even some strength. The spiral could even be strung between the casing and the desk, making it an active element of design, rather than a trick to 'hide the ugly cable'.

    the panelings could be cut/painted in a themes shape/color, of be kept elegantly simple, depending on the design of the surrounding office.

    -f

  • Is this a tray requiring 100s of connections or 10? Is this in an office environment, or the datacenter? How much time and money do you want to waste, I mean spend, on this?

    Either way, take a standard metal lattice cable tray and get it in black. More importantly, make sure the cables are laid out neatly, as in if they all fit on the bottom of the tray, keep them on the bottom, not piled up on each other.

    Use fiber trays instead. These are typically troughs. CNC some designs in them and install LEDs insi

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:21PM (#45584693)

    You do have office pets, right? Just give them a collar with clips that hold SD cards, then train them to go to the server room and fill up the cards with data and return them to you.

    Latency is a little high, but bandwidth can be pretty good - as they say, never underestimate the bandwidth of a Golden Retriever with a collar full of SD cards.

    • by oneiros27 (46144)

      Golden Retriever?

      No, no ... St. Bernard ...

      Latency might suck, but the burst rate is fantaastic if you fill the little barrel full.

  • by mspohr (589790) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:23PM (#45584723)

    Some years ago when I moved my company into a new office and wanted to keep the cost down, I installed rain gutters (and occasional downspout) on the walls inside to run telephone and ethernet. It was inexpensive compared to official cable trays and hid the wiring nicely.
    Gutters are standard architectural details and since they are very visible you can find nice looking designs and colors.

  • Easy! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:26PM (#45584759)

    Simple: Ditch the servers and move to cloud. Then fire all your IT staff and replace them with contractors from India.
    1. No need to work about the aesthetics of the server room.
    2. Your office will now have additional space with the removal of all that ugly looking IT equipment.
    3. Your managers will no longer have to listen to petty arguments by the IT workers.
    4. You company will save money by hiring cheap IT workers from India.

    Its a WIN-WIN situation for everyone!

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      5. Your workers won't complain about too much work, because they'll be too busy doing nothing while the cloud infrastructure also does nothing.

  • And look for existing tray products. In spite of some of the ideas proposed for custom made trays keep this in mind: the electrical/fire code in your jurisdiction probably will insist on the trays being "listed" for the intended purpose. Anything else may require some sort of engineering sign off and UL certification. You don't even want to know what that will cost.

    Sure, it seems like a pretty trivial issue. But if your inspector throws a fit, you are screwed.

  • by Que_Ball (44131) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:28PM (#45584791)
    You can get really nice industrial cable trays.  Mount them high enough that they aren't immediately noticeable but they maintain that industrial and exposed look.

    The good ones are powder coated so you can get a colour of your choice to match the office.

    Use a tool called a cable comb when you are running the cables to put the cables into very straight and neat bundles.

    Here is the manufacturer of a good quality system for cable trays:
    http://wiremaidusa.com/
    (they have many resellers.  Your cabling contractor likely deals with a supplier who can get this)

    Here is the cable comb tool for making straightened bundles of cables that look neat in they tray:
    http://www.acomtools.com/

    If you want something more enclosed then you can go to full conduit installation using metal pipes.  The pipes can then be painted to match your ceiling colour.

    • by Bo'Bob'O (95398)

      Yes, this exactly.

      Keep the tray as small and unobtrusive as possible, you actually want to see as much of the cable as possible. Don't try to hide the but find a professional installer that will make the cables neat, tidy as possible. Belden and cables and others have a wide range of colors that you could offer and you could probably find a nice bold one to go with what the designer might like. It could actually be something of a feature if this is a design/tech kind of company.

  • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:32PM (#45584823)

    "My company prides itself on an office environment that follows a modern design aesthetic: open floor plan, bold colors on the walls, cool lamps in the corners."

    I'm happy for you that your office is pretty. But where do you go when you need to stop "collaborating" and get some actual work done? Or when the group at the bench across from yours is "collaborating" so loudly that your group can't hear each other talk?

    Open floor plans may be great for some jobs, but they are poison for work that requires concentration, especially when that work also entails remote collaboration. If you find this isn't true, I'd like to hear more -- especially about how you handle conference-call participation when there's a loud discussion nearby.

    (Yeah, I know I'll take an "off-topic" hit to my karma for this. Sorry; it's a hot button at the moment.)

    • ++this. Sorry, I don't have mod points at the moment. In my experience, open plan is plain stupid for an office. Home, maybe (except maybe there's a *reason* the kitchen should be hidden, so you can leave it messy while dinner is served :-) ) Even high cube walls don't keep out the noise where I am; our little area has 8' walls in a 12' space, but there's a customer-contact group on one side that doesn't seem to know that one can use a phone without the speaker, and clerical staff on the other that chat
  • I assume a cable hangs from the tray to the desktop? I suggest adding some climbing vines, with pots, so it looks natural. You can also add a few spider monkeys to go up and down the cables, and their poop will fertilize the vines after you scrape it off everything??

    The basic problem with trays is the cable from tray to desk.
    If you used a dropped ceiling (aka ceiling plates), you could have a high BW bidirectional infra-red network from overhead to desk. In fact, with a few bidirectional emitters you might

  • Cableporn ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alexhs (877055) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:38PM (#45584899) Homepage Journal

    You might want to get some inspiration from reddit [reddit.com] / imgur [imgur.com] cableporn sections.

  • http://www.screwfix.com/p/square-line-gutter-114mm-white-pack-of-6/16271 [screwfix.com]

    It's cheap, durable, hides the cables perfectly, is available in three colors (Black, grey, white), cuts to length and can be easily decorated.

    • Also, it neatly attaches to vertical sections to carry the cables tidily from ceiling height down to the desks.

  • Use standard cable trays.. but spray paint them some hip color that works with your designer... gold, silver, metallic blue, or whatever.. Lots of great colors to choose from. Will look great.. and be functional. And you won't spend a fortune. Guaranteed its the cheapest, most sensible solution. Don't forget to color coordinate with your CAT6.
  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @12:47PM (#45585033) Journal
    I think almost all places with masses of cables and the need for constant maintenance go for false flooring. Almost all the power grid control stations, space launch control centers all of them have the consoles full of switches standing up in the middle of a remarkably clean floors. Most workers "scoot" on the uncluttered floor on chairs on casters. Given the amount cabling these things need, how do the do it? Mostly by creating a false floor and running the cables under it.

    Long back in a aeronautical facility (in India) I was surprised by the presence of toilet plungers in the corners of many rooms. When I asked one of the technicians he said, they are used to create the suction needed to pull up any tile on the floor, to access the crawl space below. Instead of providing trap doors at a few locations to get to the crawl space, these guys pull up any tile anywhere on the floor, reach in and grab the cables!

    In USA if some one would make carpets or under-carpet padding that can accommodate cables without making the surface uneven on top, it would make a killing. Quick someone patent this.

  • Depends on how many connections you need, but hiding flat cable under the carpet can be a viable option.

    http://www.vpi.us/cable-sf-cat6.html [www.vpi.us]

    Then again, the poster doesn't specify whether this office has carpet.

  • Paste to floor and you get StumbleUpon, Sticky Notes and Pastebin for free!

  • How are they going to power all this equipment? Obviously they are going to have to put in power drops everywhere to power up all those handy devices, cell phone chargers, computers, laptops and printers, so just do the same thing for your network they are planning to do for the power.

    You want to plan for at least one network drop for *every* power outlet they put in, plus put in two everyplace you currently plan to put desks. The two (network and power) do not go in the same conduit or cable ways by code

  • by stillnotelf (1476907) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @01:17PM (#45585433)
    My office has exposed cable trays. Some of the length has a toy model train running through it. Perhaps you can leave the exposed cable runs but spice it up with toy trains and hamster tubes?
  • by Kohath (38547) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @01:19PM (#45585451)

    Do you have electricity for the computers to use? If so, someone was once able to install wiring. Call that guy to install network wiring.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      it's an open office. the designer just figured they'll use laptops and ipads. that's what is on all the design brochure adverts anyways on the tables.

      (you _do_ make an exceedingly good point though. what the fuck are you going to do with datalines without power? it's the friggin designers problem. the day he starts designing coffee houses he can forget about cabling...)

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      And gut the office while he does it. Poured concrete requires coreing and jackhammers to run the conduit and repatch.

      The fault lies at the feet of the contractor that did the job, why data conduit was not installed first is his fault and he should be docked money for missing it.

  • It was good enough in my day... :)

  • Either color-code the cables and bind them very nicely together, or color-code some pipes/conduit and run the cables through those.

    Make it look like Google's data centers. Wires [google.com] or pipes [google.com].

  • Multiple people already mentioned as an aside, but since I work to NFPA specs I'll put it right in the title. You do *not* want to spend a lot of money and then have your insurance guy or the fire marshal wander through for inspection and tell you to rip it all down.
  • Just have the contractor put a visual barrier around them to satisfy the "that looks icky" people. thin wood box painted the color of the wall it is near or the ceiling color.

  • http://www.theverge.com/2013/11/19/5122290/small-empires-010-squarespace-video [theverge.com]

    They used a raised platform and even put some rope lighting underneath around the edges. Looks great and would give you a way to run cables underneath to the workstations.
  • Have you looked at cable lacing? You could skip the trays and just suspend the laced bundle from the celing.

  • Run a set of single wires, and remote switches. Put a switch/router in the middle (or a side) of the ceiling, and run a small number of wires along the walls to switches on the floor near where you have clusters of people.Running from the cieling to the floor, you can follow the brick mortar lines (you'll get half on the mortar, half on the brick.. you can spray paint the half running over brick the same colour as the brick -- this will break the lines, and camouflage what you're doing.

    Put the switch

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