I know there are a lot of angles you could bring up when asking this question.
I am simply curious if you think patch panels belong in the data center?
I am not talking about the building structured cabling, campus LAN, etc.
I am talking Server <-> Switch
Do you think a single Ethernet Patch Cable (Male RJ45 to Male RJ45) is best?
Do you think that there should be a structured cable that is punched down on the back of a patch panel and then goes to a male RJ45 to plug directly into a server and use a short patch cable to go from the patch panel to the switch?
In my experience, point-to-point cabling is more prevalent in smaller data centers, but it doesn't scale well to larger sites, where a more structured approach using intermediate patch panels is more common.
We've wobbled back and forth in our spaces between point to point and patch panels.
I highly prefer patch panels as that means you can have better use of switches AND different switches in a given space. It has a higher cost but again greater fractional use of switches.
On the other hand one has to be certain that switches one is patching to are redundant if your servers are to connect to switches in a redundant manner. Servers A to switch A and Servers B to Switch B.
CNN Internet Technologies
Data Center Manager
My personal estimation is that point-to-point cabling is superior as long as you manage it properly; that's the key. My own experience has shown me that point-to-point cabling can be more convenient and least costly in time and money so long as it's managed correctly.
The reason why point-to-point cabling can be installed quicker in most cases is because you diminish the prep work and medium testing involved. If using a patching system you have to terminate, label, and test each leg of a cable run which can consist of up to 4 lenths of patch cords (according to TIA standards). Whereas in point-to-point you only have to terminate, label, and test 1 cable.
The troubleshooting time is cut significantly as well. Anyone that has worked in a data center for any real amount of time knows how frustrating it can be trying to track down a failed cable installation with four cross connects. With point-to-point it's just one single cable.
It also saves money in aggregate if you do a ton of network cabling. The material cost is more and can be significantly more depending on the volume. You also save a huge chunk of change on the front end from not having to spend thousands of dollars to install and/or expand a patching system.
Patching has one distinct advantage over point-to-point cabling in that it can mean significantly less back breaking work utilizing an any-to-all design. The tradeoff is that you spend money to create it with the prospect that you won't have to lift thousands of floor tiles, or shove a ladder across the floor millions of times over the course of your tenure.
I should also add that it really depends on the size of your data center as wel. Point-to-point may not be something you want to do in a 20,000 sqft facility because you're talking massive amounts of back breaking work. On the other hand, smaller data are more suitable for this technique.
A lot of companies like APC and Siemons like to publish studies and white papers dogging point-to-point cabling. But you have to keep in mind these major corporations are in the business of marketing their product ideas and making money. Also, if you really read through these studies you'll be left with the feeling that they're extremely out of touch with most data centers of today and give the impression that they cater specifically to large scale companies that have unlimited budgets. That's pretty much the case. But in the real world most data centers don't have unlimited dollars to keep throwing at their infrastructure so they have to come up with creative, cost cutting, measures to meet their operational needs.
Lastly, you have to be on the ball when it comes to point-to-point cabling. If you slip up once you'll lose control of your environment and end up being left with a nightmare of a cabling plant. You have to have a sound design and stick with the techniques required to properly install and abate. As long as you maintain the environment in a smaller footprint data center point-to-point can be a huge advantage.