A patch panel or patch bay is a panel, typically rackmounted, that houses cable connections. One typically shorter patch cable will plug into the front side, whereas the back holds the connection of a much longer and more permanent cable. The assembly of hardware is arranged so that a number of circuits, usually of the same or similar type, appear on jacks for monitoring, interconnecting, and testing circuits in a convenient, flexible manner.
Patch panels offer the convenience of allowing technicians to quickly change the path of select signals, without the expense of dedicated switching equipment. This was first used by early telephone exchanges, where the telephone switchboard (a massive array of patch panels) and a large room full of telephone operators running it was ubiquitous.