Lately there has been a lot of buzz regarding the use of lighter colored cabinets and enclosures, fueled partly by Cisco Systems’ and HP’s deployment of white cabinets in their data center as a means to improve visibility. And they’re not the only ones. Several other large data centers are going lighter.
Does this mean the end of the timeless black racks and cabinets that originally differentiated us from the telco providers? While black may have once seemed sleek and cool, it now seems that there are significant benefits to using lighter-colored cabinets and enclosures.
With gray-white reflecting up to 80% of light and black only reflecting 5%, it’s no wonder that more lighting is required to illuminate black-cabinet environments. Black cabinets make it more difficult for technicians to see—it’s not unusual to see the use of headlamps for making moves, adds and changes.
But beware of stark white cabinets that can cause too much glare and eye strain. Subtle whites like central office white still offer high reflectance properties and better visibility without the glare.
While lighting is not as much of a concern as equipment power consumption and cooling costs, it can account for 5% of the electrical load in the data center. Studies have demonstrated that white cabinets can reduce lighting energy consumption by 30%. White cabinets can also equate to 30% less lighting fixtures required when building a new data center.
While the savings might not seem like much in the grand scheme of things, every kilowatt and cost savings matters in the data center environment. Furthermore, dark colors also radiate more heat. This doesn’t exactly help meet the objective of keeping equipment cool.
Let’s face it—the use of white cabinets isn’t the norm. White cabinets offer a unique, fresh look that can help customers set themselves apart from the millions of data centers using black cabinets.
They also stay cleaner over time as black powder-coated cabinets tend to more readily show scratches. White cabinets also blend in better with surrounding walls, which can make them less obtrusive for some environments.
The benefits of lighter colors holds true for walls, floor, ceilings, overhead cable tray and even the equipment and components inside the cabinet where most of the work takes place.
While servers, switches and PDUs are typically black, changing the color of fiber and copper patch panels and enclosures, horizontal cable managers and blanking panels from black to gray or even white can further improve energy efficiency, visibility and productivity. Who can argue with that?
Belden’s X Series Server, Networking and Switch Enclosures, Passive and Adaptive Enclosure Heat Containment (AECH) System and blanking panels are available in central office white, while our FiberExpress Ultra HD Patch Panel Housing comes in titanium for improved visibility in high-density fiber patching environments.
Mike Salvador is a 28-year industry veteran, living the challenge of operating efficient data centers, optimizing the performance of network devices and delivering highly available, highly agile, low-risk data centers. Mike served as Belden’s technical solutions manager from 2012 to 2015.