Data Center White Space vs. Gray Space: What’s the Difference

Posted by Dave Bercovich on September 19, 2023

Data centers are complex facilities with many components that must be carefully managed to optimize efficiency, performance, availability, and scalability. One key factor is the layout of the space itself. Data center operators must maximize the use of the facility’s white space to accommodate ever-increasing demand.

What Is Data Center White Space?

“White space” is the area in the data center where the IT equipment is located. It includes the racks and cabinets that house the servers, storage, and network gear, hot- and cold-aisle containment systems, and power distribution equipment. It also includes any unoccupied space that can be used for future deployments.

The data center’s design determines what the white space is. It could be one or more rooms, a modular data center unit, or the space within a micro data center cabinet. It is generally kept white for cleanliness and visibility. Maximizing this productive area of the data center offers several benefits.

Greater Efficiency

Well-designed white space makes it easier for data center staff to manage and maintain IT equipment even as densities increase. It also enables better cable management and helps ensure optimal airflow.

Improved Reliability

Reliability is a key concern of every data center operator. It’s common for data center outages to cost $100,000 or more. By maximizing white space, operators ensure that staff can access equipment quickly and easily to troubleshoot and remedy problems. Well-designed white space also allows for greater redundancy, significantly impacting data center tier ratings.

Greater Scalability

Available white space enables the data center to expand. Well-designed white space provides the flexibility and scalability needed to move and add equipment with minimal disruption and without the need to enlarge the facility.

Data Center Solutions

What Is Data Center Gray Space?

The “gray space” is where backend equipment is located, including cooling systems, generators, transformers, switchgear, and uninterruptible power supplies. These mechanical systems are typically supported and maintained by facilities managers rather than IT staff.

Because the backend equipment facilitates the operation of the IT equipment, the size of the gray space is, to some extent, dictated by the size and density of the white space. That said, the gray space still needs to be utilized efficiently. Newer cooling and power transmission technologies tend to be more compact and efficient than legacy systems. Strategic upgrades can often help optimize space utilization and reduce operational costs.

The Meet-Me Room: A Special Case

Some data centers reserve an area within the gray space called the “meet-me room” that houses the equipment of various telecom carriers and Internet service providers. The MMR supports intra- and inter-campus cross-connects in a single-tenant data center and cross-connects with data center tenants in a multi-tenant/colocation facility.

Within the MMR is the distribution frame for the fiber-optic cabling that connects carriers and owners and the rack space for the distribution and management of the carriers’ incoming services. The MMR may also include an entrance facility for cables coming into the data center if the MMR includes an exterior wall.

MMRs are increasingly important given the explosion of interconnectivity demands. They eliminate the need for applications and data housed within the same data center to leave the data center to communicate. This improves network performance, lowers latency, and reduces costs. 

In addition, MMRs support private connections for inter-campus communications, moving data quickly across short distances without switching and routing. They also provide more fiber-optic connectivity options for greater resilience and scalability.

The Value of the Enconnex InfiniRack Cabinet

Maximizing data center white space starts with the right cabinets. The Enconnex InfiniRack data center cabinet is designed to optimize usable internal space. It features a variety of cable management options to streamline maintenance and troubleshooting and ensure easy access to equipment. When you order an InfiniRack, we’ll configure it to meet your needs and ship it fully assembled for seamless deployment. Get in touch today.

Contact the Experts

Posted by Dave Bercovich on September 19, 2023

Dave has 20 years of data center and IT infrastructure sales experience. He has represented manufacturing organizations such as Avaya, Server Technology, & The Siemon Company. As Sales Director with Enconnex, he builds relationships and grows the Enconnex business working with partners, and resellers.

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