QTS (Quality Technology Services) has purchased more than 60,000 blanking panels that it will install at no charge for all of its customers. The installation follows a successful pilot program in the company’s Miami data center.
Blanking panels are simply pieces of plastic or metal that cover empty slots in the front of a rack to maintain proper airflow. It’s as low tech as you can get, but still important. Any gaps in a server cabinet can change airflow, so a partially-filled rack without blanking panels can lead to inefficient cooling, allowing hot air to recirculate within a rack. That lesson is reinforced in guidelines on data center cooling from ASHRAE TC9.9: “Sections of the rack that are not populated must be fitted with blanking panels to ensure that hot exhaust air cannot be drawn back into any of the IT equipment at the front surface.”
Blanking panels are particularly useful in hot/cold aisle strategies. It’s a simple but elegant solution.
Challenges of Multi-Tenant Environment
Proper use of blanking panels can be a no-brainer in an enterprise data center. But in a multi-tenant environment, these type of energy efficiency enhancements aren’t as common or as obvious as you’d think. Individual customers have less incentive to install blanking panels due to costs and less obvious improvements to their bottom line. QTS’ provision of free tool-less (snap-in style) blanking panels is news because it’s an investment on behalf of its tenants, and represents a big commitment on the part of a multi-tenant data center provider in improving efficiencies.
QTS worked closely with its vendor to develop a tool-less, recyclable steel blanking panel. “We knew some of our customers would prefer to self-install the blanking panels in their environments,” said Brian Johnston, chief technology officer – QTS. “In working with our vendor, we were able to develop a blanking panel that was not only environmentally friendly, but also fast and easy to install.”
While this may seem like really low-hanging fruit for leading players, it’s clear that it’s a challenge in colo environments where the benefits of efficiency don’t necessary go directly to the customer’s bottom line.By providing panels and installation at no charge to its customers, QTS ensures its facilities are held to green energy standards while improving temperature control.
More Consistent Temperatures
“We’re pleased with the QTS blanking panel program, which not only saves energy in the data center, but has been good for our infrastructure,” said Brad Koester, IT director, Information Technology Infrastructure & Governance at Republic Metals Corporation, a QTS customer. “The on-board sensors in our servers and storage indicate that the temperatures are more consistent with the panels.”
“The blanking panel initiative has enhanced our running dialogue on sustainability with our customers,” said Sukrit Sehgal, director of sustainability for QTS. “We’re looking forward to matching the success of the program in Miami across our entire customer base in our data centers nationwide.”
The addition of blanking panels in QTS data centers nationwide continues the company’s ongoing efforts to improve energy efficiency. In 2012, QTS announced LEED Gold certification of Data Center 1 at its Richmond Data Center and Phase II at the company’s Atlanta Metro facility. Since 2011, QTS has recycled more than six million pounds of materials from its data centers, including copper, aluminum, steel, plastic and concrete, and continues its $10 million multi-year energy efficiency investment.