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PlenaFill® Blanking Panel White Paper

Blanking Panels are necessary to effectively manage air flow in server and network equipment racks.

PlenaFill® 27U scalable blanking panels may be adjusted to conform to the open and unoccupied facial space on a server rack, to prevent the circular flow and re-entry of high temperature air into the air intake of a server, thereby preventing overheating of the server(s).

Computer equipment and data centers have thermal cooling requirements in order to function properly. A high amount of electricity is required for one server to run, which generates a great deal of heat output. In order to prevent the server(s) from overheating or shorting out due to over heating, internal fans are typically integrated into the server to provide both an intake of cooler air, which may be ambient or conditioned, and an output of hot air which exhausts out the back of the server. Most commonly, the intake of cooler air occurs at the front of the server, and the output of hot air occurs at the rear of the server. It is also quite common for more than one server to be stored in a single location, such as a consolidation of multiple servers creating an ITE or Information Technology Equipment Center. Since the late 1980s, servers have been generally housed in 2 post and 4 post server racks. When stored in server racks, the servers are all typically aligned such that the cooler air intake for all of the servers is on one side of the server rack, preferably the front of the rack, and the hot air output for all of the servers is generally toward the rear of the rack. This arrangement of one or more servers creates an air flow from the front of the server rack to the rear of the server rack, where the flow can intensify with an increase in the number of servers, due to the number of server-cooling fans and high heat generating equipment.

Controlling high temperatures within data centers is very difficult and can be complex, yet keeping computers and data center equipment at the right temperature is critical for the life of the equipment. Such electronic equipment must be maintained in appropriate temperature environments subject to regulated rates of temperature change in order to maintain equipment reliability, abide electronic equipment warranty provisions and ascertain optimum energy usage. Achieving these requirements is an ever constant and evolving concern for the HVAC or IT professional due to the fact that computer and data processing equipment trend toward increasing the amount of power usage and thus thermal output and cooling demand over available space. Server manufacturers have used, for example, high output fans and in-rack coolers to control the high temperatures within data centers.

A problem may arise, however, when a server rack is not completely filled with servers. This empty space may permit the air intake of a server to draw the air output from the rear of the server, creating a cycle of air around and to the front of the server. Such a cycling of air does not permit cooler air to be drawn in, but instead draws in warm air that does not aid in the cooling of the server equipment. This can cause the server to overheat and even short out if too high of temperatures are reached.

To solve this problem, data center managers have installed blanking panels or filler panels to cover the space that would normally be occupied by a server. These blanking panels block the circulation of warm air output into the air intake and allow whatever system is in place within the data center to provide cooler air, such as CRAC (computer room air conditioner) or CRAH (computer room air handler), to effectively cool the servers.

Server rack-mounted equipment is measured on an international standard known as the Electronic Industries Alliance (EIA) standard unit, also known as a Rack Unit, or a Rack U (U). Each U is equal to 1.75 inches in height and the height of server racks is commonly described as being so many U’s high.

PlenaFill® scalable blanking panels restrict airflow around a server rack, are fire-rated and can be easily installed, modified, and removed. They comply with standard industry server rack measurements.

CompuSpaces patented PlenaFill ® scalable blanking panel provides a tear-away construct system that allows for a single panel to be easily modified in RU heights, without the use of tools, to fit on a server rack. The single panel can be modified to cover the desired amount of open space on a server rack to prevent the circular flow of warm air output from entering the cooler air input of the servers housed on the server rack.

PlenaFill® Scalable blanking panels are adjustable in height, by the separation of panel pieces along perforations between the pieces 27 U’s in height, PlenaFill blanking panels are scored horizontally such that the panel is divided into 27 U's.

To attach PlenaFill®, a rivet hole is popped out on each side and either rivets, thumb screws or push pins are installed according to the specific type of mounting rail.

By virtue of PlenaFill's® non-destructive mounting feature and the ease with which the panel pieces and rivets are removed and separated, the system can be easily reconfigured as spatial needs change. Data center in-house personnel can install the system readily, as needs change.

When installed, PlenaFill® scalable blanking panels restrict airflow around servers within the data center. By restricting airflow, the system allows data centers to save electricity and costs associated with electricity usage, as well as additional costs associated with maintaining and replacing servers or server equipment. In many circumstances, installation of PlenaFill® blanking panels may lower costs associated with the purchase of one or more computer room air conditioning units as well as increase air conditioning efficiency lowering electricity costs.

PlenaFill® blanking panels may reduce the number of air conditioning units required to cool a data center, when used in concert with additional air restriction or control means, such as our PlenaForm® raised floor partition system or an aisle containment system. The panels are removable and repositionable thereby allowing data center managers increased flexibility in arranging equipment within a data center. PlenaFill® is die cut from UL-V0 class 94 Formex GK40-BK which is flexible and easier to work with than sheet metal, fiberglass, or other rigid materials. The cost of labor for installation of the system is also less expensive than the professional installation of substitute materials, due to the ease of installation.

Each PlenaFill® panel is 19.25 inches wide and 47.25 inches high (27 RU). The panels are scored so as to substantially prevent air flow through the scoring.

For example, on a server rack that is 46 RU in height, where the top ten U are empty, or 17.5”, and where computer equipment, including potentially servers, occupy the remainder of the rack, a section of the panel may be separated such that a sub-panel of ten joined pieces is removed from the remainder of the panel along the desired scored perforations. In this example, the sub-panel may then be affixed to the open space of the server rack, either on the front or the back of the rack, so as to prevent air flow from the rear of the equipment on the server rack or to the front of the equipment on the server rack.