What is a Blanking Panel?
When planning out your data center, you will want to spend a significant amount of time thinking about how your server racks should be set up. One piece of equipment in these racks that many people overlook is blanking panels. A blanking panel is a piece of plastic or metal that goes into an empty spot in the rack. They remain in place until a time when a new server or another piece of equipment needs to go in. At that point, the blanking panel comes out, and the server takes its place.
Many people, however, question why they need to invest in blanking panels if they are only going to be removed at some point down the road. The fact is, there are several important reasons why a server rack should have all the empty spaces filled in. Once you understand their benefits, you’ll quickly see that they are worth every (affordable) dime.
Allow for Proper Server Rack Airflow
One of the biggest benefits of server racks is that they allow the equipment housed within to operate at ideal temperatures. This occurs by allowing the air to flow through the rack, taking the heat from the equipment and quickly removing it. Server racks can be set up to have heated air flow up out the top or out the screened door.
Modern server racks are designed specifically to ensure air will flow evenly, removing the heat very efficiently. These racks, however, operate properly only when all the slots are full. If there is an opening in any of the bays, the air will not perform as designed. Some things that can happen include:
- Creating ‘Dead’ Spots – If there is an open bay in the rack the airflow may not reach all the intended areas. This can create ‘dead’ spots where the air does not move or moves very slowly. This results in a hotspot that could cause problems with equipment.
- Pulling Air from Opposite Side – The opening could cause air to flow through it from one side of the rack to the other. A properly setup rack will have cool air coming in on one side, and hot air removed from another. Mixing the two unintentionally will reduce its effectiveness.
- ‘Tornado’ Effect – When the air hits an unexpected opening it can blow in the wrong direction. This can create an area in the rack where the air spins in place rather than blows out. This will disrupt the cooling effects.
- Reduced Efficiency – Having a larger area to move the air will cause the air to flow less efficiently than planned, which can cause other cooling problems.
Essential for Server Rack Cooling
As you can see from the above points, proper airflow is critical for cooling. When you install your blanking panels, the air will go exactly where it is supposed to. This allows the entire rack to stay at the proper temperature while equipment is operating. A good cooling plan is one of the biggest benefits of server racks in general. Maximizing this benefit is well worth the minimal cost and effort that is needed for buying and installing blanking panels.
Cleaner Rack with Less Dust
Properly installed blanking panels will also help to reduce any issues you have with dust. While a data center should have its air filtered, it is almost impossible to eliminate every bit of dust. In order to keep that dust from finding its way into your servers and other equipment, you need to make sure it is blown out of a server rack as fast as possible. The blanking panels will help to facilitate this by ensuring the airflow is undisturbed and able to move as designed.
The first thing that people will notice about a server rack with blanking panels is that it looks much nicer than if there were just openings in the rack. While aesthetics certainly aren’t the most important thing when it comes to housing computer equipment, it is still well worth noting. In some industries, making sure the equipment looks great will help to impress clients, and therefore drive increased sales. In others, it will simply show that the racks are properly set up for optimal airflow, which all IT professionals know is essential.
Blanking Panels vs Filler Panels
One last point to make about blanking panels is the difference between them and filler panels. Hint: they’re the exact same thing! Blanking panels are also often called “filler panels.” These two terms can be used interchangeably. Don’t let the two terms confuse you when shopping for this type of equipment. In many cases, both of these words will be used in a single product description just to ensure buyers know what they are getting.
Whether you call them filler panels or blanking panels doesn’t matter as long as you make sure that every open bay in your server rack has one of them properly installed at all times. Take the time and money to invest in these pieces of equipment today so you can ensure your server racks will operate properly for years to come.