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Why Data Centers Need Blanking Panels?

Updated on Aug 27, 2022
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Proper organization of your server rack is key to minimizing heat generated by the various components, plus it makes troubleshooting and maintenance easy. Besides selecting the right racks and cabinets, you want to have the right data center layout and install the cabling and equipment considering future adds, moves, and changes.

Additionally, you can keep the server racks neat while ensuring efficient airflow by investing in some blanking panels. This is common in several data centers, and they offer several advantages. We’ve covered more about blanking panels in the sections below.

What are Blanking Panels?

Blanking panels are flat metallic or plastic materials used to fill the empty spots/slots in a rack. It helps separate cold and hot air zones, hence often used for cooling purposes. When new equipment is brought to fill the empty space, the blanking panels are removed. These panels are available in 1U to 6U configurations and may come with brush strips for proper cable management.

The need to prevent the mixing of cold and hot air first saw data centers embrace the use of rows for server cooling. But with the advancement in technology, most data center administrators have moved to use blanking panels. Today, several data centers use these panels to help offset the cooling costs. Their ease of use and effectiveness are the other factors contributing to their wider adoption.

Types of Blanking Panels

Data center rack blanking panels are available in two main types, based on their material, i.e., plastic or metal. Both these types are effective, but they vary in cost and durability.

Metal blanking panels are expensive, heavier, and more durable. They are also more secure and cannot be tampered with easily. Plastic blanking panels are lightweight and inexpensive, making them a great pick if you are on a budget. They are also easier to install since they are designed to quickly snap into the rack space.

If you want a more versatile, durable, and adaptable blanking panel that will serve your data center needs for the long term, a metallic material could be your best pick. However, a plastic blanking panel will do if you want a cheaper alternative that meets your current data center needs.

Benefits of Blanking Panels

Reduce the Re-circulation of Hot Exhaust air to the Equipment Inlet

Blanking panels act as a vent between multiple units, discouraging hot and cold air from mixing. This reduces hot air recirculating and helps avoid the risk of damage to the delicate components within or around the rack.

Lower the Data Center Cooling Costs

Blanking panels play a critical role in bringing down the cooling costs, especially if you opt for cold or hot aisle containment. This is because empty slots lead to wasted cooling due to bypass airflow or recirculating of hot air.

Improve the Overall Look of Your Data Center

The other benefit of blanking panels is the improved aesthetics of your data center. When the blanking panels are properly placed, they will give a more organized and complete finish and help decrease dust problems.

data center

How to Choose the Best Blanking Panels?

When choosing blanking panels, you must consider your data center rack layout, budget, durability, and unique taste and preferences. And since you only have two options to choose from, the selection process shouldn’t be that difficult.

The first step to making the right selection is to address some of the common misconceptions about blanking panels. One is that you only need blank panels if there are large gaps inside the rack shelves. This isn’t true since any gap size inside the rack affects the inlet temperature.

Another misconception is that alternating empty rack shelves between equipment allows for efficient airflow and cooling. However, the truth is that hot air will fill these gaps, creating an opposite effect on the equipment.

When choosing between plastic and metallic blanking panels, you want to prioritize your data center needs from a design and layout perspective to convenience, durability, and cost aspects.

Plastic blanking panels are lightweight, less expensive, and often do not require tools to install. Most of them are simply snapped into place on specially-designed square-hole racks. This can be quite convenient when removing these panels or replacing them with servers or other equipment. The only shortcoming is durability. They are relatively weak and aren’t ideal for long-term applications.

Metal blanking panels are often made of steel or aluminum. They are fastened with screws; hence they are tamper-resistant, sturdy, and durable than plastics. This option requires tools to install and disassemble and is best for permanent to semi-permanent use. They are also more expensive than plastic panels.

Take Action Today

Blanking panels in your data center are more than just decorative elements. They play a critical role in maintaining efficient airflow and ensuring the integrity of the various components inside the data center rack.

From reducing the risks of hot spots within the racking aisle spaces to lowering the data center cooling costs, blanking panels are a vital investment in every data center. The best part is that they come in varying sizes and designs, so you’ll always find the best product to suit your rack layout.

If you need help during the selection process, consider working with an IT expert or other knowledgeable professionals.

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