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Researchers Submit Patent Application, "Disaster Resistant System for Maintaining Operation of Computing Devices Mounted within Storage Racks during...

June 18, 2014



Researchers Submit Patent Application, "Disaster Resistant System for Maintaining Operation of Computing Devices Mounted within Storage Racks during Water and Other Related Contaminating Events", for

By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Electronics Newsweekly -- From Washington, D.C., VerticalNews journalists report that a patent application by the inventor Stewart, Thomas E. (San Diego, CA), filed on November 27, 2012, was made available online on June 5, 2014.

The patent's assignee is Oracle International Corporation.

News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "The present invention generally relates to computing or storage racks (e.g., cabinets, libraries) for holding computing devices or field replaceable units (FRUs) such as servers, tape drives, and the like and, more particularly, to systems and devices that can prolong operation of computing devices mounted within a rack or other enclosure in the event that contaminants such as liquids attempt to enter the rack via a top of the rack, such as from a natural disaster, an overhead sprinkler system, and/or the like.

"Computing racks are standardized frames that are designed to hold a plurality of computing devices or related components (e.g., rack-mounted servers, power distribution units or backup devices, hard drives, and/or other types of FRUs) in, for instance, a stacked or side by side manner. Generally, rack systems include a mechanical framework made up of a number of vertical support members (e.g., posts, Radio Electronics Television Manufacturers Association ('RETMA') rails) extending upward from a floor or other platform and defining a space therewithin into which FRUs may be inserted. Typically, the vertical support members define a plurality of 'bays,' where each bay is configured to receive a corresponding FRU. Each bay may have a standardized height in one or more multiples of a rack unit (U) to correspond with correspondingly sized FRUs. For instance, industry standard rack systems often come in heights of 18U, 22U, 36U, 42U, and the like. Also, a rack system may be in the form of a 19-inch rack (i.e., the width between the front two vertical members may be 19''), a 23-inch rack, or the like.

"It is generally desirable for each FRU to be installed and/or serviced without affecting operation of the other FRUs, and, in many cases, it is desirable for each FRU to be maintained or accessed without disconnecting it from power or communications/network links (e.g., to provide hot swappable and maintainable servers in an enterprise or data center environment). To this end, each FRU may be mounted within a bay of the rack using a rail, slide or rack-mount kit. A rail kit typically includes a pair of outer rail assemblies, each of which is attached to vertical support members of the rack and extends horizontally to define a server mounting location within a bay of the rack. Each outer rail assembly may be mated or otherwise interconnected with a middle rail or middle member of the rail kit. The middle rail often will be supported within an inner channel or groove of the outer rail assembly and the middle rail may be positioned by sliding within the outer rail assembly between refracted and extended positions. In the extended position, the middle rails typically extend outward from the ends of the outer rail assemblies several inches to a foot or more to allow access to an attached or supported server or other computing device. In the refracted position, the middle rail has its outer end positioned within the outer rail.

"To mount a server in the rack, a pair of inner or rack rails is attached to an outer surface of a server (or other computer device) chassis, and each of the inner or rack rails is coupled with or otherwise interconnected to a corresponding one of the middle members or rails. Generally, a server is mounted within the server storage rack by extending out the middle rail, aligning the ends of the both of the inner or rack rails on the server chassis with the ends of the middle rails, and, once proper alignment is achieved on both sides, pushing on the server chassis to cause the inner rails or racks to mate or couple with the middle members or rails (e.g., in a tongue-and-groove manner) as the inner rails slide within channels or grooves of the middle member or rails. Continued pushing then causes the middle member or rail to slide within the outer rail or member from the extended position to the retracted position, which allows the storage rack door to be closed."

As a supplement to the background information on this patent application, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent application: "It is important to maintain or otherwise prolong operation of computing and other electronic devices (e.g., FRUs) mounted within a storage rack in the event that 'contaminants' (e.g., water, other liquids, dust, debris, etc.) attempt to breach the rack and contact such computing devices. In the case of natural disasters such as hurricanes, flooding, and/or other such weather events, for example, it is highly advantageous for enterprise servers (e.g., running cell phones, landline phones, computer networks, television services, etc.) to remain operational (i.e., the longer a server can run in an emergency free of human intervention, the better). For instance, water could enter a server room if windows get blown out by a storm or if a tidal surge or rain was to penetrate parts of a building that is running telecommunications equipment. If the water was to enter the building at a location above where the servers are stored, the water enter through a top portion of a server rack and damage the servers stored thereinside; this type of situation could result in, for instance, a person in a precarious situation being unable to place a 911 call due to damage to cellular and/or landline network servers.

"In an attempt to protect the FRUs of a rack from damage due to contaminants so as to prolong operation of the devices (in addition to increasing the structural integrity of the rack and/or providing for a more aesthetically pleasing appearance), a rack is often outfitted with a plurality of panels and/or doors secured to the front, rear, sides, top and/or bottom of the framework. For instance, various industries are often required to comply with key industry requirements (e.g., such as the guidelines provided in Network Equipment-Building System (NEBS)) for how to design and build reliable electronics for telecom network use.

"As an example, the top of a rack often include one or more panels horizontally secured over or to the vertical support members for purposes of limiting the intrusion of contaminants into the rack that may otherwise serve to inhibit functioning of the FRUs mounted thereinside. Some racks include top panels that are substantially devoid of any apertures or openings to substantially fully limit the entry of contaminants into the inside of the rack. However, failing to including any apertures through the top panel or other structure of a rack limits the venting of heat generated by the FRUs within the rack thus leading to performance inefficiencies.

"Other racks include top panels that include one or more apertures, slots, and/or other openings for ventilation, cable routing, and/or the like which facilitates heating venting and air circulation through the rack. However, the apertures or openings can allow for the intrusion of contaminants into the rack which may come into contact with one or more of the FRUs possibly leading to reduced FRU performance or even failure (e.g., due to water from sprinkler systems, spilled drinks left on top of the rack, and the like). Furthermore, cabling extending through the top panel(s) and/or other locations to the FRUs can serve as an almost direct conduit for contaminants to contact the FRUs (e.g., via water flowing along the cabling from the top of the rack down to one or more of the FRUs).

"In this regard, disclosed herein is a system for use with a computing rack that simultaneously allows for ventilation through a top panel or panels of the rack while preventing or at least inhibiting contaminants from entering through the top panel and contacting or otherwise interfering with FRUs mounted within the rack. As will be discussed, the disclosed system serves to channel or route contaminants entering a top panel or panels of a rack towards an outer periphery of the rack (e.g., adjacent the vertical support members) so that such contaminants fall or drop down along the outer periphery of the rack instead of over and onto the FRUs in the rack. As a result, damage to and/or interruptions to proper functioning of FRUs mounted within the rack can be limited or reduced in the case of, for instance, water and/or other related events. The disclosed system may include a plurality of contaminant channeling or guiding devices such as baffles (e.g., sheets, panels, plates) or the like secured generally adjacent the top of the rack (e.g., above a highest location at which a FRU is to be mounted) so as to route contaminants (e.g., via gravity) away from the FRUs.

"Each contaminant channeling device may have at least one surface that slopes downwardly towards the outer periphery of the rack. For instance, each device may be angled so that a first edge or portion of the device (e.g., adjacent the outer periphery of the rack) is spaced from a top panel or portion of the rack by a first distance and so that an opposed second edge or portion of the device is spaced from the top panel or portion of the rack by a second distance less than the first distance. That is, each device may be secured to the frame (e.g., to first and second of the vertical support members) at a non-perpendicular angle (e.g., such as at an acute angle in a direction facing the top portion of the rack). In one arrangement, successive angled devices may at least partially overlap each other to create one or more chambers sloping towards the outer periphery of the rack for holding or containing a bundle or loop of cabling to route any contaminants flowing down the cabling away from instead of towards the FRUs.

"Each channeling device may also be spaced from adjacent devices to create pathway through the plurality of devices for the escape of heat generated within the rack (e.g., by the FRUs) as well as routing of cables and wires. As at least two of the channeling devices may overlap each other, the system eliminates or at least reduces the occurrence of direct, substantially perpendicular and unobstructed pathways from the top portion of the rack to or towards any computing devices mounted in the rack that would otherwise facilitate substantially direct access to the computing devices by contaminants. In one arrangement, the various channeling devices may be incorporated into any ruggedizing support members disposed adjacent a top of the rack included in the rack to comply with NEBS guidelines. In this regard, the channeling devices may serve to route contaminants away from computing devices mounted in the rack free of utilizing space in the rack that would not otherwise be utilized by computing devices in the first place.

"In one aspect, a storage rack for supporting one or more computing devices includes a framework having opposing top and bottom portions, a plurality of side portions extending between the top and bottom portions, and a storage area between the top, bottom, and plurality of side portions for storing one or more computing devices; and a plurality of channeling devices secured to the framework above the storage area for channeling contaminants (e.g., liquids, debris, and/or the like) towards an outer periphery of the framework (e.g., via action of gravity). The channeling devices include a first channeling device secured to a first of the side portions of the framework and a second channeling device secured to a second of the side portions of the framework. Second portions of each of the first and second channeling devices are disposed closer to the top portion of the framework than are opposed first portions of the first and second channeling device for respectively routing contaminants towards the first and second side portions of the framework. Additionally, the first and second channeling devices at least partially overlap each other.

"In another aspect, a system for diverting contaminants away from computing devices in a storage rack includes a plurality of vertical support members collectively defining a storage area for storing a plurality of computing devices, where the storage area comprises a top portion, an opposed bottom portion, and an interior cross-sectional space; a first channeling device secured within the storage area adjacent a first pair of the vertical support members, where the first channeling device forms an acute angle with the first pair of vertical support members in a direction facing the top portion of the storage area; and a second channeling device secured within the storage area adjacent a second pair of the vertical support members, where the second channeling device forms an acute angle with the second pair of vertical support members in a direction facing the top portion of the storage area. The first and second channeling devices collectively fill a substantial entirety of the interior cross-sectional space of the storage area.

"In a further aspect, a method of routing a cable between an exterior of a storage rack and an interior of the storage rack includes passing an end of a cable from an exterior of a storage rack through an opening in a top panel of the storage rack, the storage rack including a plurality of bays for receiving a respective plurality of computing devices; guiding the end of the cable into a contaminant removal chamber located above the plurality of bays and configured to channel contaminants towards an outer periphery of the storage rack via gravity; and moving the end of the cable out of the contaminant removal chamber. A resulting cable path of the cable extends a) through the opening in the top panel of the storage rack, b) into the contaminant removal chamber, and then c) out of the contaminant removal chamber for connection with one of the bays or computing devices.

"Any of the embodiments, arrangements, or the like discussed herein may be used (either alone or in combination with other embodiments, arrangement, or the like) with any of the disclosed aspects. Merely introducing a feature in accordance with commonly accepted antecedent basis practice does not limit the corresponding feature to the singular. Any failure to use phrases such as 'at least one' does not limit the corresponding feature to the singular. Use of the phrase 'at least generally,' 'at least partially,' 'substantially' or the like in relation to a particular feature encompasses the corresponding characteristic and insubstantial variations thereof. Furthermore, a reference of a feature in conjunction with the phrase 'in one embodiment' does not limit the use of the feature to a single embodiment.

"In addition to the exemplary aspects and embodiments described above, further aspects and embodiments will become apparent by reference to the drawings and by study of the following descriptions.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

"FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a storage rack according to one embodiment.

"FIG. 2 is a close-up perspective view of the storage rack of FIG. 1 and illustrating a contaminant removal system useful for diverting contaminants away from computing devices mounted in the storage rack, according to one embodiment.

"FIG. 3 is a front elevation view of the storage rack and contaminant removal system of FIG. 2.

"FIG. 4 is a flow diagram illustrating a method of routing one or more cables into the storage rack and contaminant removal system of FIG. 2."

For additional information on this patent application, see: Stewart, Thomas E. Disaster Resistant System for Maintaining Operation of Computing Devices Mounted within Storage Racks during Water and Other Related Contaminating Events. Filed November 27, 2012 and posted June 5, 2014. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=5301&p=107&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20140529.PD.&OS=PD/20140529&RS=PD/20140529

Keywords for this news article include: Electronics, Oracle International Corporation.

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Source: Electronics Newsweekly


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