Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group, which produces everything from Apple’s iPhone and Microsoft’s Xbox One to HP servers, has patented two data center containers, each with a different cooling system, and a system for powering containers with solar panels.
In addition to manufacturing HP’s commodity x86 servers for web-scale data centers, Foxconn also produces HP’s data center modules called EcoPod. But the original design manufacturer has also been growing its own data center container business.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark office granted Hon Hai Precision Industry (another name Foxconn goes by) three patents over the course of October and November that describe the containers and support infrastructure design.
Data center containers, or modules, are a way to add a sizable chunk of data center capacity quickly, without doing a lot of construction and mechanical and electrical engineering work. They usually come with all the power and cooling infrastructure and simply need to be plugged into a power supply, a source of chilled water, and network.
Companies and government agencies use containers to expand capacity at existing data center sites or to deploy data center capacity temporarily, such as in combat zones or near oil fields.
Foxconn is introducing data center containers into an already busy field, dominated by a handful of major IT vendors, including Dell, HP, and IBM, and data center infrastructure vendors, such as Emerson Network Power and Schneider Electric.
Solar-Assisted Power Supply
One of the patents describes a power supply system for a container data center that includes a solar energy panel and a direct current to alternating current voltage converter. It also includes a unit that determines whether the panel is producing enough power for the servers inside. If there isn’t enough sunlight, the system will switch to an alternate source of power.
There is a UPS unit between the switch and the power distribution unit that feeds the equipment in the data center.
Two Ways to Cool Containers
Foxconn has two container patents with two different cooling systems. One has a raised floor and an air conditioner for every rack of servers, while the other has a single air conditioner bolted onto the container outside, delivering cool air through a raised floor.
The first design is for high-density systems. Each AC unit consist of an evaporator coil and a fan on top of the rack and compressor, condensing coil, and second fan at the bottom. Racks and air conditioners can be added to the container as needed.
The second design is optimized for cooling efficiency. It includes a motorized panel that slides over the raised floor in front of each rack, opening as many cool-air vents as necessary. Each rack here has a temperature sensor which informs a micro control unit that decides how many vents to keep open.