In a decision that may portend future litigation, the U.S. Patent Office has awarded a patent to SmartCube covering the way the provider of modular data centers cools them and provides accessibility to IT equipment from a cold aisle inside its containers.
SmartCube President Tom Oberlin said the patent specifically addressed the way SmartCube created a rack inside its modular data center that enables the rack to be spun around to make all the equipment in that rack accessible from a cold aisle versus requiring IT staff to work in a hot aisle where temperatures rise to the point where they can only work comfortably for a few minutes at a time.
“It’s really about worker convenience and safety,” Oberlin said. “IT staff can not only do everything they need to do from the cold aisle; they’re also closer to aisle exits.”
The company has offices in Rio de Janeiro and targets the Brazilian data center market.
Oberlin says the cooling aisle within a SmartCube is created using a unique on-board chiller that is attached to walls of the container. From the cold aisle the racks inside a SmartCube data center can be spun around to make it possible to service IT equipment without having to move into the hot aisle.
2015 DX, one of the models of SmartCube's modular data center
SmartCube is currently evaluating at least one rival modular data center platform for possible violations of its patent, Oberlin said.
SmartCube continues to see significant adoption of modular data centers within traditional enterprise IT environments, where the value of local real estate space is at premium, the company’s president said. For example, in a hospital, where space can be allocated to beds that generate revenue, it makes better financial sense to house data center resources in the parking lot or nearby warehouse, he said.
Part of the issue that many IT organizations face is getting IT staff to want to work inside those modular containers. Not only is it often hard to find IT talent, the quality of the working environment is often a major factor in terms of the ability to actually retain that talent.
IT administrators come in all sizes and shapes these days so asking them to work inside modular containers that have aisles that are a few feet wide can be a challenge. Oberlin says that issue has been one of the major reasons that many IT organization have opted for the SmartCube containers.
The ultimate number of data centers that will morph into becoming modular containers that are logically connected to provide new ways of being able to scale IT infrastructure resources remains to be seen. But clearly the quality of the work environment in those containers and IT staff turnover rates are forever going to be intrinsically linked.