Shipping Container Server Room Design Considerations

3 minute read
Oct 30, 2019
Shipping Container Server Room Design Considerations

In part one of this blog series, we looked at six reasons why shipping containers make great server rooms: They’re built off-site, portable, customizable, economical, green, and they create extra space. Now, we’re taking a closer look at the available design options that make shipping container server rooms a reality.

As a refresher, a server room is a space that stores computing equipment, acting as a small data center. These rooms are needed by many companies for a variety of reasons. They can house computing equipment at a rocket test and launch site or provide additional server space adjacent to a traditional office. Although every server room is different; they all face three major challenges. If these challenges aren’t addressed with the initial design of the server room, the equipment could be put at risk.

The 3 Challenges of Server Rooms:

The equipment housed inside,

  1. Must be kept cool.
  2. Must be kept secure.
  3. Needs to easily connect to power and external networks.

If the heat isn’t managed, the equipment isn’t secured, or if it’s too difficult to connect to power, the server room won’t function as well as it would under the proper conditions. Fortunately, these roadblocks can be avoided to prevent the potential loss of time and money, but proactive planning is required. Here are suggested design considerations for shipping container server rooms. These options will ensure that the equipment will function to the best of its ability.

Design Considerations to Manage Heat

Shipping Container Server Room AC Unit

Server equipment generates a significant amount of heat. Therefore, it’s important to consider the design elements to help the equipment stay cool. Shipping containers begin as blank canvases and can easily be modified with high performance, fire retardant, mineral wool insulation. The walls can be finished out as desired, but many businesses opt for a fire-resistant plywood that will allow them to hang racks and utilize wall space. Additionally, spray foam insulation can be added beneath an epoxy or metal floor to prevent humidity rising from the ground, while continuing to manage the heat radiating from the equipment.

High performing climate control systems should also be installed to keep the enclosure cool. The tonnage of A/C will vary based on the individual project, but multiple 4-ton wall mounted air conditioners can be easily placed in cut and framed openings on the side of a shipping container. Many businesses opt for a high-cube container, which is one foot taller than a standard container, allowing for better air circulation and faster cooling.

Design Considerations to Keep Equipment Secure

Lock Box Shipping Container Modification

Shipping containers are naturally great at keeping their internal contents safe from external factors, whether from the environment or intruders, but additional measures can be taken to keep the room protected. For example, the cargo doors of the shipping container can be welded closed. If it’s preferred to keep the doors operable, a lock box can be attached to protect against thieves. If a personnel door is desired instead of operational cargo doors or in addition to them, a keypad entry and a latch guard can be installed for added protection. And of course, exterior lighting can be added for security precautions. Keep in mind that just like the international standards for shipping container sizes, there are several standards for data center physical security.

Design Considerations for Electrical Connections

Computing equipment requires a lot of power. Luckily, repurposed shipping containers can be modified to add a significant amount of electrical power. It’s also likely that the equipment inside the server room needs to connect to multiple external networks.

Utility Port on a Shipping Container

Modified shipping containers make these connections easy by utilizing pass-through utility ports, which are thin sheets of galvannealed metal that fit inside a cut and framed opening. Unlike the thick shipping container walls, the pass-through can be cut by the end user to properly connect the internal servers to outside equipment. These cut and framed openings can be created at any size necessary to ensure the server room is used in its ideal configuration.

Other Modification Options

Beyond these server room design considerations, other modification options help create an ideal server room. The structure can be chosen from a variety of sizes or combinations of multiple containers, and larger containers can even be cut down to meet uncommon size requirements. Shipping containers are portable and can be placed anywhere on level ground or permanently on a chassis or foundation. They can be transported easily and ready sooner than a structure built by traditional construction methods. Are you curious about other shipping container modifications, for server rooms or additional kinds of equipment shelters? See what’s possible.

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