Not All Mobile Data Centers Are Good
They’re usually used as external server rooms because their benefits are many:
- They’re more energy-efficient than server rooms housed in offices
- They have a minimized footprint
- They’re quick to implement
- They’re easy to move
Many people first imagine the mobile data centers at data farms owned by Google and other tech giants
These farms hold colossal cooling towers and rows of adapted containers that extend beyond view.
This kind of mobile data center “farm,” however, is the antithesis of the mobility and minimized footprint these data centers bring to other environments.
For example, the recent use of mobile data centers in oil fields has attracted a lot of attention. With the changing landscape of the oil and gas industry, it’s likely to attract even more attention this year.
Oil and gas were seen as a rock-solid industry for generations, but with gas prices in December 2020 at 25% less than December 2019 (after a 72% drop in April 2020), gasoline production has been sidelined as the industry looks instead to electricity production.
Mobile Data Centers Used as a New Income Source
Mobile data centers are used today as a solution to the natural gas released during oil drilling. Without the infrastructure to transfer it to processing plants, that natural gas has generally been flared. Now, however, it can be processed on-site into effortless income.
For decades, flaring has been considered the only solution for oil companies that would otherwise be forced to release the gas into the atmosphere. Flaring has its own negative impact on the environment, but the alternative would be untenable.
Mobile data centers have been implemented by forward-facing oil firms to put that natural gas to use instead. Internal generators in the data centers process the natural gas on-site and then use the electricity to power cryptocurrency mining, which provides an instant revenue source.
Natural gas that previously would have earned companies $2 per MCF now earns $30 per MCF through Bitcoin mining gas flaring alternatives.
Different Mobile Data Centers Yield Different Results
If oil field owners wanted to, they could acquire an old marine shipping container for around $10,000 and then fill it with equipment themselves to explore this new revenue source. They could build a Bitcoin mining site for less than manufacturers are charging for their mobile data centers.
Cost efficiency and ROI would plummet, however, as soon as that container degrades and the machines start to shut down.
Likewise, when looking to acquire a professionally-equipped mobile mining container, there are various options on the market for oil companies to shop. The prices differ as much as the container quality does. Price is only an issue, however, in the absence of value.
To get the maximum use of time and ensure the biggest and most reliable revenue stream, oil companies must educate themselves on which mobile data centers are better and why.
Differences Between Cryptocurrency Mining Containers
Traditional mobile data centers are built inside repurposed marine shipping containers. The bare metal conducts external temperatures and the infrared rays from the sun and subsequently swings drastically from high to low temperatures.
This is bad for the sophisticated equipment housed inside.
Not only will temperature fluctuations mean the center breaks down sooner, but the downtime when machines do fail will also cost the oil company lost revenue and increased repair costs.
Containers in all environments suffer:
• High temperatures overheat machines and force them to turn off
• Low temperatures create condensation as the cold air hits hot machines
• Low temperatures also slow the machines’ processing time considerably
The EZ Smart Box was built to take mobile data center design to a new level. These are the standards it sets:
• Protections against the elements are the hallmark of a superior data center.
• The insulation in the EZ Smart Box is made of two aluminum panels with padding between them (the same material used in refrigeration).
• And the temperature outside can be up to 20 degrees cooler or warmer than the temperature inside to keep ideal conditions inside the center.
If only anecdotally, if you look inside a “piecemeal” data container and see IKEA shelves housing all the mining processors, this is a red flag.
Every manufacturer looks to minimize expenses, however, a mobile data center has a few features that require greater investment if the center is going to maximize output.
If you see signs of cheap materials and corner-cutting, you’re looking into the depths of a data container that will not perform.
3. Power strips and breakers
Or perhaps you open the door of a mobile data container and see commercial power strips with multiple miners plugged into a single switch. This is another money-saving tactic that results in unnecessary downtime later.
Only an unimaginative container designer will not see the end cost of this type of efficiency. If multiple electronics, lamps, etc. are plugged into a single power strip at home, they think, why should Bitcoin miners in a mobile data center be any different?
This results in unnecessary machine downtime and lost income.
With ROI in mind, the EZ Smart Box was designed to house each miner on its own breaker. Downtime never snowballs, and miners last longer.
4. Cooling design
The cooling design of a next-generation mobile data center requires the careful engineering of two principal factors:
• Fan systems
• Data center layout
If the center can’t efficiently move hot air out and suck cool air into cool miners down, the miners will overheat and shut off. Most mobile data containers seal parts of the container off to control temperatures and airflow, but temperature control suffers as a result. Space, too, is poorly utilized in these designs.
After a few years of trial and error (and several iterations), the new-gen EZ Smart Box was built with a delta configuration.
Here’s how it works: two racks are lined with miners to form the “legs” of a triangle. The fans are at the base of that triangle. The largest volume of air moving through the center is around the front of the fans. That cool air is then sucked in by the miners, which are kept at optimal operating temperatures.
On the inside of the triangle, the fans are sucking the air out at 70,5003 feet per minute per delta. This leaves almost no “spent” air to recirculate in the room. A Smart Box 3000, therefore, can produce an airflow of 423,0003 feet per minute.
Perhaps it’s euphemistic to say “not all data centers are good.” No company wants to invest in a “good” mobile data center, only a “great” one.
A great mobile data center is not a container. It’s a skillfully engineered mobile powerhouse of processing power.
With mobile data centers and Bitcoin mining, an age-old thorn in the oil and gas industry’s side can be turned into a new income source through natural gas crypto mining. And the earning potential becomes greater the better the mobile data center that’s installed.
At EZ Blockchain, we didn’t perfect the design of our mobile data center in the first iteration. The EZ Smart Boxes we install today are the fifth iteration of the design and reflect our experience, including our errors. The lessons learned came from metric-based performance because we can only improve what we measure.
- The first EZ Smart Box, for example, stood on three four-foot-tall legs. If a collapsible stair wasn’t installed, we had to monkey climb to get in.
- Later, when we installed another box design at a field in New York, powerful rainstorms exposed an entry point for water to leak in.
- We also manufactured previous iterations with miners in rows with cooling air coming up from the floor. We then learned that we could cool more efficiently in a delta design.
We’ve come to new ideas in new iterations while we continually look for opportunities for improvement
Not all mobile data centers are “good,” and there are far too many that are “bad.” Learning the difference is crucial because the opportunity for the oil and gas companies could be the answer to future-proofing the industry.