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Determining the Insulation for a Containerized Data Center


IBM frequently fields questions from clients and prospective clients about containerized data center insulation. The following is some information that can serve as a starting point.

Every container used in the containerized data center solution must be fully lined and sealed using an insulation material to allow for outdoor installations in any environment without concern for external temperatures, humidity levels, condensation, precipitation, blowing dirt or dust and/or external fire.

The containers should be internally lined with pre-insulated composite steel panels, which contribute to the achievement of a stable data center environment, providing resistance to external heat gain through high ambient temperatures and direct and indirect solar radiation.

It’s recommended that all six surfaces of the container be lined. The container should also be integrated and sealed to contribute to the air tightness of the environment, which adds to the maintenance of the desired environment and ensures effective operation of the fire suppression systems.

Air integrity checks are also recommended to be performed as part of the factory testing and on completion of the facility on site.

Additional Requirements

The insulation material must provide the following properties:

  • Resistance to heat flow—the insulation material must provide a resistance to heat flow equal to or greater than R34.
  • Fire protection—It must provide 120 minutes or greater of passive fire protection to protect the IT and data center infrastructure equipment from external fires. This is in addition to the passive fire protection afforded by the container structure itself. The containerized data center must meet the requirements of EN1047-2 (Secure storage units classification and methods of test for resistance to fire. Part 2—Data rooms and data containers).
  • RFI / EMI attenuation—the insulation material must provide radio frequency interference (RFI) and electromagnetic interference (EMI) protection (or attenuation) of 21bB or greater to limit the effects of external sources on the IT equipment. The RFI/EMI attenuation must be tested according to EN 61000-4-3 (Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC)—Part 4-3: Testing and measurement techniques—Radiated, radio-frequency, electromagnetic field immunity test).
  • Water tightness—the container must be watertight and meet or exceed the requirements of waterproof test level IPX-5 of standard EN 60529 (Specification for degrees of protection provided by enclosures (IP code)). Waterproof test IPX-5 requires the enclosure be watertight against water jets—water projected at all angles through a 6.3mm nozzle at a flow rate of 12.5 liters/minute at a pressure of 30kN/m2 for three minutes from a distance of three meters.
  • Non-combustible materials—insulation material must be non-combustible according to levels established by ISO 1182 standard.
  • Acoustic attenuation–the insulation material must provide a minimum acoustic insulation of 31dB inside a range between 100 Hz and 4 kHz to prevent external noise of interfering with internal operations.
  • Container penetrations—all container penetrations for entry and exit of power and network cables and water lines must provide a method to ensure high protection of the internal environment of the container against water penetration according to IP67 level of European standard EN 60529. Thermal stability is also significant to be maintained inside the container in case of external fire.

For More Information:

To learn more about how IBM can help you progress on your journey to greater data center efficiency, you can contact your IBM representative or visit the IBM Resiliency Services Site and Facilities Services website.

Syed Ahsan Baqi is an experienced engineering consultant.



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