Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Saturday, December 3, 2022

Google’s New Patent for Modular Data Center Cooling? 

Filed under the company name of Exaflop LLC., patent #8,320,125 was awarded to the mysterious company that seems to do nothing but file patents. It describes a movable cooling system for rack-mounted servers.

A U.S. patent was granted today for a "modular data center cooling" system. Filed on December 4, 2009, the patent was awarded to Exaflop LLC in Mountain View, Calif. The abstract is as follows:

A datacenter cooling apparatus includes a portable housing having lifting and transporting structures for moving the apparatus, opposed sides in the housing, at least one of the opposed sides defining one or more air passage openings arranged to capture warmed air from rack-mounted electronics, opposed ends in the housing, at least one of the opposed ends defining one or more air passage openings positioned to allow lateral passage of captured air into and out of the housing, and one or more cooling coils associated with the housing to receive and cool the captured warm air, and provide the cooled air for circulation into a datacenter workspace.

But just who or what is Exaflop LLC? A Google search reveals only articles about patents and one company at www.exaflop.com. The homepage gives only a request for login and password.

However, a 2008 article in Data Center Knowledge about another Exaflop patent notes that Exaflop's address in the patent was the same as Google's headquarters. So the press pretty much accepts the idea that this is a Google organization that doesn't want to advertise that these are Google patents. More recent Exaflop patents – including this one – do not list any address for the company. There is a list of Exaflop patents on faqs.org here, most of which have to do with lowering energy use and improving cooling systems in data centers.

In the current patent, the main concept seems to be making the cooling devices portable. One advantage is to "provide data center operators with flexibility in layout, and may provide for high volume heat removal using relatively simple and inexpensive equipment." The equipment may also be prefabricated elsewhere, then quickly installed in data centers as needed. The units may be lined up in a row so that warm exhaust from one cooler passes into another cooler, allowing them to compensate for a unit failure or matching the cooling capacity to the amoount of heat generated by the rack, "particularly if the load varies from rack to rack or if the load changes over time."

The techniques for cooling the captured hot air seem to be optional, but the idea is to capture the warm air without letting it return to the ambient air of the data center.

The full details of the patent can be seen here, although there are, as yet, no illustrations to accompany the document.

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