FAQs for the Inveneo $10,000 Micro-Data Center Design Challenge

What do you mean by a Micro-Data Center?

As the size of computing and storage continues to shrink, more networking, servers, and storage fits into smaller and smaller form factors. For example, racks full of networking, servers, storage, UPS, and air conditioning are incredibly smaller compared to data centers created decades ago. Micro-board computers like the Raspberry Pi/Banana Pi style boards are getting more powerful, and now a single rack of gear can be reduced down to a micro-chassis that houses 15 microboards, networking, storage, passive cooling, and battery UPS type system.

Inveneo and its partners define a micro-data center as a 15 micro-board blade server with networking, storage, passive cooling and UPS battery type system, all in a single housing or chassis. One inspiration for this is the Ubuntu Orange box (we’ll place pictures here look like the ones here, but with an additional requirement for more storage space. Finally, the micro-data center must be passively cooled, powered by DC, and use a UPS battery type system.




What is the main use of the Micro-Data Center?

The winning design will eventually house data locally at the edge of the network in a developing world location, where power supplies and the environment are challenging. The application will require a LAMP stack. This micro-data center will also run openMPI, Ubuntu MAAS, and other types of cloud and high-performance computing software. It is this challenge’s intention to use the winning design as an open-source model that can be replicated and implemented in hundreds of locations around the world, potentially impacting millions.

What is the judging criteria for the Micro-Data Center?

The designs will be judged based upon feasibility, cost, creativity, and potential for impact by a panel of industry experts. More specifically, the Micro-Data Centers design submissions will be judged on:

  1. Originality: A smart new design that inspires. A design that is innovative and “outside the box” of current designs
  2. Documentation: Schematics, theory, pictures and/or video
  3. Use of ARM-based micro-boards, can be passively cooled, and runs on DC power
  4. Technical prowess
  5. The low level of cost, the high level of quality, and how adaptable the design is (so others may build it—and build on it—in the future)
  6. Imagination and creativity

Do the teams need to design the power system for the Data Center?

Yes. The power system internal to the micro-chassis should support the power needs of up to 15 microboards, 10 solid state drives, one network switch, and incorporate a UPS type battery system. The input to the chassis should be Direct Current power at 12 or 24 volts, otherwise known as support input from a solar pv system. For a grid power site, an external power brick can be used, similar to what your typical laptop has, but with a higher wattage output.

Do the teams need to design the Chassis for the project?

Yes. The micro-chassis should house the 15 microboards, 10 solid state drives, one network switch, and incorporate a UPS type battery system with all the needed wiring, cabling, and connectors. The chassis needs to support a passive cooling design with no running fans. The judges will look for very original design that is low cost to build.

What is considered a “harsh environment” for the Micro-Data Center?

The solar powered micro-data center must be able to withstand harsh field environments including high levels of heat, dust, and humidity.

Operating temperature – 0 to 50° C sea level

Operating humidity – 10% to 95% non-condensing

The micro-chassis should form a Faraday cage around the electronics to control emissions, protect the electronics from dust and dirt contamination, and provide passive cooling for the electronics.

Is this contest open to individuals from anywhere in the world?

This challenge is open to individuals from any country except Cuba, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, North Korea, Libya, Sudan, and Somalia.

Should a team plan on finding ideal LiPo batteries, or just batteries that would work very well?

The judges are preferring non-liquid batteries, however, they are open to looking at your team’s design. The concern is air shipping a complete system internationally, and having lead acid batteries in the system would prevent the airline from accepting the shipment. If your design uses a “standard” size sealed AGM lead acid, that in most cases can be obtained locally and added to the system on site, then it is also acceptable to this challenge.

Can a team pick between 12V and 24V DC input, or is the design supposed to work with both?

Yes, you can choose between 12V and 24V DC input.