PTS: Blog

Can The Container Approach Fit Your Data Center Plans?

Conventional Data Center Facilities have now had a long history of difficulties in keeping up with the increasing demands of new server & network hardware so organizations are now looking for solutions that upgrade the facility with the technology upgrade, rather than continuing to invest millions in engineering & construction upgrades to support higher densities, the expense of having to build or move to new facilities that can handle these densities. Containers offer a repeatable standard building block. Technology has long advanced faster than facilities architecture and containerized solutions at least levels a large portion of the facility advance to the technology advance.

So why haven’t we all already moved into Containerized Data Center Facilities and why are so many new facilities underway that have no plans for containers? Hold on Google just revealed for the first time that since 2005, its data centers have been composed of standard shipping containers–each with 1,160 servers and a power consumption that can reach 250 kilowatts. 1st Google showed us all how to better use the internet, now have they shown us all how to build an efficient server & Data Center? The container reduces the real estate cost substantially, but the kW cost only marginally, Google really focused its attention on efficiency savings at the server level, bravo! The weak link in every data center project will always remain the ability of the site to provide adequate redundant capacity emergency power & heat rejection. These issues do not go away in the container ideology. In fact, it could be argued that the net project cost in the container model could be greater since the UPS’s & CRAC units often are located within the container, which will cause the overall count of them to be greater. Just as in any Data Center project rightsizing the utility power, support infrastructure & back up power to meet the short & long term goals of your key design criteria is the most important aspect to consider in any containerized project. What containers do accomplish is creating a repeatable standard & footprint for the IT load and how the power, air & communications are distributed to it. Organizations are spending billions of dollars planning & engineering those aspects in many cases to find out their solution is dated by the time they install their IT load. With containers when you upgrade your servers you are upgrading your power, air & communications simultaneously & keeping it aligned with your IT load.

What about the small & medium business market? Yes the containerized approach is a very viable alternative to a 100,000+ square foot conventional build, but what about the smaller applications? A container provides an all encompassing building block for technology & facility architecture but in a fairly large footprint. Not everyone has a need for 1400U’s of space, 22,400 processing cores or the wherewithal to invest over $500K per modular component. Unless SMB’s want to colocate or sign off to a managed service provider who is running their IT in a cloud in a new containerized Data Center, the container approach doesn’t have a play for SMB or does it? There are certainly solutions in the market to help a SMB build their own smaller footprint high density movable enclosure or mini-container, it’s surprising there has been little focus on that much larger market. We are exploring some containerized approaches to the SMB market that would also address branch & division applications for large organizations where the container offerings today likely present too large a building block to be practical.

For more information about Containerized Data Centers & some of the methodologies for deployment I recommend Dennis Cronin’s article in Mission Critical Magazine.

And certainly the details on CNET about Google’s Containers & Servers.