Everything in Modular-ation: The Rise of the Modular Data Center

15 Nov 2013 by Datacenters.com Technology

"The profile of modular data centers has risen in the last several years, and the all-in-one, prefabricated model has gone from the traditional data center’s hip alternative to a viable industry force in its own right. As the twin mantra of “speed and cost” continues to drive data center decisions in the enterprise, more companies opt to explore or invest in modular facilities. In response to this development, several industry leaders and promising outsiders have entered the fray, designing and deploying energy-efficient and high-performance solutions to improve the capacity and availability containerized facilities can offer. While these facilities aren’t for every company, they certainly demand consideration.

A Modular Data Center in 12 Weeks?
Rapid deployment is one of the chief reasons companies invest in data center modules. Schneider Electric recently threw its hat into the high-speed deployment ring with the announcement of 15 customizable modular data centers that can be delivered pre-configured and pre-tested for installation in 12 to 16 weeks. Ranging in capacity from 90 kilowatts to 1.2 megawatts, the facilities provide power, cooling and the company’s data center infrastructure management software, according to Network Computing. Schneider Electric joins several other large tech vendors, including Dell, HP and SGI (all entered the prefabricated data center market over the last few years.)

All the Capacity With None of the Electricity
Microsoft has been at the forefront of some interesting experiments in energy conservation, power efficiency and data center infrastructure management. Its latest development is the electricity-free facility powered entirely by fuel cells. Data centers would be integrated with external sources such as wastewater treatment plants to provide natural bio?-gas or other gases to cut down on the complexity of energy sourcing, wrote Sean James, the senior research program manager at Global Foundation Services, which powers Microsoft’s cloud solutions, in a recent blog post. The Data Plant program, which would produce zero carbon, is being tested at a modular data center in Cheyenne, Wyo. The potential benefits are extensive, James wrote.

“The Data Plant research and this current study share three business requirements: the designs must improve service availability, reduce infrastructure costs, and meet our commitments to sustainability,” James stated. “This balancing act is challenging, because improvingdatacenter availability typically means adding more infrastructure, the antithesis of reducing costs.”

Government Agencies Go Modular
While much of the news coverage of federal agencies and data centers focuses on the multi-year data center consolidation initiative, several government agencies are well on their way toward streamlined approaches with modular data centers. Organizations such as the Veterans Affairs Department and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory either utilize or are investigating modular data centers as a means of maintaining high availability with low energy and computing costs, FedTech Magazine reported.

“We want to get out of doing construction over and over, and just build what we need when we need it,” said Anna Maria Bailey, the program manager for Lawrence Livermore’s high-performance computing facility, who noted that site preparation time is cut in half for a modular facility. “Going modular gives us a type of flexibility we didn’t have before.”"


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