Server Tech

Advantages of Modular Data Centers – Whole Data Center in a Box!

How would you like your data center to be ready in weeks, instead of months? How would you like your data center to be shipped to you in a single container box, intact with all internal connections, cooling facilities, power routing lines, monitoring facilities and practically everything else you normally get with a full fledged data center? That’s exactly what Modular Data Centers are here to offer. Let us look at a short introduction video and some advantages offered by modular data centers, in this article.

First, have a look at this short video introducing a modular data center:

Though the video is from a particular vendor, it does a good job of giving a short overview of a modular data center. Of course, this post is not particular to any vendor and we will look at the generic advantages of a modular data center.

First off, what is a modular data center?

Well, someone seems to have come up with the idea of fitting a whole data center inside a standard shipping container so that all its components can be standardized and fitted in the manufacturing plant itself. The customer receives a whole data center in a container box intact with servers, storage, network connections, power lines, fire detection units, monitoring units, software, cooling facility, security and pretty much everything else that you can find in a standard data center.

Depending on the vendor, you can expect the data center modules in the following configurations:

Size: 10′ x 8′ (feet); 20′ x 8′; 40′ x 8′, etc.

Capacity: Computing – 500 U to 1500 U (Common models) to accommodate multi-core servers; Storage – 5 PB to 35 PB (Common models)

Well, why would anyone want that?

To understand the possible motivations behind the concept of portable modular data centers, let us look at the advantages offered by them.

Space Saving: The data center containers / modular data centers pack a high density of compute and storage infrastructure in a relatively small amount of space. With the premium on real estate space in major cities, companies can expect to save a lot of capital expenditure which might be spent otherwise to gain similar computing capacity with a normal (larger) data center.

Cooling Efficiency: A normal data center is big and hence it comes with higher cooling requirements. Since the modular data center occupies a very small space, highly efficient cooling technologies (like liquid cooling, evaporative cooling, etc) can be used with them. Even if air cooling is used, its capacity requirements might be limited as the space to be cooled is smaller. The reduced cooling requirements of modular data centers save a lot of running cost.

Deployment Time: When compared to the months/ years required for planning and deploying a normal data center, these modular data centers can be deployed within a few weeks. The reduced deployment time is possible because all the components used within them are standardized and the vendor ships it as an assembled/ tested unit.

On-Demand Capacity Increase: Not only can companies look to increase their existing data center (compute and storage) capacities (almost instantly), but multiple such modular data center units can be interconnected to offer even more capacity On-Demand.

Compatibility and Inter-working: Since all the components used within the data center comes from the same vendor (and is certified by them), customers can expect them to be perfectly compatible with each other. Some modular data centers may even come with pre-loaded virtualization / application softwares (depending on clients requirements).

Unified monitoring tools: More often than not, most of the components within the modular data centers can be monitored by using a single management / user interface (If a vendor supports this function). Compare that with the multiple monitoring systems required to monitor a normal data center.

Assembling & Expertise: Since Modular data centers are ready-made plug and play units, they compensate for the lack of  availability of expert personnel in data center technologies. Since the units use standardized technology from specialized vendors, you can be sure that they have been designed and assembled by quality personnel (who have experience and expertise in designing similar systems) in the vendor’s premises. There is no need to search for assembling/ fitting personnel for each data center related technology, in your area.

Maintenance: Most of the components in modular data centers have built in redundancy. For example, if a couple of servers are down, the virtualization software might run on other servers leaving these two out. These servers might even be replaceable with standard rack mount servers (1U/ 2U) if the vendor supports them. Many other components are field replaceable, and can be replaced if they go down.

Disaster Recovery/ Remote Location: Companies generally don’t want to invest in a whole data center just for disaster recovery. So, the modular data centers can be made ready to take over essential services in the event of a disaster to the main data center. Modular Data Centers can also be useful in a remote location where the expertise to build a data center may not be available or the data center is required temporarily.

Cooling and Power Distribution: Most of the Modular Data Centers have self-contained cooling and power distribution technologies built-into them right out of the factory. So, they can be commissioned easily.

Lower costs: Both capital and running costs are lower for modular data centers. Smaller units can be bought when the requirement is low and they can be scaled by purchasing and connecting additional units as and when required (if supported by the vendor).

Weather proof: These modules are generally weather proof and sound proof. They can be kept outdoors in extreme temperatures, if required.

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