In recent years there has been much deliberation in the data centre industry on whether the legacy approach to build a data centre is the best decision.
The sorts of issues which must be addressed when considering the build include:
- the rapid progression of technology
- application requirements
- geographical challenges
- demographic change and demand for IT
- site constraints for construction
- flexibility and scalability of the data centre facility
- expected lifecycle of the facility
- construction time to build data centres and their cost.
Because of these issues, it’s no surprise there’s been a significant shift in the mindset of data centre managers and operators. The purpose-built portable approach of a containerised (or modular) data centre is now considered a serious alternative to the traditional bricks-and-mortar facility.
Containerised data centres were originally used only in emergencies
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the containerised data centre, in a commercial market, was initially conceived to address disaster recovery and emergency deployment; for example, to quickly replace space lost in a fire.
Typically, this was in the form of a prime mover truck, where the trailer carried a containerised data centre. The trailer was parked and left on site to operate until the primary facility was up and running again.
These trailers supplemented a mandatory permanent data centre facility.
From circa 2000s, commercial containerised data centres became viable and practical
Google has been one of the pioneers in shifting to the containerised data centre solution in lieu of traditional data centre build.
There have been numerous reports from Green Grid, Longhaus institute and MarketsandMarkets which suggest that containerised data centre applications will exponentially grow until 2020. According to MarketandMarket, the containerised data centre market will be worth $35.11 billion by 2020.
With the current trend in demand for connecting devices to the internet — as mentioned in my article about the Internet of Things — and the fact that mobile connectivity is becoming most organisations’ number-one priority, there’s been an increasing movement in the international and Australian markets to quickly, simply and cheaply deploy technology assets.
This will enable multi-tenant buildings, shopping centres, airports, train stations, hotels, hospitals, etc. to provide seamless coverage of mobile technology to their customers, and technology-based productivity services to their employees.
To enable quick and cost-effective deployment, the containerised solution for housing of technology assets has become feasible and more common.
What are the advantages of a containerised data centre?
There are nine key advantages:
- Scalablity, within a repeatable and defined (hence standardised) approach
- Agility if change is required
- Mobility, transportability and ease of placement in almost any situation
- Quick procurement and deployment times
- No design required by the client
- Makes best use of real estate assets of the client
- Delivers very good energy efficiency
- Can provide medium or high power density and low PUE
- Fast to commission
Other advantages are specific cases for containerised data centres, such as High Performance Computing (HPC) or clustering.
There are at least two examples in Australia of containers being used for HPC cases, as reported by Science Network Western Australia and Tech Research Asia: iVec in Western Australia uses a HP POD, and Animal Logic uses an IBM PMDC. Also DSTO has looked to house its HPC in ISO containers.
As more and more organisations look to out-compute to compete through HPC-like use cases (including big data workloads), more deployments of containerised facilities will be seen across the country and also across the Asian region.
A containerised data centre approach is the future
The containerised data centre solution has become an increasingly feasible and robust replacement for data centres, when considering their fast procurement, deployment and commissioning.
In addition, the prefabricated and pre-engineered nature of a containerised data centre can alleviate potential risks associated with conventional bricks-and-mortar facilities.
Take a look at module48, Frame’s data centre in a container solution.