Container Data Center

October 27, 2006

There’s a lot of technical debate on whether it really makes sense to put a data center in a cargo container like Sun and possibly Google are reportedly doing.

This is a huge advancement in data center thinking because it mitigates the underlying real estate problem.  Traditionally, data centers need to be located near fiber loops (the secret buried fiber network that no telco will discuss) and have capacity for at least 50,000 square feet of conditioned rack space, UPS systems, and fuel storage to be cost competitive.  Usually they like a non-descript location too.

That’s a real estate challenge in any major market.  So a data center in a cargo container changes something?  Yes!

The data center problem is that you have to have 50,000 sf of data center space for economies of scale and the ability to take on the big customers.  Ever tried to cool 50,000 sf of office space (data center) that has a bunch of portable heaters (servers) fighting against you?  You’ve got to move a lot of air, all the time, and that is expensive, which is why lots of people are focused on data center efficiency. 

But look at what just happened to with the cargo container idea to help design a new kind of data center:

  • Standard size container
  • Movable, plug-and-play if you will
  • Self-contained cooling

So now I can drop (actually, you can stack them for even better real estate returns) a bunch of these in a warehouse that has connectivity, and I only have to cool the container!  I still need power, but if you have a couple of these around the country, you can reduce most of the redundancy. 

Again, the biggest change is cooling.  You’ve broken down the space into manageable units that can be cooled to the needs of each one. 

So do I think you’ll sell a ton of these cargo container data centers?  Nope.  What will happen is that data center operators will demise (make smaller spaces) the large data centers into manageable sections.  If you’ve only leased 10,000 sf, that’s all you cool.  If you’ve got a customer with a bunch of blades, you put them in a section with colder temperatures and more airflow – and charge more!

Just like metered powered and bandwidth, soon your data center provider will charge for cooling.  You heard it here first.


3 Responses to “Container Data Center”

  1. Paul G Says:

    “Just like metered powered and bandwidth, soon your data center provider will charge for cooling. You heard it here first.”

    they already do. it’s all built into the price of power.

  2. Bill Says:

    Paul, you’re right, cooling costs under a traditional pricing model are lumped into your electrical bill or calculated on square footage of data center space.

    In the future, you’ll be segregate your data center space so that you only pay to cool what you heated. It’s a benefit to the customer, and a benefit to the data center because they cool less space and charge for cooling at a more granular level. Look for Digital Realty Trust to lead the charge.

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