Data center discussion part II: Existing traditional data centers will fade away

What happens to traditional builds in a world of modular options?

21 November 2011 by Ambrose McNevin - DatacenterDynamics

Data center discussion part II: Existing traditional data centers will fade away
Guy Ruddock

Part II of the data center discussion on modularity in the data center market...

GUY RUDDOCK ASKS: Is there any future for the shipping container as a component in a modern data center design and if so, why?

Peter Gross Answers:

I am convinced there is a future, and that future is now. Shifting the bulk of the complex labour associated with building a data center from site tofactory, will not only yield tremendous cost savings, but will reduce the entire delivery cycle and will improve reliability, through repeatability.

By shipping prefabricated, tested and commissioned modules to the site, the project emphasis now shifts to supply chain management and logistics. The data center becomes a product.

George Slessman Answers:

I would agree 100% with Peter’s response. Manufactured modular data center infrastructure is the future and in fact is happening today (IO has 50 modules currently in production at our factory and 30+ modules deployed for customers, since March).

However, to unlock the potential of true e ciency, sustainability and service level attainment there MUST be an integrated software component like the IO Operating System to enable application to data center communicationand optimization.

Furthermore, I do not believe that shipping containers play a role in the next generation of data centers for enterprise users.

GEORGE SLESSMAN ASKS: Over the next five to ten years, what do we think happens to all of the traditionally designed and constructed data center “1.0” capacity currently deployed (abandoned, repurposedor still useful)?

Peter Gross Answers:

This is already a serious situation. The average age of enterprise data centers is 14 years and IDC estimates that 85% of facilities built before 2001 are already obsolete. More importantly, most legacy data centers lack the flexibility required by the present dynamic environment. Cloud has exacerbated the need for agility and adaptability to new levels of power density, adjustable redundancy and higher energy efficiency.

The vast majority of enterprises are looking at consolidating their data center portfolio and this trend is linked not only to cost reduction objectives, but also to the need to abandon many such obsolete facilities.

Furthermore, there is a large number of retrofit projects, attempting to bring legacy data center to higher standards.

Guy Ruddock Answers:

The design criteria for data centers are always targeted at the technology demands of the day, offset by the commercial constraints of the owner/operator. As a result, without factoring in refresh cycles, all of these facilities have a natural useful life. Historically, it was a straightforward exercise to fund the construction of a new facility and to take into account certain likely technology advances as part of that design, as a result the Board was well used to developments of this type.

However, over the past five years the data center requirements and the available approaches have completely changed. The technologyhoused within the facilities has become significantly more powerful and environmentally aware; the data center itself has become an engineered product with fluid dynamics at the heart of its design and the increasing cost has become a significant factor in the procurement.

This forces the owners of the data center ‘1.0’ onto the horns of a dilemma. Many of these facilities are simply time served, they do not possess the power or space to be redeveloped and they will fade away. Others can be reinvigorated for a while by replacing cooling systems and power infrastructure and if the facility has the capability these have a new life. However, most sites will require redeveloping making use of the utility and communications infrastructure already on site, which is a difficult task, often being undertaken while the data center is live!

The only viable way of undertaking such a task is to utilize modular data centers. They can provide swing space while the facility is redeveloped, avoid the massive technical design costs of a new traditional build but are able to utilize the utilities already available on site. In this way at least one of the significant risks has been removed and others mitigated — the task is not going to be easy but at least the design risk can be removed.

PETER GROSS ASKS: Do you see a more significant impact of data center infrastructure management, compared to the traditional data center?

George Slessman Answers:

I believe that advanced DCIM applications (like the IO Operating System) are the basis for data center innovation for the next several decades. The diseconomies of the traditional data center stem from its “thick provisioned” nature. Each traditional data center design decision is madeat a single point in time while attempting to predict the future of IT infrastructure and applications over a projected useful asset life of up to 30 years. The flaw is obvious, and results in expensive, poorly utilized, and highly inefficient data centers.

Major components of the current data center infrastructure construct — energy, back-up, storage, and conditioning — will need to be significantly reduced or even eliminated to maintain the unit economics demanded by the digital revolution. This can only be accomplished with standardized data center hardware like the IO Anywhere platform that is intelligently controlled by a fully integrated operating system. This operating system will provide the necessary intelligence so that applications can attain their functional objective: to stay connected to users.

Guy Ruddock Answers:

DCIM is becoming a key component in data center operations and design activities. This is largely an industry factor and not a modular data center element. Clearly, the modularization of data centers allows the DCIM systems to be far more effective simply because the standard nature of the facility allows a more comprehensive use of the technology to be made and invested in. After all, if the DCIM is for one hall it is far more expensive per installation than something amortized over many hundreds. In my view the impact will be seen more in the modular units for this fact alone.

The Datacenter discussion on modularity continues in Part III 



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