DCIM & IT Management

Modular Data Centers Come In Many Sizes and Types


Modular buildings and building techniques predate the Internet, the transistor, and, to some degree, even modern history if we accept the tipi and yurt as modular building techniques. They certainly exemplified the concepts of prefabricated and rapidly deployable!

When it comes to modular and prefabricated data centers we tend to think of facilities ranging in size from a few hundred-kW hosting 25 to 100 racks to the Hyperscale facilities in the megawatt class with thousands of racks of IT.

These projects generate a tremendous amount of media attention and are the talk of numerous industry conferences. We are all impressed with the scale, complexity, speed, cost, efficiency, and reliability associated with many of these data centers. Especially those that are done right. A topic for another day.

A Data Center by Any Other Size, Shape or Name

That is all well and good but today, I want to focus your attention on the other end of the spectrum – at the rack-based data center.

Yes, I said data center and rack at the same time.

We have been building innovative row-based data centers for some time. Again, I am saying data center. Why? Because the compute, storage, and networking capacity of a single row of racks today eclipses that of a supercomputer from a mere ten years ago.

Quite frankly, for many applications, a complete data center can be built in a single row or aisle. One fully self-contained with airflow management, cooling, UPS, power distribution, fire suppression, access control, security, and out-of-band communications for management and upgrades on-the-fly.

Because many, if not most, of these systems, are deployed in distribution centers, manufacturing, and industrial sites, bio-tech & pharma processing facilities, warehouses, reclaimed office / classroom / kitchen space, or simply jammed into the last bit of remaining space in a commercial building.

It is time we give these row- and aisle-based systems the respect they deserve. They are data centers!

Smart Devices Require Smarter Data Center Resources

Even though the ‘edge’ is more loosely defined than ever, we are seeing a resurgence of distributed computing wherein the data center is now located far afield and comprises a single rack. Albeit, a very SmartCabinet encompassing all we found in the row and aisle, when required to support the computational workload.

I have even seen some start to refer to the rack as the data center-in-a-box, although I prefer the micro data center nomenclature.

The point is, with IOT and the hyperbolic growth of smart connected devices we must deploy powerful computational resources much closer to the point of engagement with the client, be they human, machines, sensors, or AI’s residing across a platform of systems. And the rack-based micro data center has a valuable role in enabling this connected IT ecosystem – with every point, node, and path taking on mission-critical status. Failsafe is sadly an oxymoron.

Today, I ask you to consider the rack, row, and aisle-based data center as valuable components of your modular and prefabricated data center tool chest. 

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