Going off the Grid: The Rise of Modular Data Centers: Part Three
August 22, 2012
Earlier this week, we told you how HP, IBM and Cisco have all engaged in the use of modular data centers as off-shoots of primary data center operations. Today, in our final installment of this week's modular data center blog series, we'll see how a trio of recent players have shed new light on possible future directions for modular.
A day after celebrating the Fourth of July here in the U.S., Mike Manos, Chief Technology Officer for AOL Services took to his blog on July 5 to declare that he and his team spent the holiday celebrating “AOL’s Data Center Independence Day.”
Once the dominate force in this country’s internet services, AOL has spent the better part of the past few years searching for ways to reinvent itself in today’s market. After sweeping changes within the organization set the tone, AOL’s tech segment then set out to “develop and deliver a data center environment without the need of a physical building.” Sound familiar?
After determining a core set of requirements (“deliver extremely dense compute capacity, ability to support/maintain/and administer remotely, ability to fit into the power envelope of a normal office building”), AOL put its plan into action.
Even noting that “existing AOL Data Centers would fall somewhere around a traditional Tier III/Tier II Uptime Institute definition,” Manos’ team forged ahead, making a big breakthrough in their effort to devise what they called the “Micro Data Center.”
With 100% reliance on the cloud, AOL’s new Micro Data Center boasts 100% lights-out support (no staff needed), a pre-planned vs. reactive support model, a pre-racked vendor integrated deployment model and quick launch capacity.
More than simply stating “we stuck some computers in a box and we made sure it requires very little care and feeding,” Manos explains how the “inherent flexibility of the design” equals a vast number of potential physical spaces at which the Micro Data Center could be deployed. This freedom of choice has resulted in what Manos claims is “5X the amount of Total Compute Capability in less than 10% of the cost and physical footprint [over a traditional ‘big-box’ configuration].”
At another end of the modular data center spectrum, July 17 marked the day that Dell introduced the world to its new Tactical Mobile Data Center.
Branded as “an air deployable and wholly customizable data center solution designed to empower government and military operations anytime, anywhere,” Dell’s first major push into the modular market illustrates just how specific these types of projects can become.
Not much different in size from that of AOL’s Micro Data Center, the Dell Tactical Mobile Data Center consists of three 42U – 15 kW capacity server racks, power distribution units (PDUs), data connections and the ability to hold up to 10,000 lbs. Heavy duty for war zones under heavy fire, the units also sport battery backup while supporting structured or generated power feeds.
No doubt a great example of modular’s flexibility, the Dell announcement does indicates that certain modular offerings might not be for everyone… or most for that matter. But what if another solution altogether could combine the reduced footprint and efficiency benefits of a modular unit with the large-scale visibility, access and operational management of a traditional data center?
Emerging in 2007 as a premier data center services colocation provider, Phoenix-based IO quickly realized that the traditional raised floor architecture of a “Data Center 1.0” approach needed to evolve. Seeing an increased demand for “rapidly deployed information infrastructure,” IO then launched its “Data Center 1.5” model in 2009.
In this 1.5 model, IO would continue to utilize a large-scale, traditional platform for hosting, but it also began to provide the “data center as a service” to even greater proprietary effect by implementing their own efficient models of IT storage within the framework.
The next logical step came in 2011 when IO announced the “Data Center 2.0.” In coordination with opening another large-scale data center in New Jersey, IO’s 2.0 model fully embraced the idea of a “next generation modular technology platform,” whereby the data center as service could stand on equal ground with the ability to quickly deploy a modular unit to customers anywhere in the world. This solution is now packaged and offered as IO. Anywhere, featuring the world’s first secure data center infrastructure operating system (IO.OS) and the ability to be delivered to “your location, to a dedicated off-site location, or to one of IO’s data centers in a matter of weeks – not months or years.”
In developing this latest solution, which combines the best of large scale installations with the flexibility of small scale and highly scalable deployments, IO has also taken a dedicated approach to outfitting these modules with the best in IT infrastructure storage.
As you’ll see in the following video (courtesy of Data Center Knowledge during this year's Uptime Symposium), IO’s modularly flexible Data Center 2.0 platform, and the cost reducing energy efficiency it offers (whether in the field or hosted at an IO facility) is fully supported with an array of IT infrastructure storage.
This glimpse inside a typical IO modular unit reveals how the core IT infrastructure storage components, including CPI's own TeraFrame® Cabinet Enclosures and Cable Runway remain integral parts of the modular make-up, and additionally, how energy efficiency from passive cooling further enhances the performance and reliability of such units. Seen in this light, one begins to realize just how similar (for all their apparent location-based differences) modular and the traditional data center or equipment room model are.
Ultimately, the future of modular will depend on our ability to not only react to the demands of big data, but to think beyond today's known constraints. As we devise new methods to better handle and safeguard our data, modular remains but one piece to the puzzle. Where does that piece fit and what can it tell us about the bigger picture? Why don't you share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.