NxGen Making Waves in the Modular Market

A deployment of NxCenter, NxGen Modular's flagship data center offering. (Photo: NxGen).

When you think of cloud builders, NxGen Modular probably doesn’t immediately spring to mind. The company may not be a household name, but it’s busy building the data centers that will power two of the world’s largest cloud computing operations.

In keeping with its name, NxGen has developed next-generation modular designs, with pre-fabricated components that can be assembled into a complete data center. The  San Jose, Calif. company’s flexible designs resemble traditional data centers, but can be built cheaper and faster than typical greenfield projects. Since launching in October 2010, NxGen has rapidly established itself as a significant player in the modular market.

“We are growing rapidly,”  said Elizabeth Fetter,  President and CEO of NxGen Modular. “We got off to a very quick start, participating in a very large modular data center project.”

Building for Microsoft, Apple

NxGen would not discuss its customers. Recent media reports say NxGen is involved in the new Apple data center in Prineville, Oregon. Meanwhile, industry sources indicate the company is working with Microsoft, an early adopter of modular data centers.

NxGen has developed a suite of modular components that capture the advantages of pre-fabricated construction, while providing flexibility for large customers with a specific vision for their project.

“The fact that we have customizable products that can work is important,” said Fetter. “At the same time, we don’t want to duplicate a traditional build. What we’ve tried to do is step back and say ‘how can we modularize the main components of a data center?’ The balance between having an off-the-shelf product and being able to customize is something we’ve worked very hard on.”

NcGen offers five products in its modular offerings:

  • NxPower – A modularized power room that can support a traditional data center project.
  • NxMech – Modular cooling infrastructure that couples evaporative cooling technologies with airside economization techniques and hot aisle containment.
  • NxModule – A complete turnkey data center that is designed to ship in a single container, providing up to 300 kilowatts of IT capacity.
  • NxSuite – A data center component integrating rack power, cooling, and communication cabling, all assembled on a structural floor
  • NxCenter – The company’s flagship offering, a self-contained unit with all systems included for a turnkey data center.

The basic 200 kilowatt NxCenter “building block” is 12 to 15 feet wide, and between 50 and 55 feet long. Early installations of NxCenter have averaged about 8,000 square feet, with the capacity to support 220 to 240 racks, or about 1.5 megawatts to 3 megawatts of critical load. The modules can be configured for Tier II to Tier III.

So how is NxGen winning deals with the industry’s biggest players?

Construction Experience As a Differentiator

“I think our competitive advantage is that we have significant construction management industry backgrounds,” said Bruce Baxter, vice president of operations for NxGen. “Our clients are sophisticated people who have been in the business for a long time. They get technical very quickly. We’re able to articulate a complete solution.”

NxGen has quickly won the confidence of some of the data center industry’s biggest and most sophisticated players. The next challenge is extending its success to a broader client base.

“The modular data center market is an early market that requires education,” said Fetter. “A lot of very large players are the early adopters. But the analyst community is telling us that five years from now, about half of all data center spending will be on modular deployments. It’s a very big market.”

A look at the aisle containment systems in the NxCenter modular data center system from NxGen. (Photo: NxGen).

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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