What is a Modular Data Center?
April 4th, 2013 By: Kevin Normandeau
This is the second article in the Data Center Knowledge Guide to Modular Data Centers series. The concept of a modular data center solution has eluded definition, if not comprehension. Through the short history of modular solutions and vendor marketing, a definition and categorization of solutions has emerged. A modular data center can be defined as more of an approach to data center design that incorporates contained units, many times in the form of prefabricated modules. The modular market started with an international standard approach in the shape of an ISO (International Standards Organization) shipping container and has evolved to a fledgling market of vendors that produce everything from containers to a variety of modular designed products and solutions for IT, power and cooling.
In some ways the shift in IT such as cloud computing has been in parallel with modular data center approaches. Modular elements for both IT and the data center exist in:
Container vs. Modular
A data center product incorporating cus¬tomized infrastructure to support power or cooling infrastructure, or racks of IT equipment. Containers are built using an ISO (International Standards Organization) intermodal shipping container.
An approach to data center design that implies either a prefabricated data center module or a deployment method for delivering data center infrastructure in a modular, quick and flexible method.
The primary confusion in terms stems from container versus modular. A data center container is a particular package that is engineered and delivered as such — in an ISO shipping container. A container is not the same thing as modular, but a container can be a part of a modular data center. A modular data center references a deployment method and engineered solution for assembling a data center out of modular components in, many times, pre-fabricated solutions that enable scalability and a rapid delivery schedule.
After the early development of containers, theories evolved and the hype cycle played out for a data center in a box. Numerous hardware vendors, independent companies and data center providers embraced the modular concept and presented their own engineered solution.
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