HP, Fidelity Say Modular Designs Are Enterprise-Ready

Jake Ring, GE Critical Power, and David Rotheroe, Distinguished Technologist and Strategist, HP, present about the benefits of fully modular data centers at the 7X24 Exchange Conference.

Jake Ring, GE Critical Power, and David Rotheroe, Distinguished Technologist and Strategist, HP, present about the benefits of fully modular data centers at the 7X24 Exchange Conference in San Antonio, TX. Ring noted the significant modular market drivers of data storage growth, speed of development, lower upfront investment, lower operating costs and the ability to fit one’s infrastructure to one’s IT load. (Photo by Colleen Miller.)

SAN ANTONIO – Modular designs are driving significant cost savings in creating mission-critical data centers at Fidelity Investments and HP, who say their experience demonstrates that modular designs are ready to deliver high availability for enterprise workloads.

The two companies shared case studies yesterday at the 7×24 Exchange 2013 Fall Conference, which brought together more than 800 data center professionals at the JW Marriott Hill Country Resort in San Antonio.

The presentations offered the latest data points in an ongoing discussion about the cost of modular data centers, and the types of workloads they should support. Over the past year, the debate has advanced from research reports on modular economics to real-world case studies from marquee enterprise brands.

It should be noted that HP and Fidelity are motivated to evangelize the merits of modularity for the enterprise, as they are each marketing their modular designs to the data center industry. But both companies are conspicuously eating their own dog food, and says it’s delicious – and significantly cheaper than traditional approaches.

Here’s a look at Monday’s case studies.

HP and GE

When it needed to expand a data center in Georgia supporting its internal IT, HP evaluated a range of approaches, including a traditional bricks-and-mortar facility, a hybrid design combining buildings and modules (like HP’s “butterfly” design) and fully containerized modular solutions. The winning design would have to support high-density deployments and deliver high-reliability in a 2N power design.

HP went with a fully modular design using the HP 240a EcoPOD modules, paired with the new PowerMOD containerized power and cooling solution from GE Structured Solutions, a unit of GE Critical Power. The EcoPOD is a double-wide design that uses air cooling and, importantly, looks and functions like a raised-floor data hall.

A look inside one of HP's latest designs for its Performance Optimized Datacenter (POD). Airbus just deployed two PODs for a supercomputing cluster in Europe.

A look inside the hot aisle in an HP EcoPOD data center. (Photo: HP)

“A lot of people believe modular is just for scale-out and low reliability,” said Dave Rotheroe, Distinguished Technologist and Strategist for HP IT. “It’s not true. Modular designs can and do apply in the enterprise. I’m using them today. Nobody seems to believe I can have an enterprise data center at a lower cost using containers.”

But cost was a key driver in the decision, along with speed-to-market. Rotheroe said the modular designs offered meaningful gains in both areas.

“Our deployments are 10 to 20 percent cheaper than the traditional brick-and-mortar data center I would have built,” said Rotheroe. “We think in the future, pricing will drop and it will become much, much cheaper (than traditional bricks and mortar). It won’t replace everything, but it will be a major part of the market.”

The EcoPOD will have about 1 megawatt of power capacity, and be able to house 44 racks of IT gear.

GE Critical Power has been deploying containerized power solutions for industrial customers for some time. With its PowerMOD solution, which it officially unveiled last week, it has productized its offering for the data center market. It features a transformerless UPS in either 500kW or 1,000kW size, as well as the ability to use free cooling to maintain the environment for the batteries.

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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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  1. I am thinking that 2014-2015 will be the tipping point for modular solutions broad base offerings based on all the presentations and announcements we see here at DCK. We modeled out and designed an 8 MW site that was under $4M/MW for everything. Land, building, mechanical/electrical equipment, modular units that supported up to 34KW/cabinet, labor, on a secure site operating 24x7. The site PUE was 1.3 and the stranded power was 200Kw over the 8MW. Not too shabby by most standards. The devil will be in the details on how these 'solutions' are designed and deployed. There are nuances in the sizing of the chunks that you deploy and what that cost to cost & value. The good news is that modular can dial up and dial down the chunks and let you decide where the value point is most beneficial. It should be a fantastic year for those of us who 'get' modular!

  2. Hey Mark, If your numbers are accurate, I'd love to talk to you, as I have opportunities that we can discuss today. However, without seeing your assumptions and calculations, I must say I am skeptical. I've only been in this business for two years, however I've seen a number of these real-life opportunities, and have yet to see one with economics as favorable as you mention. I am open-minded though. Show me the money. Erik Stockglausner