One of the intriguing aspects of the data center container is the ability to create modular infrastructures, some of which may buck conventional thinking about both data centers and shipping containers. One scenario that has been contemplated but not yet implemented (so far as we can tell) involves stacking containers to create a vertical data center. This approach would allow users to place a large amount of computing horsepower into a small footprint, but also creates challenges in providing the power, water and network hookups - not to mention employee access to service the containers.
Those are probably among the reasons that Microsoft decided to deploy its CBlox data center containers on a single floor of its new Chicago data center, with rows of containers parked at a 45 degree angle. But there are other industries where shipping containers are being used as the building blocks for infrastructure. One is the hotel industry, where Travelodge is using customized shipping containers as the framework for a new hotel in Uxbridge, England.
The lodging chain is building an eight-story hotel using 86 shipping containers as the building blocks for each room. The containers come with all the fittings (bathroom, wallboard, electrical outlets) already installed. The facility is scheduled to be completed in June.
Would a multi-story stackable container solution work for data centers? There would certainly be drawbacks. But there's some innovative work being done in incorporating shipping containers into architectural designs. See WebUrbanist for more examples (link via Digg).