Will your containerized data center survive the elements?

Stephen J. Bigelow

Are containerized data centers suited to long-term deployment in the elements? Do they need any kind of weatherizing?

Environmental resistance is another issue that is largely overlooked when considering a containerized data center. There is no single answer, but containers are basically steel boxes that are full of complex and expensive equipment. The problem is that steel rusts; it doesn't need water, only oxygen. In addition, steel can undergo significant expansion and contraction as outside temperatures change. Even galvanized steel that is treated to withstand the elements can form leaks that might eventually allow water penetration and unwanted pests that will cause problems for systems, wiring and IT personnel.

In many cases, environmental resistance is ignored because the container is leased or purchased with the expectation of a limited lifespan. Most servers are replaced every three to five years, and containers frequently fall into that same cycle. For example, you would not replace the servers within a container; you would replace the entire container -- servers and all. So a well-designed container can typically fend off the elements for a normal lifecycle without significant difficulty.

However, many organizations that rely on containers as a permanent modular data center strategy will usually house their container fleet under some sort of warehouse-like enclosure. This extra measure of protection improves physical security for the containers and computing equipment inside, mitigates daily or seasonal temperature changes and reduces environmental exposures that can cause rusting and premature failures.

View the next item in this Essential Guide: Robert McFarlane or view the full guide: Building with modern data center design in mind

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