Definition

data center in a box

A data center in a box, also called a containerized or modular data center,  is a self-contained computing facility that is manufactured in a factory and shipped to a location. 

Traditional “design and build” data center facilities can take years to build and can cost tens of millions of dollars or more. By comparison, an organization can buy a ready-made data center, park it on the lawn, hook it up to utilities and start using it almost immediately. 

There are several sizes and variations to the containerized data center. The simplest approach is basically a data center with computing resources, cooling and power resources  in a trailer or shipping container. These modules are quite mobile and can be stacked or densely packed to accommodate the deployment of multiple units. More permanent containerized solutions more closely resemble the  way a modular home is assembled.  Modules, which are designed and constructed to meet zoning codes,  are manufactured in one or more sections in a factory and are installed on a permanent foundation at a final location. 

Containerized data centers are emerging as attractive alternatives to traditional facility projects. For example, the HP EcoPod can support more than 4,000 servers with a claimed power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating of 1.05 when using ambient air for cooling, as compared with a PUE of 1.15 to 1.3 when using air conditioners.

Containerized data centers can be purchased outright, but containers can also be rented or leased, allowing businesses to easily dispose of aging containers and replace them with newer, higher-density and more efficient containers in the future.

Entire container-based facilities can also be purchased and are often amortized in 7 to 10 years (rather than 20-30 years for new building constructions). 

Contributor(s): Stephen J. Bigelow
This was last updated in December 2011
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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