Cookie cutter container data centers, take 2

Some time ago, I wrote about a different perspective on container data centers. Tonight I’ve been reading about Mike Manos’s take on containers and I’d like to talk a little bit about some of his points.

Mike thinks that data centers have been moving at an evolutionary snail’s pace. Green power, free air cooling, green cooling techniques in general, DC power distribution, I think the pace of evolution is hopping right along and I sure don’t think moving to pre-built modular Lego data centers is going to spark that.

Mike says that “In the past, each and every data center was built lovingly by hand by a team of master craftsmen and data center artisans. Each is a one of a kind tool built to solve a set of problems. ”
This is true, because the people that build this way recognize that “one size fits all” fits everything (sort of) and fits nothing optimally.

Data centers are not nail hammers. Nail hammers generally work equally as well to drive a nail whether they were handmade by a blacksmith or mass produced in a factory. A nail hammer works the same in the tropics, at the North Pole, or on the moon. Cookie cutter data centers may leave you driving tacks with a sledgehammer or driving spikes with a flyswatter. Myself, I’d prefer not to deal with either.

Show me a container data center that can deal with such green techniques as free air cooling or DC power. I’m not aware of either and these are two of the hottest green techniques going.

The watchword for container data centers seems to be simplicity. It’s true, you can dumb down the data center so things consist of nothing except unplugging and plugging huge boxes. Just hope the vendor did all their engineering right because you’re not going to be able to tweak anything once it’s plugged in (not to mention you won’t even have a good sense if things are working the best they can be or not).

So, are containers all bad? Not at all. Containers are useful for huge installations with massive amounts of identical servers. Maybe you’re willing to trade off optimization for only needing 4 people to install a 2000 server container. It’s certainly handy for Microsoft to run a single purpose 700,000 sq ft data center with only 45 people.

On the other hand, if you need flexibility to handle different types of hardware and new technologies, to truly be green, and to be as optimal as possible for your particular set of needs, a Lego data center isn’t going to cut it.

Remember, no sledgehammers on tacks.

Vern, SwiftWater Telecom

data center facility engineering


One response to “Cookie cutter container data centers, take 2

  1. Pingback: Monday data center tidbits … « The Server Room

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