No need to contain your excitement

Chris Wellfair, Projects Director at Secure I.T. Environments Ltd, looks at containerised data centres and what they offer.

You’ve probably heard the term ‘containerised data centre’ and associate it with huge data centre projects, such as those run by the public cloud vendors with tens of thousands of servers and the need for constant growth. In those instances, they are chosen for speed, cost effectiveness and ease of installation, but those benefits are not only true when working at scale. There are several scenarios where a containerised data centre might be just right for you, even if you are a much smaller business.

Containerised solutions, such as our own ModCel and ModCel Edge solutions, can form small data centres, particularly in government settings, where they help resolve space, deployment time, build complexity and cost challenges. They are very flexible and depending on the internal configuration can perform very well, even in high density applications.

If you are facing a data centre design and build challenge and any of the following resonate with you then you should certainly add a containerised data centre to the possible solution list.

  • Speed is of the essence – If you need your data centre built quickly then containerisation can substantially shorten delivery times. Many companies offer them in standard ‘ready to load’ configurations, but you can of course have the interior designed to meet specific requirements, if your partner offers this.
  • Site suitability – In some locations it is simply impossible to house a new a data centre. This could be due to footprint, budget or even local planning regulations. Often in these situations, a container can be a solution accepted by all and that implemented with a minimum of fuss or raised eyebrows from the CFO!
  • Construction must be offsite – There could be many reasons why you can’t build a data centre on site, for example, if it is a high security area, or the data centre is only needed in a disaster recovery situation such as a flood, so you want to keep it offsite. A containerised solution can be fully designed, fitted out and tested at a separate location. It could even be running in a separate location mirroring servers at the main location, and can then dropped in as a ‘clone’ when needed.
  • Mobile data centre – If you need your data centre to be mobile, either because you know the facility will be moving to another site in the future or you want to ship it to another country once built, then containerisation is an excellent solution. Firstly, because units are designed to shipping containing external dimensions, use the same interlock systems and to meet or exceed the same rigidity and load standards, shipping them is a lot easier than sending individual components that must be re-assembled at the other end. Secondly, it is possible to get the container insured if it meets the correct international shipping container standards, giving you greater peace of mind.

There are a couple of misconceptions about containerised data centres, the first being that they really are just a temporary solution and have a touch of the Heath Robinson’s about them! To a degree this is understandable, after all they do look like an upcycled shipping container, but the technology in them is the same as that which would go into ‘normal’ data centre build, or at least from the same suppliers. If you pick the right partner, then your container will be custom designed and built from the frame up, and will carry enviable Lloyds Register structural warranties to give you peace of mind. You’ll have extended or upgraded the data centre long before those warranties expire.

The other reasonable question that any data centre manager worth their salt will ask, is about the ability of a containerised data centre to maintain effective cooling and achieve strong Power Usage Efficiency ratings – the misconception is that they will fall short. Our own experience has shown that they can deliver the same high standards as a modular or traditional data centre builds. As outlined above this is because they use the same equipment, including monitoring systems – they are well suited to high density applications where heat can be an issue precisely because of the way containers are configured. Also, where there are particularly stringent demands it is not uncommon to have a second container which is response for housing switchgear, batteries, UPS and cooling hardware, though can be housed within container ‘rooms’.

Containerised data centres are not a replacement for a modular room or bespoke data centre build, they are simply another option. As we have seen above, in certain situations their advantages may make them perfectly suited to the challenges you are trying to overcome in your own government data centre environment.

You can learn more about Secure I.T. Enviroments ModCel and ModCel Edge solutions by visiting our website.

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