Container Data Centers: A Step Along the Green Path

As a bit of background and at the risk of stating the obvious, let’s quickly review some basics about energy efficiency and the Data Center.  It has been estimated that on average, electricity costs account for over 40% of data center operational expenses.  In 2006, American data centers consumed more electricity than all the televisions in America.  The cost to power a typical server now exceeds the cost to buy it, when viewed over a three-year horizon.  Data Centers typically operate more than 2.5 times the cooling capacity needed to maintain the IT equipment.  On average, less than 50% of the cool air in a chilled-air data center actually makes it to the IT equipment.

Those first few points are likely already well understood by the reader, or are at least consistent with other similar metrics quoted in the Green dialogue.  The last one, which speaks to the challenges of efficiently cooling IT equipment, is what I’d like to talk about in more depth.

Container Data Centers – Hard to Sell or Hard to Buy?

Earlier this year we talked about 2008 being a breakout year for container data centers. We’ve also discussed new developments and new product introductions by the container vendors as well as a number of established and emerging use cases.¬† It would appear though that the launch of container sales has yet to get underway.¬† In spite of the slow start, I continue to believe there are many good use cases for container data centers, and I see these as a momentum-builder for modular data center construction concepts (which are sorely needed).

We’ve recently begun work on an all-container data center concept for a new data processing facility to be located on the East Coast of the USA.¬† In the process of this work, I’ve reached out to all the container vendors I know of (Rackable Systems, Verari, Sun, HP, Dell, IBM, Lampertz) for capability and pricing information for potential inclusion of those products in this new project.¬† The experience I’ve had over the past month with these purchase inquiries shows that one of the obstacles to the breakout potential may simply be the difficulty in buying these products.

Data Center Tier Levels- Still Misunderstood

The data center consolidation and construction boom of the 21st century is well underway.  As we work with Clients, helping with planning, advice, and project management of these changes foundational to the future performance of their enterprise, we always encounter the discussion of facility Tier Level rating.

The Tier Level rating refers to an industry standard way of describing the degree to which the facility can support constant uninterrupted operation of the data processing systems.  We know that the systems themselves can be architected with high-availability configurations.  Tier Levels though, refer to the capability of the facility itself to support the systems it contains.  Utility power, temperature increases and so on are facilities issues, and are the foundation upon which any amount of data processing fault-tolerance stands.