You are on page 1of 4

A data center container is a shipping container set up to accommodate IT equipment.

The typical
data center container is based on ISO standards for ease of shipping; also, it may be modified in
a number of ways to better support the secure and practical use of IT equipment. The basic
equipment that most of these containers are designed to support includes servers, storage and
networking gear. In addition, containers may be designed to support some combination of
uninterruptible power supply (UPS), generators and/or chillers, with some of that equipment
supported in the same containers as the servers and storage equipment, or in separate and distinct
containers. Generally, data center containers have some connectivity elements, so that power
input, cooling capabilities (e.g., water pipes) and network traffic can be fed into the container
from the outside.
Containers are designed to be weather resistant, and, in some cases, are weather hardened for use
in extreme environments, although most use cases see them being implemented within existing
buildings or shells of buildings.

Container Based Colocation:


In regards to data centers, containers have always been a topic of discussion. Until recently, the
primary purpose of containers have been used as a fast way to implement extra capacity for large
companies like Microsoft and Google who have run out of space or cooling in their existing data
center space. Traditional data centers suffer from long construction periods, high energy
consumption and high initial investment, so it is difficult for fast-moving businesses nowadays to
manage rapid future expansion. Now, we see a transition as more and more colocation providers
have started adopting the container based colocation solution. The pros and cons of this method
are listed as follows:
Flexibility
First of all the containers give a lot of flexibility, as it will be very easy to fit individual
containers to cover specific needs in terms of power/cooling density, equipment type etc., which
is harder to do in large server rooms. Furthermore it will be much easier for large clients with a
lot of equipment at multiple locations, who might just configure the containers from a central
location and then ship them around the world.
Technology
Adopting new technology by using containers will be easier than in traditional data center setups,
as you can use containers with newer technology when expanding for more capacity. In addition,
it is possible to buy new, or change existing, containers as server depths, power consumption,
cooling requirement etc. changes during the years. Furthermore it will be easy to mix different
containers optimized for specific vendors depending on what kind of equipment the clients are
using.
Security
One of the major advantages of shipping containers, compared to major server rooms at
thousands of square feet, is the limited amount of people who will have access to it and shares
the same infrastructure of the container.

That means fewer clients will be affected by an outage caused by infrastructure in the container
as well as vandals or thieves getting in to a container. (can also be seen as a weakness because of
less protection in that it is easily to protect an entire building than 100 separate pods)
Scalability
Last but not least the scalability perspective is definitely also a big plus in relation to colocation,
as it will allow providers with multiple data centers to move capacity around between the data
centers. Generally the deployment time of expanding a facility should also be much shorter than
with a traditional data center.
Weaknesses
1) One of the biggest weaknesses is without any doubt that you will loose some of the
advantages that you would normally see in economy of scale, as some infrastructure will be
required per container that has to be divided on fewer cabinets than in for example a large server
room with a lot of cabinets. Furthermore containers will typically require a lot of waste area to be
able to move them around, so it will not be possible to use as much of the space as it would be in
a typical facility.
2) Modern data centers are modular - that is to say, the IT equipment and supporting power and
cooling can be deployed in chunks. PODS and Containers are not modular in the same way.
You can modify a traditional modular data center by increasing the floor space and changing
layout configurations, just like you can with a home. Pretty much all you can do with a POD is
add another unit to make it a double-wide. You cant share plumbing or air conditioning capacity.
Its not like a house that has a shared infrastructure. With a house, you can add a bedroom or a
fireplace. You dont have that capability with a POD. A POD or Container data center is not a
modular data center and there are constraints in how you will be able to expand as needs grow.

Here is a direct link to a website that shows current models of data centers including some from
HP, Sun, IBM, and Dell:
http://www.datacentermap.com/blog/datacenter-container-55.html

Here is another link to a website that actually sells these modular data centers so you can get an
idea of the functionalities of the different types of product available:
http://astmodular.com/solutions/product/containerized-data-centers_1

Value Chain:

In China:
Huawei, the Chinese networking and telco equipment giant, has launched a containerized
data center product.
The IDS1000A is an all-in-one data center solution inside an ISO-standard 40ft or 20ft container.
The 40ft version fits eight IT cabinets and supplies 60kW of IT power. The 120kVA modular
uninterrupted power supply (UPS) provides 10 minutes of backup time.
Chinas first containerized internet data center (IDC) has been running in the Beijing
data center campus of the 21ViaNet Group for more than two years. It was first put to use in
December 2010 and since then has been growing.
The containerized data center, provided by Tianjin C-Cube Co, is located at the B28
Jingdongfang Technology Park in the Zhaoyang District. Since the first installment of one 40ft
container, three more have been put into operation and the center now hosts more than 1,000
servers, according to a report by eNet.

The B28 containerized data center is constructed in accordance with the mainstream standards of
fourth generation modular data centers, C-Cube says on its official website. This means all
cabinets, power distribution units, uninterruptible power supply units (UPSs), air-conditioners,
even the generators, servers and storage systems are prefabricated in a 40ft container. As soon as
the network is connected and the power is on, the containerized data center can be started as
quickly as possible.
As the first containerized internet data center in China, the B28 facility allows 21ViaNet to
expand operational capacity in a rapid way. In accordance with C-Cube, the deployment of the
whole containerized data center system takes only ten weekstwo weeks for required
study and preparation of customized design, six weeks for containerized data center
production and two weeks for installation.
The B28 containerized data center also boasts of an advantage in terms of energy efficiency.
With high intensity deployment inside, separation of cold and hot channels, good sealing
function and advanced cooling technologies, the B28 data center can operate with a Power Usage
Effectiveness (PUE) value below 1.5, much lower than the average PUE value of 2.2 to 3.0 of
data centers in China.
Thoughts:
Because Mapletree is a Real Estate company, an obvious entry point to the container
based solution of data centers is to provide the land that the containers will be located on. In
addition, the containers can be configured and orientated within warehouses, so Mapletree can
also look into purchasing or constructing buildings for that specific purpose. The mobility of the
data center containers would also be interesting because in the case that the containers need to be
moved to another location in order to provide a service there, the warehouse will still be an
investment under Mapletree, and can possibly used for other purposes such as distribution or
storage, which increases the value of the investment.
One of the main areas of research that we need to look into is to find a location that
would be suitable for data center containers. Preferably one that is accessible, close to
distribution centers, and is at a hub for information technologies. In terms of a single operator
that we should look into, 21Vianet is spearheading the approach of data center containers so they
would most likely be our best client in China. I think clients would want to work with us on a
lease basis so that they are not bound to committing the full cost of capital in building or owning
land to hold the data center containers. All in all, the biggest role Mapletree can play in entering
this market is to find the best locations for data center containers and negotiate deals with current
players in the market looking to expand such as 21Vianet, or partner with companies newly
emerging into the industry. Mapletree can also look into being in contact with the container
providers directly in order to build a hub of data center containers that can be leased to various
companies like Amazon or Intel for data center purposes.