Modular data centers are essentially portable data centers that can be used anywhere that has data storage needs. The data center is then effectively built out of modules that can be used as stand-alone data centers, or can be added to existing data centers. If you can imagine a school being the main data center with the portable classrooms acting as the modules, you get the idea but in the case of modular data centers, the school or main data center may not even be necessary. The modules are equipped with multiple power and cooling options, and can be shipped anywhere in the world.
One of the reasons for the increase in popularity of modular data centers is that they can be constructed so cheaply. They are built with energy-efficiency in mind, and the manufacturing costs of creating a module are far less than even retrofitting an existing building to be used as a data center. Because they are typically built to standard requirements, there’s less training involved and parts don’t necessarily need to be stored for long periods of time, which also cut costs.
Some people refer to “containerized” data centers when speaking of modular data centers and while it’s easy to confuse the two terms, they’re not necessarily the same. The term “modules” were sometimes called “containers” due to the fact that modular data centers do look a lot like the trailers or containers that you see on the back of transport trucks. And while some data centers may choose to build a portable data center out of a shipping, there are significant differences.
The biggest difference is how the module or container is designed before any servers are actually placed inside. Modules will be fully integrated with every piece of hardware needed, required power sources, and full mechanical support located under the floor, away from the IT space and potential hazards. Containers on the other hand, are simply just that – they are containers that provide basic storage for any piece of equipment or cargo needed. They need to be completely redesigned in order to meet the needs of any data center.
In the world of data centers, the modular model is still relatively new, and some are debating whether or not they’re going to start taking over the industry. While it’s unlikely that all data centers will eventually convert to the modular model, they are an interesting concept and still provide all of the security, technology, and customization needs of data centers of any other kind.