Interest in modular data centers is growing, fueled by high-profile endorsements from Microsoft and Google. But the model raises new management concerns, and efficiency claims may be exaggerated.
Modular, containerized data centers being sold by vendors such as IBM, Sun and Rackable Systems fit storage and hundreds, sometimes thousands of servers into one large shipping container with its own cooling system. (See photos in our related slide show.) Microsoft, using Rackable containers, is building a data center outside Chicago with more than 150 containerized data centers, each holding 1,000 to 2,000 servers. Google, not to be outdone, secured a patent last year for a modular data center that includes "an intermodal shipping container and computing systems mounted within the container."