Modular vs Containerized Data Centers. Is there a difference?

Modular Data Center Options

A Modular Data Center is the generic term used for a data center that has one or more prefabricated components.  Prefabricated components come in three categories:

  • Data center space
  • Mechanical infrastructure
  • Electrical infrastructure

A Containerized Data Center is a type of prefabricated data center.  It looks exactly like a shipping container and is built to standard container sizing, so it can be easily transported on flatbed trucks.  Containerized data centers can come equipped with preinstalled servers (see what Microsoft has done here) or with empty racks for the tenant to install their own IT equipment.  Other than the optional IT equipment, these products are plug and play. Power, chilled water, and a network connection is all that is needed to get a containerized data center up and running.

Sun Microsystems Containerized Data Center Photo credit: zdnet.com
Sun Microsystems Containerized Data Center
Photo credit: zdnet.com

 

A POD Data Center typically means a smaller data center that can be deployed at a specific location within 2 – 3 months.  It seems that POD is more of a marketing term than a description of a different type of modular data center.  I’ve seen HP, IO, and Digital Realty use the term POD in their marketing messaging.

HP POD Data Center Photo credit: Data Center Knowledge
HP POD Data Center
Photo credit: Data Center Knowledge


Prefabricated Mechanical Infrastructure

Prefab mechanical infrastructures contain the entire mechanical system needed to support a data center.  These structures can support both modular data centers and the typical 4-walls-and-a-roof facility.  These products usually contain a subset of the following:

  • Chiller
  • Pumps
  • Chilled water piping
  • Condensers or Cooling Tower
  • Air handling units

Prefabricated Electrical Infrastructure

Prefab electrical infrastructures contain the entire electrical system needed to support a data center.  These products can also support both modular data centers and the typical 4-walls-and-a-roof facility.  These products usually contain a subset of the following:

  • Uninterrupted Power Supplies (UPS)
  • Step down transformers
  • Rectifiers
  • Switchboards
  • Automatic Transfer Switches
  • Motor Control Center
Schneider Electric Mechanical and Electrical Systems in a box Photo credit: Schneider Electric
Schneider Electric Mechanical and Electrical Systems in a box
Photo credit: Schneider Electric

 

More Interesting Information

5 thoughts on “Modular vs Containerized Data Centers. Is there a difference?

  1. There are hybrid systems out there as well such as Elliptical Mobile Solution’s Micro Modular Data Centers (MMDC). They combine the environmental protections and “complete data center solutions” of the shipping container based systems with the rack level density and scalability of the modular row or rack based systems. for more details please visit: http://www.cloudwedge.com

  2. So, can somebody tell me about how much it would cost to purchase & install a container capable of supporting up to 8 standard racks, please?
    (not expressed in $ per watt, but expressed in how much $$$$ do I need to purchase & install it).

    Greatly appreciated

    Ash Colmer

    1. You can contact one of the well know suppliers (like Schneider Electric or Emerson) and they can probably provide some estimates.

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