Don't accept defeat against data center power shortages

Despite high levels of data center inefficiency, large operators are choosing wasteful expansion over sustainability

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Remarkably, a full 71 percent of those with definite expansion plans intended to use containerized data centers, which suggests organizations are indeed finding value in these modular offerings, despite their hefty costs. HP's 20-foot containerized POD (Performance Optimized Datacenter) starts at $600,000 -- without IT equipment. Other vendors, including IBM, APC, Dell, and Rackable Systems, offer containerized data centers too.

Companies have already adopted these nearly plug-and-play data centers as stop-gap solutions to meet soaring data center demands. WesTrac, a supplier of Caterpillar-brand machinery in Australia, bought one from IBM recently to serve as a temporary solution to a capacity shortage. The company intends to use the portable facility as a disaster recovery solution once it finds a permanent cure for its capacity woes.

However, data centers in a box may very well be more than a fad, as there's much to like about the approach. First, they're designed to be highly energy-efficient. HP's POD has a PUE ratio of 1.25, for example. Second, they can be delivered and deployed quickly. Third, the approach enables organizations to save money by expanding data centers in pace with demand, rather than pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into building and powering a new facility that won't be fully populated for months.

Microsoft has already adopted the containerized approach to data center expansion at facilities in Chicago and Dublin. The company is also looking to enhance the strategy in such a way that it can purchase some land (where free cooling is available), build a substation, and populate the acreage with modular units of servers as demand grows.

It's heartening to see that more data center operators are measuring energy consumption and efficiency and are exploring smarter approaches to data center expansion. However, I remain disappointed by the overall findings in this survey. With their average PUE of 2.9, it appears that data center operators aren't running their facilities efficiently and continue to throw money at new buildings (or boxes), rather than embracing best sustainability practices to wring the most out of their existing investments.

A more detailed presentation of the survey results will take place in a Webinar on March 15, featuring IDC vice president Michelle Bailey and Digital Realty's Crosby. To register for the event, visit

This story, "Don't accept defeat against data center power shortages," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in green IT and read more of Ted Samson's Sustainable IT blog at

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