Designing and building a datacenter has many pitfalls: There's time spent -- and often wasted -- as representatives from departments throughout the organization gather round the table and butt heads over the design of the new facility. There's also the wasteful practice of building more datacenter than you actually need, be it in terms of size, density, or redundancy. You end up stuck paying the bills to build and power that extra infrastructure without getting any return (until the time comes that you need it).
IBM has set out to address these problems as part of the second phase of its $1 billion Project Big Green initiative. The company this week announced the availability of new modular datacenter designs, aimed at helping companies install and scale datacenters quickly and in sync with their needs.
The notion of designing datacenters in a modular, "pay-as-you-grow" fashion seems to be gaining momentum. IBM already offers the 500- and 1,000-square-foot Scalable Modular Data Center for smaller organizations, and customers such as Bryant University have reaped the benefits. Similarly, Sun, unveiled a highly modular, scalable datacenter in Santa Clara, Calif. last year.
One of IBM's new offerings is called the Enterprise Modular Data Center (EMDC). It starts at a minimum 5,000-square-foot standardized module, including racking systems, raised floor, power, and cooling. (IBM calls them "shrink-wrapped," but they don't actually come in, say, a storage container -- unlike the other modular datacenter I'll discuss next.)
The base EMDC module delivers density of 100W per square foot, according to Brian Canney, IBM Global Services executive for site and facilities services. As a company's computing needs increase, however, the datacenter can be expanded on the fly in two ways, according to Canney, thanks to the standardized nature of the modules. The datacenter operator could expand horizontally up to 25,000 square feet by adding additional 5,000-square-foot modules, or "vertically," as Canney puts it, which entails increasing the density of the facility in increments of 100W per square foot.
Thus over time, a company could theoretically expand its datacenter 12 times, starting at a 5,000-square-foot, low-density facility and eventually reaching 25,000 square feet of high-density datacenter with 300W of power per square foot.
Customers can have some say in the design of the module -- for example, opting for more or less redundancy, but again, it's mostly a standardized design. The payoff: Implementation is 25 percent faster than you'd expect with a customized datacenter design.