Modular, containerized datacenters 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. Microsoft, using Rackable containers, is building a datacenter outside Chicago with more than 150 containerized datacenters, each holding 1,000 to 2,000 servers. Google, not to be outdone, secured a patent last year for a modular datacenter that includes "an intermodal shipping container and computing systems mounted within the container."
(See related slideshow: IT takes a close look at shipping container-based datacenters.)
To hear some people tell it, containerized datacenters are far easier to set up than a traditional datacenter, easy to manage and more power-efficient. It should also be easier to secure permits, depending on local building regulations. Who wouldn't want one?
If a business has a choice between buying a shipping container full of servers, and building a datacenter from the ground up, it's a no-brainer, says Geoffrey Noer, a vice president at Rackable, which sells the ICE Cube Modular Data Center.
"We don't believe there's a good reason to go the traditional route the vast majority of the time," he says.
But that is not the consensus view by any stretch of the imagination. Claims about efficiency are overrated, according to some observers.