2MW Schneider Electric Modules Shake Up Data Centre Containers

The use of containerised data centres is set to expand, since the new units and the “semi-prefab” model fit the demands of customers better, according to Schneider Electric.

Early efforts to pack data centres in standard shipping containers were awkward and did not deliver the benefits they promised, said Kevin Brown, Schneider’s vice president of data centres, while speaking at the Data Center Dynamics event in London last week. New modules from his firm push the power up to 2MW, and offer more flexibility, he promised.

Pre-fabricated benefits exaggerated

“The cost-advantages  of prefabricated data centres were exaggerated,” said Brown, referring to claims by Sun and others from around 2009, that a pre-packaged data centre in an ISO-standard shipping container would be cheaper and more efficient for the customer, than buying the same servers and installing them in a traditional  “white space” data centre.

Among the drawbacks, such offerings tended to be incomplete, often shipping without data centre infrastructure management (DCIM), and buying them frequently did not fit in with the customer’s plan to depreciate hardware.

Schneider Electric has been selling pre-fabricated power and cooling modules using a “semi-prefab” model where the units attach to a conventional indoor space that houses the servers.

Brown showed Schneider’s newly launched modules  in London, which go up to 2MW in total power use, including the built in cooling modules. These units are maintainable as the containers are highly customised, with access points where needed. “We believe they have higher reliability,” said Brown, thanks to the equipment being installed at one point by the vendor.

They also allow racks to be created more flexibly, and the units can be delivered in 12 to 16 weeks.

The size of the modules compares favourably with the Dell and HP modules created for eBay’s Utah data centre, where containers were used for the latest expansion. Dell’s “EPIC” containers house up to 1MW of power, while HP’s EcoPod units go up to 1.4MW.

eBay vice president Dean Nelson agrees that data centres composed out of modules are getting more viable: “A lot has changed. Before you had to buy a full container, and depreciate it over three years,” he told TechWeekEurope. “Now I can buy them empty, and fill them as I need them.”

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Peter Judge

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

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