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Prefabricated data centres the rage in a pop-up cloud world

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Stuart Corner

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A security officer stands watch at a data centre in Las Vegas. Data centres are the backbone of the web, carring out the demands of internet users.

A security officer stands watch at a data centre in Las Vegas. Data centres are the backbone of the web, carring out the demands of internet users. Photo: Ethan Pines

Data centre infrastructure providers are seeing an upsurge of interest in their prefabricated or modular offerings, which are forecast to take a much bigger share of the market over the next few years.

The pop-up systems come either pre-assembled in a standard shipping container or prefabricated for on-site assembly, and contain all the racking, power, cooling and ancillary systems needed to set up a data centre. Companies need only to add the computer hardware.

They represent a significant departure from traditional customer-designed data centres that often use equipment sourced from multiple vendors. Proponents of prefabs argue the bespoke approach takes longer and costs more partly because of the need to manage multiple vendors and to integrate their respective products.

Using data from a variety of sources, data centre infrastructure provider Schneider Electric put the global data centre market at $US28 billion ($30 billion) in 2013, rising to $US45 billion by 2020, with the modular component growing five-fold from $US0.8 billion in 2013 to $US4.8 billion by 2020.

However, the prefab, modular category is hard to define and confusion still remains among those making procurement decisions.

Siegfried Drexler, enterprise business development manager, Schneider Electric in Australia, said that, on some estimates, modular and prefab would be worth closer to $US10 billion by 2020.

"With any new form of technology there are always different interpretations. So it is very hard to compare apples to apples," he said.

Schneider expects sales of prefabricated, modular systems to outstrip sales of containerised systems. It estimates containerised data centres account for 40 per cent of the current data centre market. By 2020, it expects this share to have fallen to about 20 per cent.

"From the amount of customer requests and meetings we're having around this and the amount of events when people are only talking about prefab data centres, the indications are that this growth will continue," Mr Drexler said.

Steve Shelley, vice-president for modular solutions with rival vendor Emerson Asia Pacific, said it, too, has noticed an increase in interest.

"Two years ago, we were getting less than one inquiry a month for modular data centres. Now, we get one inquiry a week. It's definitely picking up speed and getting mind share among people looking to build new data centres," he said.

Mr Drexler said key factors contributing to the upsurge of interest were flexibility and scalability, faster deployment and predictable performance.

"Customers not knowing the future is a big driver for our modular business, along with speed of delivery and return on investment," Mr Shelley said:

However, Mr Drexler said there was some reluctance among customers to adopt what they still saw as unproven technology: "I have sat down with customers at the C level and they are saying, 'Why should we be the first? If we do something new there is a lot of risk.' The key answer we give them is, 'If you don't do something new, you will have a higher risk'. We get a lot of reactions where someone is pretty close to retirement and they have a lot of experience in the data centre space and are reluctant to take on something completely new."

Those who tried were reluctant to talk about it.

"Customers need to be 100 per cent happy and they are only going to do that when they've completed their second successful project," Mr Drexler said.

The author attended Schneider Electric's press briefing in Singapore as its guest.

1 comment so far

  • That security is pretty useful. I'm sure a well planned professional thief will physically steals the hard drive! But then a well planned professional thief may prefer real cash instead from the bank.

    On the other hand a professional data thief (call a hacker) may use his/her fingers on the keyboard instead.

    Commenter
    Gerson
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    June 03, 2014, 8:26AM

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