Whether it is the cloud provider looking to expand service capabilities or the enterprise facing relentlessly increasing data loads, there comes a time when the need to increase physical infrastructure cannot be put off any longer.
However, this is no longer as daunting a prospect as it once was. Modular infrastructure has gained a firm footing in the data center industry, and nearly all of the platforms available these days are optimized for scale-out, cloud-ready architectures.
MarketsandMarkets puts the current value of the modular data infrastructure market at about $6.5 billion, and expects it to top $26 billion by the end of the decade. That is a compound annual growth rate of nearly 32 percent, with much of the total spend coming from North America and Europe. However, the Asia Pacific, Latin America and Middle East/Africa regions are expected to see rapid growth as well, considering demand for data services is increasing throughout the third world and there is still a dearth of reliable infrastructure to meet it.
To get an idea of how modular systems are built, take a look at this time-lapse video from Dell, which shows the end-to-end construction process from initial site prep to final integration. There is no indication as to exactly how long this took, but judging by the movement of shadows on the ground, it could not have been more than a few weeks. It is also worth noting that the facility is not very large, although the use of high-density, modular equipment racks could nonetheless provide quite a substantial data footprint.
Modular infrastructure is also becoming more diverse as the market heats up. At one point, the only options were standard-sized shipping containers and a few ruggedized specialty configurations. But companies like Data Center Resources are introducing options in 20-, 30-, 40- and 50-foot lengths with support for up to 200 kW electrical loads and up to 2N redundancy. As well, the company can provide a range of cooling options and hot/cold aisle designs and can even offer resistance to Category 5 hurricane winds.
Modular infrastructure is also a good way to boost temporary capacity or even provide third-party cloud resources in close proximity to on-premises data centers. Defense Systems reports that the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which is essentially the military’s new cloud broker, is looking over a range of options that would have commercial cloud operators place modular systems in key locations in order to provide data and application support to DoD agencies. This could be done either by leasing space for the third-party modular infrastructure, or bringing container-based solutions on-site where they can be provisioned, integrated with legacy environments and then removed with relative ease. In all cases, the idea is to provide low-cost infrastructure that can remain separate from public and shared resources in order to provide support for sensitive and classified information.
It’s safe to assume that modular solutions will make up the bulk of Greenfield deployments in support of advanced virtual and cloud infrastructure going forward. Not only are they more scalable and adaptable than legacy infrastructure, but they can also be provisioned more dynamically to suit the software-defined architectures that will be coming on-line over the next decade or so.
When circumstances call for quick deployment of federated, flexible infrastructure, a modular solution will trump standard server/storage/networking integration just about every time.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata, Carpathia and NetMagic.