Moving Toward a More Modular Future

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Debunking the Top Data Center Myths

Modularity continues to appear as the shining beacon on a hill for enterprises struggling to keep up with burgeoning data loads. Not only can it produce data center infrastructure in relatively short order and at reasonably low cost, but it can be ready-made to accommodate Big Data, cloud computing, software-defined networking and a host of other cutting-edge developments.

Indeed, even firms that have no intention of shedding legacy infrastructure any time soon are finding it easier to expand the data center with modules rather than scale existing resources up and out.

Recent market research indicates that modular infrastructure is already a healthy industry that will only get healthier as the decade unfolds. MarketsandMarkets predicts today’s $6.25 billion valuation will nearly quadruple by 2019 to more than $26 billion, offering a compound annual growth rate of nearly 32 percent. Key drivers in this expansion are the ability to predict and allocate costs, as well as the optimization of power, cooling and resource density. At the moment, North America and Europe are the biggest consumers of modular infrastructure, although Asia and the Pacific Rim are rapidly ramping up data infrastructure and will likely be a chief growth market going forward.

Ease of construction continually ranks among the prime advantages of going modular. Cannon Technologies recently introduced the T4 modular system that the company says can be manually assembled on-site without the need for cranes or other heavy machinery. Configurations range from a few racks to several hundred and can accommodate unusual sites like parking lots, hangars, warehouses and even rooftops. Typical lead time is about 12 weeks, and modules can also be outfitted with in-row cooling units and DCIM software.

Scalability is also a key selling point. Airbus recently tapped HP’s new Performance Optimized Datacenter (POD) system to expand its computing capacity to 1.2 petaflops. The 12-meter units comprise pre-integrated clusters of ProLiant blades installed across 22 50-unit racks. The blades, plus associated storage, networking, software management and power/cooling are all configured according to HP’s Converged Infrastructure framework. The units will be installed at Airbus’ Toulouse, France, headquarters and its Hamburg, Germany, facility.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, enterprises would not be flocking to modular infrastructure if it had not proven itself to be as reliable as the traditional data center. Even its high efficiency and green cred turns out to be less of a selling point than its ability to provide solid support for up-and-coming business applications and processes. It still suffers from a lack of customization and the fact that all resources must be scaled in tandem, even if the need exists only in, say, storage, but for targeted resource expansion for specific workloads or greenfield deployments in support of advanced data architectures, modular is proving to be a nice fit.

A modular solution may not be optimal for all use cases, but when it comes to ramping up infrastructure quickly and easily, it’s hard to find a better one.

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.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Jul 28, 2014 1:51 PM Michael Bushong Michael Bushong  says:
There are actually a couple of points in this post worth pointing out. The first is the reusable building block point that I think people will readily get. This actually speaks to the bottleneck no longer being performance and being more about ease of assembly. This is why things like SDN are big in the first place - the idea that you can streamline operations is attractive when the goal is no longer eking out every bit of performance. The second point is that people are buying these blocks and increasingly looking for integration to be done for them. This portends the end of the best-of-breed era (not anytime soon), which will lead to the re-verticalization of IT. The platforms that will dominate in this era will be fundamentally different than those that dominated the last 15 years. Mike Bushong (@mbushong) Plexxi Reply

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