The Growing Diversity of Data Center Design

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    How the Internet of Things Will Transform the Data Center

    Things just keep getting curiouser and curiouser in the data center industry.

    If it feels like enterprise IT has fallen down the rabbit hole in this age of virtualization and cloud, well, it looks like we’re just getting started. But not all the changes are taking place on the abstract, architectural level. The data center itself is undergoing substantial physical changes as organizations look for innovative ways to boost data productivity while lowering costs.

    Examples abound of data centers being built in extreme climates where they can take advantage of naturally cold air or steady winds, but lately it seems that building designs themselves are starting to push an array of unusual envelopes. Take, for example, Foxconn’s latest “green-tunnel” data center, which is literally built inside a long tunnel within the Guiyang industrial park in China. The facility holds up to 12 containerized data centers each packing 504 servers. By leveraging conditions like wind speed and direction, as well as temperature, humidity and geology, the facility is expected to cut power consumption by a third.

    But while energy efficiency is a top priority across the data industry, it is not always first on the list. Peak 10, for instance, recently broke ground on a 60,000 square foot center in Tampa, Fla., designed to resist the occasional hurricane that besets the region. The two-story building sits atop an elevated region outside of the local flood zone so as to avoid the inevitable storm surges that hurricanes generate, and features high-impact window glazing capable of withstanding winds of up to 150 mph. Company executives say they decided to build from scratch because, frankly, there were no existing facilities that met their requirements.

    According to Information Security Buzz, other examples of extreme data center construction include facilities located inside a former nuclear bunker, a 1920s Christian chapel in Spain and a range of previous industrial sites that have since been converted to modern data operations. The most unusual site, however, belongs to a company called HavenCo that built its center on a former World War II anti-aircraft platform in the English Channel. The site is actually located within the tiny nation of Sealand, which allowed it to skirt many international laws regarding content and user identification. Under pressure from the international community, however, the company now runs much of its traffic through U.S. and European servers, although it still uses Sealand for offline data and encryption key storage.

    Most of the noteworthy innovations in data center design belong to massive, regional facilities. But as MarketsandMarkets noted recently, the micro data center market is poised for big gains as the decade unfolds. The firm defines the micro market as facilities ranging from 5 to 100 RU, many of which are optimized for key applications like disaster recovery and remote office support. The market is expected to grow more than 25 percent annually until at least 2019, leaping from today’s $1.34 billion to more than $4.4 billion primarily from expansion in North America and Europe.

    A key driver in this expanding diversity of infrastructure is the fact that data equipment must no longer remain in close proximity to users. With high-speed, broadband networks rapidly spreading across the globe, don’t be surprised to see data centers popping up in the middle of deserts, oceans (even under water), mountain tops and deep underground.

    Now that physical constraints have been lessened, the only thing stopping innovation these days is the human imagination.

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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