First Containerized Data Center Announcement

Microsoft has been investigating and testing containers and modular data centers for some time now. I wrote about them some time back in Architecture for Modular Data Centers (presentation) at the 2007 Conference on Innovative Data Research. Around that time Rackable Systems and Sun Microsystems announced shipping container based solutions and Rackable shipped the first production container. That first unit had more than 1,000 servers. Rackable and Sun helped get this started as early on most of the industry was somewhere between skeptical and actively resistant.

Over the last couple of years, the modular datacenter approach has gained momentum. Now nearly all data center equipment providers have started offering container based solutions

· IBM Scalable modular data center

· Rackable ICE Cube™ Modular Data Center

· Sun Modular Datacenter S20 (project Blackbox)

· Dell Insight

· Verari Forest Container Solution

It’s great to see all the major systems providers investing modular data centers. I expect the pace of innovation to pick up and over the last two weeks I’ve seen three new designs. Things are moving.

Yesterday Mike Manos who leads the Microsoft Global Foundations Data Center team made the first public announcement of a containerized production data center at Data Center World. The Microsoft Chicago facility is a two floor design where the first floor is a containerized design housing 150 to 220 40’ containers each 1,000 to 2,000 servers. Chicago is a large facility with the low end of the ranges Mike quoted yielding 150k serves and the high end running to 440k servers. If you assume 200W/server, the critical load would run between 30MW and 88MW for the half of the data center that is containerized. If you conservatively assume a PUE of 1.5, we can estimate the containerized portion of the data center at between 45MW and 132MW total load. It’s a substantial facility.

John Rath posted great notes on Mike’s entire talk: And, I’m excited about this new news now being public, so when Mike gets back into the office at Redmond I’ll pester him to see if he can release the slides he used. If so, I’ll post them here.

Thanks to Rackable Systems and Sun Microsystems for getting the industry started on commodity-based containerized designs. We now have modular components from most major server vendors and Mike’s talk yesterday at Data Center World market the first publically announced modular facility.


James Hamilton, Windows Live Platform Services
Bldg RedW-D/2072, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, Washington, 98052
W:+1(425)703-9972 | C:+1(206)910-4692 | H:+1(206)201-1859 | |

3 comments on “First Containerized Data Center Announcement
  1. Didn’t mean for that post to sound like a marketing pitch. I was really just trying to make everyone aware of the threats that exist to all Data Centers and how they aren’t necessarily being addressed by conventional construction or these new container solutions. Many Data Center outages in buildings are caused by simple plumbing issues & failures. Data theft & vandalism are also on the rise. By putting your most critical asset in a structurally secure airtight, watertight, vaportight enclosure you are taking every step to eliminate any risks to your most critical assets.

    Racks in a building hasn’t proven to be the best approach to building a Data Center. Conventional construction has misled most of us to believe that a 2 hour fire wall provides us 2 hours of protection, yet typically there is a 20 minute rated door on the facility. More importantly your assets will be destroyed by the heat, smoke, acrid gasses & water that will traverse that 2 hour fire wall immediately. The iFortress solution presents full protection with a Class 125 rating of 90 minutes.

    I just wanted to make you & everyone aware that there is modular build approach available as both a container and a scalable panel system that fully protects from the elements, human incidents & catastrophic events so you can obtain a higher availability with a modular approach as well.

  2. This sure sounds like an advertisement Andrew but I’ll leave it up for now. Why does a container in a building need more of what you call "structural security"? I’m not yet following the need.


  3. I am excited that the Data Center evolution has finally gone modular as we knew it would several years ago. My only concern with the solutions presented is that they don’t offer the structural security and protection that one can obtain with conventional construction. As a leading integrator for a “Green” Modular Fault Tolerant Data Center solution that can offer protection from water, dust, fire, heat, smoke and theft that exceeds conventional construction as well as these other modular solutions on the market, we’d like to present the iBunker & iComm Intermodal by iFortress.

    Many organizations are setting repeatable standards with our iFortress for all of their mission critical builds because setting this standard reduces costs and speeds the deployment and ability to scale a mission critical facility.
    The iFortress solution is a viable "Green" solution available on the market for data center assembly that is re-useable, is totally scalable, re-locatable and can be completely recycled. iFortress is in the process of LEEDS compliance certification for which we expect to be fully compliant.

    The iBunker is a self contained, airtight, vapor tight, water tight, and highly insulated environment (R22 – walls and ceiling), which results in significantly improved energy efficiencies related to cooling and de-humidification. We recently had an independent engineering firm evaluate a static "box" (i.e. conventional construction) to an iBunker and the results showed a reduction of over 40% in the energy required to cool and maintain the temperature and humidity of the space.

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