Container Data Centers – Hard to Sell or Hard to Buy?

Earlier this year we talked about 2008 being a breakout year for container data centers. We’ve also discussed new developments and new product introductions by the container vendors as well as a number of established and emerging use cases.¬† It would appear though that the launch of container sales has yet to get underway.¬† In spite of the slow start, I continue to believe there are many good use cases for container data centers, and I see these as a momentum-builder for modular data center construction concepts (which are sorely needed).

We’ve recently begun work on an all-container data center concept for a new data processing facility to be located on the East Coast of the USA.¬† In the process of this work, I’ve reached out to all the container vendors I know of (Rackable Systems, Verari, Sun, HP, Dell, IBM, Lampertz) for capability and pricing information for potential inclusion of those products in this new project.¬† The experience I’ve had over the past month with these purchase inquiries shows that one of the obstacles to the breakout potential may simply be the difficulty in buying these products.

Ahoy Maty! Servers on the Poop Deck

‚ÄòTis true me hardies, the day o’ big data centers on the seven seas be upon us all. So cast off yer land lubberin’ server farms an’ hoist the main sail. We’re settin’ these servers afloat ‚Äòfore ye feel the bite of me floggin’ whip. Arrr.

Well, we’ve talked about data centers in salt mines, in abandoned ICBM silos, in renovated shopping malls, and now… on boats. ‚Big boats.

This one has been hard to get much information on, because the company is being stealthy about details. A firm by the name of International Data Security (IDS) has acquired a fleet of decommissioned cargo ships, and plans to outfit them as floating data centers. The first is said to be going online at Pier 50 in San Francisco imminently.

Before you say either, “Why didn’t I think of that?” or “These guys must be crazy,” consider the following points:

New Technology Trends Will Impact Traditional IT Roles

We’ve become fairly comfortable with the structure of our IT organizations, but new trends in technology product development are increasingly challenging these traditional models.

In the traditional (i.e., over the past 10 years or so) IT organization we have roughly aligned the organizational chart with a logical stack corresponding to our data processing footprint. We have Network Engineering, which is roughly focused on layers one through four of the OSI Stack. Systems Engineering, focuses on the servers and the O/S instances running on them. The business applications are sometimes served by a general development/QA/Test team or may be aligned vertically with the business units served by the applications. Data is often managed by business-aligned “data owners” and administered by one of the engineering teams. A Security team cuts across stack layers, accounting for access control as well as the broad array of IS Security concerns throughout the stack. An IT Operations team is accountable for Technical Operations processes and procedures and the general availability and integrity of the data processing footprint. The Telecom team is often bolted onto the IT organizational chart in some fashion, and frequently has a historical lineage outside of the IT department. It’s important also to include IT Facilities in this mix, as it is the foundation for the successful operation of the stack.

This model is under attack though, as new technology introductions are having a significant impact on our approach to casting the roles and hierarchy in our IT organizations.