Datacentre-in-a-box market dying: Gartner

The market for datacentres-in-a-box previously championed by vendors as the next big thing is slowly dying in favour of more conventional datacentre deployments, according to Gartner.
Written by Luke Hopewell, Contributor

The market for datacentres-in-a-box previously championed by vendors as the next big thing is slowly dying in favour of more conventional datacentre deployments, according to Gartner.

"The belief was that there's a huge market, and that many [users] will start using these containers. What we have found is that the market is nowhere near as big as the vendors thought it was going to be, because of fundamental problems with [the containerised] design," said Rakesh Kumar, vice president of Gartner Research.

Speaking at a datacentre forum in Sydney yesterday, Kumar said that the problems include a prohibitive price compared to traditional datacentre deployments and little advantage when it came to speed of deployment.

"The cost of these solutions are expensive. These are typically priced roughly around a Tier 4 price point," he said.

"The second thing is that they're targeted for a fast deployment, but you still need a chilled water supply and you still need a secure site. In many cases, you'll still need to apply for building permits depending on where you are in the world. That may take many months in many cases to get that," Kumar added.

Worse still, Kumar added, is that the datacentre-in-a-box design could lead to a vendor lock-in scenario.

"Often, they're single vendor solutions. They're very scalable and running a very unique workload. For example, you can't mix in here … different types of hardware and it tends to be a very secular application solution," he said.

Compliance issues also presented a problem in a containerised datacentre, Kumar said, with many customers unhappy that their data is sitting in a shipping container in the wild somewhere.

"You can't just position this [data] in a car park and not put any security around it, it still contains mission-critical data and you may have compliance issues with the industry that you're in."

Speaking on a vendor panel yesterday, both Oracle and APC agreed that the datacentre-in-a-box was not for everyone.

"I think one-time engineered datacentre approaches are going to become more of a thing of the past," said Andrew Kirker, APC's country manager for Australia and New Zealand.

Marshall Choy, director of systems solutions and business planning for Oracle, added that the prospect of containerised datacentres is good for those looking for storage or compute power in a hurry.

"I definitely see the relevance of a container approach on a less permanent solution," Choy said.

Instead of containerised designs, Kumar said that a more traditional, multi-tiered, zoned datacentre makes more sense for most new deployments, adding that not every application needed to be built to Tier 4 specifications, contrary to popular belief.

"Do not build to a single tier. Build parts of the specification to a Tier 4 and parts to a much lower level. You could have a high density zone with a lot of energy and a lot of cooling and that can be built to a Tier 4 level, but you have another part that is less critical, with non-mission critical applications, which you build to a Tier 2," Kumar said.

"Blending these together becomes very important," he added.

Kumar warned, however, that while some customers may opt to house their data in a third-party vendor's datacentre, they need to be wary not to get ripped off.

"If you are looking at a hosting company to give you datacentre services, be very careful about their marketing. Many of these organisations will say 'we have a Tier 4 site'. Many of them will say 'Tier 4-like' or 'Tier 4-ready', it will not be certified in many cases and won't be certified by the Uptime Institute," he said.

"Make sure you pay according to what actually exists there. If it is a Tier 4 site, you're going to be paying a lot more," he said.

"Read the fine print carefully."

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