Pod datacentres will never become mainstream: Eaton

Shipping container-style datacentres are not selling particularly well, and may be inhibiting the modular datacentre trend, according to Eaton.
Written by Spandas Lui, Contributor

Container-style pod datacentres such as those pushed by HP and Dell have remained unpopular and are likely stifling the uptake of modular datacentre designs, according to power-management vendor Eaton.


Eaton's John Collins and James McGill
(Credit: Eaton)

The company has a large stake in the datacentre power-management business.

Pod datacentres come as containers full of datacentre equipment, and can be deployed in weeks. While it sounds like a convenient and cheaper alternative to traditional datacentres, many companies still avoid them for various reasons, according to the vendor.

"The trend hasn't really been very strong, and they haven't been selling well," Eaton Asia-Pacific president James McGill told ZDNet. "You have to think about how many people are actually constructing brand-new datacentres — a lot of people are trying to extend the capabilities of existing datacentres, and if they can do so with an existing building they will do that."

McGill claims that globally, 30-35 percent of datacentres are over 10 years old, and owners will be looking to modernise them.

The uptake of pod datacentres has remained low, he said, with vendors selling a few hundred units per year globally.

Another hurdle for container datacentre adoption is customer fear of being forced to use a single vendor, Eaton datacentre segment manager John Collins told ZDNet.

"One shipping container can fit thousands of servers, and your average customer isn't going to buy a thousand servers at once," he said. "These containers also tend to have equipment from one vendor, and as we go into average datacentres, they are usually multi-vendor.

"Customers don't want to be locked in to one vendor."

Having said that, Collins sees pod datacentres as being highly suitable for military use thanks to their portability, as well as for customers that need to buy a homogenous IT environment in one go.

But the general aversion to container datacentres is actually having a negative effect on the acceptance of modular datacentre designs, Collins said.

The concept of modular datacentres, where a space is populated with standardised equipment according to the current needs of an organisation, is on the rise, with prefabricated systems being built and tested off-site, then installed. But the traditional way of putting datacentre systems together on-site is still the favoured approach.

One of the reasons that is still the case is pod datacentres being strongly associated with the term "modular datacentres," according to Collins.

"There is a perception some modular datacentres are not as reliable as traditional ones," he said. "If you were to go up to somebody in the datacentre business and ask their opinion of modular datacentres, they might automatically think of a shipping container but we've gone beyond that now.

"So a lot of people push back modular designs because they think you are just trying to sell them shipping containers with computers in them."

But Collins said that either way, modular datacentres aren't for everybody.

"It works well if you are able to standardise on a design," he said. "It can help you scale better, lower capital cost and potential for better reliability.

"Otherwise, you don't save time if you have to completely engineer it from scratch."

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