University of Michigan thinks green with modular data center

The university has deployed approximately 1 megawatt of capacity in containers, a move that could help it save $50,000 in energy costs per month of its legacy design.

The University of Michigan is the latest organization to think modular as a way of getting a better handle on the energy costs associated with data centers. I wrote in more detail about eBay's experiences with modular computing last month.

The aptly named Modular Data Center is housed in several shipping containers (the photo above was taken during the construction) and it was designed to use outside air for cooling for approximately 75 percent of the year. That use of ambient air could help this data center save roughly $50,000 in energy costs per month, or $600,000 for the year, according to estimates by the University of Michigan's IT staff.

The focus of the new facility is on cost-effective, high-performance computing applications. "Expanding our capability for computationally rich research is a priority for the University of Michigan," said Laura Patterson, chief information officer and associate vice president at the University of Michigan, in a statement. "The [Modular Data Center] helps support the broad range of our research community's needs, while being mindful of cost and energy efficiencies."

Right now, the data center supports 1 megawatt of computing capacity, but it can be expanded up to 3 megawatts with the addition of two more modules. The facility can be expanded in less than half the time it would take to build a traditional data center, according to the university.

If you're considering whether or not a modular data center approach is appropriate for your own organization, be sure to sign up for the upcoming ZDNet Hot Topics Webcast, "Is Modular Design the Secret to Data Center Efficiency."