Colt launches modular data center halls

The 500-square-meter halls can be built and deployed within four months

Colt Technology Services Group is looking to attract companies that want to increase their data-center capacity without committing to building a large-scale facility.

Colt, which runs 19 data centers throughout Europe, has developed a 500-square-meter modular data-center hall that can be built and deployed within four months, offering companies a faster way to expand their computing power.

The data-center shells are built in northern England and made from steel, said Akber Jaffer, general manager for Colt's Data Center Services. Colt is investigating fabricating the units in mainland Europe if demand dictates.

The units are made up of 12 modules that can be loaded onto a truck and assembled at a customer site or within one of Colt's own data-center sites. Colt can also ship them to countries outside the U.K. where it operates. The units can be stacked and linked together as a company's needs grow.

The idea came after customers requested ways to add computing power relatively quickly on an as-needed basis. It takes one to two years to build a traditional data center, and building one is a large capital expense.

It can also be risky. "They can't foresee the actual demands of their business because the business changes so rapidly over three to five years," Jaffer said.

The modular data center contains the same basic mechanical and engineering equipment of a larger facility, including the power, cooling, backup generators and uninterruptable power supplies, Jaffer said.

The 500-square-meter "base model" has a 750kW capacity, or 1500 watts per square meter, Jaffer said. The units can be air cooled when the climate permits, which can bring the PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) to as low as 1.2, meaning that for every 1.2 watts of electricity used by the data center, 1 watt is used to power IT equipment, the rest being used for cooling and other facility needs.

Jaffer described the unit as a "Tier 3 plus" design, meaning it comes close but not quite to the Tier 4 definition for a data center defined by the Uptime Institute, which uses the tiers to rank data center reliability.

With Colt's modular unit, for every system, such as a generator or uninterrupted power supply, there is a back-up one. Two additional cooling units are available in case of failure, which is just shy of the requirements for a Tier 4 facility, Jaffer said. Most of Colt's customers have not said they need a Tier 4 compliant facility, as that entails a higher cost, he said.

For security, the data hall inside the modular unit is accessed through an air lock. Customers can also add biometric security systems if needed. Cameras are used to monitor the entry point.

Colt's modular units will compete with other hosted offerings. Other companies, such as Next Generation Data in Wales, specialize in providing the data center facility infrastructure that companies can use to place their equipment inside.

Companies want a variety of options for hosting their equipment. Jaffer said he spoke with the CIO of a bank last week that was open to deploying some IT infrastructure with a third party, but prefers to build and run other equipment themselves. Other factors companies consider are latency, network proximity and availability of power.

Colt recently acquired the freehold to the property for its London 3 data center site, which will increase its capacity from 4,500 square meters to 10,500 square meters along with additional power. The company is also expanding the space and power capacity at its Paris 2 site to accommodate the modular data halls.

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Jeremy Kirk

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