Changing the Behavior of the Data Center System, Modular Construction

At Google’s data center event, I introduced Amazon’s James Hamilton to Skanska’s Jakob Carnemark as I knew these guys would have an interesting conversation discussing data center construction.

One of the ideas where we all connected was modular data center construction. Question, if I picked the right modular infrastructure deployment does it change the behavior of the data center system?  A typical data center construction will project out 5 – 10 years to specify the required capacity, then take 2 – 3 years to design and build.  But, in data centers who can forecast out 5 – 10 years, let alone 1 year accurately?

Too many people build data centers like fortresses.

Building a Stone Fortress

Text copyright © by Lise Hull
Photographs Copyright © by Jeffrey L. Thomas

Above: the West Gatehouse at Rhuddlan Castle

Even today, centuries after they were active in British history, castles demonstrate the majesty, power and wealth of their noble builders. By the end of the 12th century, stone castles became more elaborate, the obsession of several powerful personalities who felt pressure to prove their own value by constructing these towering piles. While Edward I used the stone fortress as an effective means of dominating a rebellious Welsh populace, and gave us several of the most impressive structures in the world, his fortresses also reinforced his status as a wealthy and privileged ruler. The Angevin kings, Henry II, Richard I, John and Henry III, collectively spent tens of thousands of pounds on their castles, in pursuit of reputations as men of incomparable authority, prosperity and quality. It is incredible that the monarchy could afford such building projects, for the financial coffers were limited; the kings were not individuals of unbounded wealth, as they wanted their subjects to believe.

And many data centers have the same human behavior from building fortresses. And, I use the fortress analogy in how a paranoid defense focus can drive issues to protect a person’s territory.

the obsession of several powerful personalities who felt pressure to prove their own value by constructing these towering piles

What happens if you sacrifice the fortress mindset for a modular data center build strategy?

Building capacity in 6 months in smaller power increments.

One good behavior change is application developers and enterprise architects will see a CapEx bill attached to major projects as data center capacity is increased to meet their needs.

It is easy to join in the group think to build the fortress to protect your IT silo.  And, someone else pays the bill.

Could you imagine the look on SW architects/developers faces when they see the CapEx bill for one rack of 25 kW of data center infrastructure?

What is your CapEx for a kW of infrastructure?