In 2006, Sun Microsystems unveiled the first container data center. Project Blackbox, an energy-efficient, water-cooled turnkey data center housed in an International Standards Organization (ISO) intermodal shipping container, was heralded as a cutting-edge solution for low-cost, rapid deployment of remote and rugged environments. It was adopted for select applications and locations, and soon afterward a few high-tech companies began their own experiments with containerized data centers.

However, when planning a container data center for enterprise applications, drawbacks to the container design became evident. Yet, the buzz around containerized data centers highlighted the change in design as the first major innovation of the basic physical infrastructure of the data center since the mainframe era. Furthermore, lessons learned from the design of the container data center have led to a potential revolution in overall data center design — modular and phased.

The most significant data center design trend of the decade, according to The Uptime Institute, the self-described data center authority, is modular and phased. According to Uptime Institute’s spring 2011 survey, almost 50% of large data center operators interviewed are considering “going modular.”

Recently, CyrusOne used its proprietary Massively Modular facility design strategy on the new building at its Houston West site, which is the fourth company data center completed in a record-setting seven months from groundbreaking to commissioning. The facility broke ground in September 2012 and will be completed this month. Other recent quick-build sites include Phoenix and San Antonio and Carrollton, Texas. Ground was broken in Phoenix on May 16, 2012, and was commissioned in December 2012. San Antonio and Carrollton broke ground in December 2011 and January 2012, respectively, with both sites completed in July 2012.

“We are commissioning our sites at record-setting speeds compared to the two or three year timeframes it typically takes an enterprise company to design and build their own facility,” said Kevin Timmons, chief technology officer at CyrusOne. “Our speed to market and quick deployment times, are some of the key reasons that our Fortune 1000 customers mention when choosing to do business with us. The efficiency of our supply chain and engineering capabilities, allow our customers to easily grow with us and also enables CyrusOne to compensate for the planning uncertainties that confront today’s CIOs.”

The Massively Modular design method delivers energy optimization and uses just-in-time inventory management to quickly and efficiently build data center space just as customer demand requires it. "Massively Modular means sourcing aggressively to deliver economic benefits to our customers using immense scale and modularity of key infrastructure to deliver the ultimate flexibility of square footage, power, and cooling as needed by customers,” said Timmons. “The supply chain efficiencies enable CyrusOne to build at a lower cost and minimize our own capital deployment, which translates into better costs and returns for our customers and shareholders. We can deliver new data center pods in less time than it takes a customer to order the computer gear from a manufacturer — which our customers love.”

CyrusOne has Massively Modular data center locations across the United States, with 24 carrier-neutral data center facilities in total across the United States, Europe, and Asia that give customers the flexibility and scale to perfectly match their specific growth needs.

In addition, as part of CyrusOne’s Sky for the Cloud product launch, the company is building in Texas the first statewide Internet Exchange in the country. Connecting all of its major facilities in Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, the offering is scheduled to formally launch by the end of March 2013. CyrusOne facilities serve as the terrestrial home for dozens of cloud vendors, and CyrusOne’s Texas IX will provide the common infrastructure required to support all the different cloud offerings currently being sold by the largest cloud vendors in the world.

For more on the history of containerized data centers and their shift to modular and phased design, see the March 2012 issue of EC&M.