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A data center container is a self-contained module produced inside a custom-built shipping container that includes a series of rack-mounted servers, along with its own lighting, air conditioning, dehumidification and uninterruptible power supply (UPS).
Designed to save deployment resources, data center containers can be easily relocated and installed in parallel with others to build large modular data centers. Another main advantage is that they can be up and running and replaced or upgraded in equally short order. To operate, all data center containers require electrical power.
A data center container is also known as a data center-in-a-box or modular data center.
In 2007, data center containers were popularized by Sun’s launch of “Project Blackbox.” Nearly two years later, Google revealed that in 2005, it actually predated Sun's project and built a data center container after developing the concept in 2003.
Many suppliers and vendors offer data center containers as preinstalled and ready-to-go units. They are often designed for packaging in standard shipping formats and readily load on transporters, like semi-trailer trucks and rail/road networks.
Modern units are designed for cheaper, faster deployment and superior energy performance, in contrast to earlier generation data center designs, which offered limited energy efficiency benefits. Designs were complicated by different types of infrastructure support requirements, including water to run cooling systems. Second generation modular units include air-side economizer capabilities and evaporative cooling, obviating the need for chilled water supply.
Modular data centers are designed to increase existing data center capacity and minimize an organization's power consumption costs. The deployment of data center containers takes just a fraction of the time needed to install and deploy the same equipment in an unprepared building or other facility.