October 21, 2014
Note: We wrote this a couple of years ago, but sometimes a good idea is just ahead of its time. The Data Center Institute recently proposed a set of standards for data center size and density, and we thought it might be interesting to compare their proposal to ours.
With a name like Chris Crosby I am certainly a fan of alliteration so news of our friend’s at CyrusOne’s new “Massively Modular” data center naturally caught my attention. The article I read said that the Dallas-based site was going to be 700,000 square feet when it is completed. I must admit the Massively Modular moniker sounded like the name of someone who could have starred in old locally based movie considered noteworthy in some circles. It also raised the issue of the continued confusion over the definition of “modular” since the site was being built using standardized components rather than pre-fabricated units. “Well”, I thought to myself, “that sure misses the point. Who cares about something trivial like the definition of modular when there is a bigger issue staring us all right in the face: has a 700,000 square foot facility earned the right to call itself massive?”
Surely, I cannot be the only one concerned about this liberal use of superlatives? We’ve seen issues like this before and our failure to address them has left us poorer as a society. Who among us can define the difference between a Big Gulp and a Super Big Gulp, and what is the proper nomenclature to use when referring to that horse bucket of popcorn, that would feed a family of five in some third world country, that you get at the movies? You see my point. Without some type of clearly defined standards this whole data center-sizing thing is going to quickly spin out of control.
Since we all know that the first thing customers look for in a data center is whether it is large enough to have its own gravitational field, there is an obvious sense of urgency to developing some standardization of data center size categories. The issue is complicated by a couple of factors. First, “Massive” has already been interjected into the lexicon, and second all the really good descriptors—small, medium, large and tall, grande and venti—have already been taken. Nevertheless, the importance of the issue dictates that we persevere. The tricky part is where we place “Massive” on the ginormous scale and what precedes and follows it. Those of you playing along at home may have noticed that I indicated something has to follow Massive. I say this because I know there are a couple of sites out there with over a million square feet. Let’s say that they are our top end and a million square feet is their starting point. For this category I offer the following suggestions: “Humonguous”, “Brobdingnagian” or my personal favorite, “Wow”.
Based on this scale Massive would define the range from 700,000 to 999,999 square feet. This means that CyrusOne was only one (1) square foot from being relegated into my proposed “Pretty Darn Big” category. Sometimes it pays to be an early adopter.
Now that I’ve laid out the basic premise, I think it can be agreed that only a powerful industry consortium can take what has been started and drive it to a standard that we can all be proud of. I call on you, my industry peers, to rally yourselves to the cause. Time is of the essence. We can only pray that we are not too late and some other ruthless provider doesn’t self categorize itself or we will have anarchy on our hands and only ourselves to blame.