Data Center Map

Data Center Containers

By on June 15, 2009

As a follow up to the recent post about containers in a colocation environment, I thought it would be interesting with a follow up post. So in this post I will be comparing the current offerings available when it comes to container based data centers, as they do differ a lot compared to each other.
This comparison is not with “colocation” eyes, but more from a general data center perspective, so whether you are looking for containers for colocation, modular/scalable designs or high density setups then this should be of interest.

Sun Modular Datacenter (MD)

Form factor: 20 feet container
Compatibility: Standard 19″ servers
Rack capacity: 7 or 8 40U racks depending on model
Cooling capacity: 25 kW per rack
Special features: Designed to protect equipment from earth quakes
PUE: Unknown
Link: Product page

Sun was the first provider to make a huge push for containers with the launch of their Modular Datacenter (originally called project Blackbox) followed by a world tour and a lot of marketing effort. The container is available in two models, MD S20 with 8 78cm deep racks and MD D20 with four 78cm deep racks and three 115cm deep racks. The container has a central service aisle and racks on both sides, that can be pulled out in to the aisle while still in operation, which are configured front-to-rear with a heat exchanger between each rack. The Sun MD is certified as tier-2.

Pictures: Sun & Chris Josephes – for more see SLAC or Data Center Links.
Videos: Earth Quake test, Inside, Tour #1 & Tour #2.


Form factor: 20 or 40 feet container
Compatibility: SGI half-depth 19″ servers
Rack capacity: 12, 24 or 28 55U racks depending on model
Cooling capacity: 1500W per square feet
Special features: Built in UPS
PUE: <1.2
Link: Product page

Originally launched as Rackable Concentro, SGI’s ICE Cube (Integrated Concentro Environment) has been designed to fit SGI’s half-depth servers in either a 20 or 40 feet container. The server racks are mounted in both sides with a central service aisle, with the servers facing the aisle and thereby only being accessible from the front. Cooling is done via heat exchangers on the side of the cabinets blowing air out in front of the servers.

Pictures: SGI/Rackable.
Video: Product Video & Tour.


Form factor: 40 feet container
Compatibility: Standard 19″ servers
Rack capacity: Unknown, but more than 2880 servers
Cooling capacity: Power capacity of 350 kW
Special features: Built in UPS
PUE: 1.3
Link: Product page

The name FOREST comes from the keywords Flexible, Open, Reliable, Energy efficient, Scalable and Transportable that Verari have chosen for their product. Unfortunately there isn’t too much material available about the FOREST container, but from the pictures it seems to be a design with standard racks placed in each side the can be accessed from the front and the back via a central service aisle.

Pictures: FOREST.
Video: Presentation.

Lampertz Outdoor Room

Form factor: 20 feet container (40 feet custom solutions also available)
Compatibility: Standard 19″ equipment
Rack capacity: 7 47U racks
Cooling capacity: Up to 4.3 kW per rack with standard solutions
Special features: Standard 19″ cabinets from can be used, can be delivered with free cooling
PUE: Unknown
Link: Product page

The Lampertz Outdoor Room is based on a 20 feet container and unlike most of the other offerings, it has been designed to function more as a traditional server room inside a container. That means that it can be fitted out with standard 19″ cabinets from any vendor (of course with some restrictions in size) that is cooled via a raised floor. The container can be delivered with direct free cooling integrated, and Lampertz can also do 40 feet solutions and setups with multiple containers linked together.

Pictures: Lampertz.

IBM Portable Modular Data Center (PMDC)
AST Smart Shelter Container (SSC)

Form factor: 20 or 40 feet container
Compatibility: Standard 19″ equipment
Rack capacity: 17 racks in the 40 feet model / 8 racks in the 20 feet model
Cooling capacity: Depending on configuration
Special features: Standard 19″ cabinets from any vendor can be used
PUE: Depending on configuration, IBM says average 1.3
Link: IBM Press release / AST Modular

Manufactured by AST Modular, and sold both by IBM as PMDC and by AST as SSC. The container can be delivered as a complete solution with all the necessary infrastructure, or as a barebone solution that can be outfitted with cabinets and cooling equipment from any vendor (for example in-row or top cooling units). The container can be accessed from the side or from the end and features a cold and a hot aisle with the cabinets in the middle. The cabinets are mounted on a sliding system, making it possible to slide them around while in operation so that they can be accessed from both the front and the rear.

Pictures: IBM & Sune Christesen.
Video: IBM Presentation, AST Presentation & IBM tour.

HP Performance Optimized Datacenter (POD)

Form factor: 20 or 40 feet container
Compatibility: Standard 19″ equipment
Rack capacity: 22 50U racks
Cooling capacity: 27 kW per rack
Special features: Very short delivery time and high cooling capacity
PUE: Unknown
Link: Product page

HP’s POD containers have one long row of racks facing a service aisle where the front of the racks can be accessed, while you have to go outside the container to access the rear side of the racks via dedicated doors on one side of the container. The cooling is done via overhead heat exchangers that can be serviced individually and cool up to 27 kW per rack. HP guarantees that they can deliver PODs within 6 weeks from order.

Pictures: HP & GigaOM.
Video: Product video, Tour #1, Tour #2, Tour #3.

Dell Humidor

Form factor: 2 40 feet containers stacked
Compatibility: Standard 19″ equipment
Rack capacity: 24 racks
Cooling capacity: Unknown
Special features: Dedicated container for infrastructure
PUE: Unknown
Link: New York Times article / The Register article

Dell’s approach to the container business is quite different compared to the other vendors, as they have chosen to make their solution consist of two containers stacked on top of each other. The container below is outfitted with a row of 24 racks in the middle, while the container above is outfitted with infrastructure for cooling and power. Unlike a lot of the other containers that are designed with custom cooling systems matching their compact size, Dell has chosen to use standard equipment in the infrastructure container. A choice that consumes more space, but gives more flexibility. Unfortunately there does not seem to be any information from Dell about Humidor except for articles in the press, but apparently that is because Dell is not expecting this product to be a mainstream product but just a product for a few select customers.

Pictures: The Register & The New York Times.

APC Datapod

Form factor: Multiple modules available
Compatibility: Standard 19″ equipment
Rack capacity: Depending on configuration
Cooling capacity: Unknown
Special features: Can be build together with other container modules
PUE: Unknown
Link: Datapod website

Datapod has partnered up with APC to offer their container solution, which is a bit different compared to the other containers available as the solution is more oriented on the modular approach. Different containerized modules are available and can be build together as one data center, and later on additional units can be installed to expand the capacity.

Pictures: iTnews.
Video: Datapod presentation

Bull Mobull

Form factor: 20- and 40 feet containers
Compatibility: Standard 19″ equipment
Rack capacity: 6 racks in 20-feet model & 15 racks in 40-feet model
Cooling capacity: 40 kW per rack
Special features: Very high cooling capacity due to water cooled doors.
PUE: Unknown
Link: Bull website

Bull has created a container with cooling based on their water-cooled doors, which ensures a very high cooling capacity compared to the other containers available. Unfortunately there are very few ressources available about their container, but apparently racks are accessed via maintenance aisles that are accessed from the side of the container. Like HP Bull also promises a short delivery time on the Mobull, promising that it is delivered and operational within 8 weeks. The container can both be leased and purchased.

Pictures: Bull.

Emerson Data Center Infrastructure

Form factor: 40 feet container
Compatibility: Standard 19″ equipment
Rack capacity: Unknown
Cooling capacity: Unknown
Special features: ?
PUE: Unknown
Link: Product website

The Data Center Infrastructure container from Emerson Network Power is equipped with equipment from Emersons various data center subsidiaries, such as racks from Knürr and cooling from Liebert. Unfortunately there is not much technical information available about the product, but the website features various videos and pictures that shows a similar design to the ATS/IBM container (a central row of racks, that can slide from side to side).

Pictures: Emerson.

Automation SAFE

Form factor: Multiple configurations available
Compatibility: Standard 19″ equipment
Rack capacity: 4-12 cabinets
Cooling capacity: Up to 20 kW per cabinet (90 kW in total)
Special features: 6 weeks delivery time
PUE: Below 1.35 guaranteed
Link: Product website

The SAFE (Secure, Autonomous, Flexible, Efficient) container from the European manufacturer Automation, comes in various configurations that vary in size, power capacity, rack space. Ranging from 16 kW IT load up to 90 kW, with rack density from 10 to 20 kW, and 4 to 12 server racks giving a total of 126 to 624 rack units. Unfortunately very few pictures are available, but there are some PDF presentations on Automations website with facts and model comparisons.

Pictures: Automation.

ActivePower PowerHouse

Link: Product page

The PowerHouse from ActivePower is not a container-based data center like the others, but it is still an interesting product that relates to the subject so I have included it anyway. The PowerHouse is a different angle of using containers in relation to data centers, as it is a container that can be outfitted with the necessary infrastructure (UPS, chiller, generator etc.) to run a container-based data center or just a regular brick and mortar data center for that matter. Both HP and Sun can provide their containers combined with a PowerHouse.

Picture: ActivePower.
Video: Tour

Summing up

As one can see from the pictures as well as the facts, there is a lot of difference between the various models. Of course they don’t necessarily cover the same needs, but as discussed in the last post about containers some kind of standardization is probably required on some areas for containers to really break through (door locations, cable/water entry points, included infrastructure etc.).

I will try to keep the post up to date, so feel free to contact me if there are any additions or corrections.

June 15, 2009
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24 Comments on Data Center Containers

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  1. Eric S says:

    Very interesting to see the evolution of modular data centers. Great post, keep it up

  2. jan says:

    Add the APC / Datapod solution:

    and a dutch custom builder:

  3. The post has been updated with Datapod and some more facts about Lampertz and IBM’s solutions.

    Thanks for the link to the Itainer, unfortunately I can’t read dutch though – is there any english information available about it?

  4. jan says:

    I will get back on the itainer stuff.

    If you list ActivePower, you should also list CAT.



    (it says rental, but you can also buy the containers.)

  5. cindylou says:

    Does anyone actually buy these things or just talk about them?

  6. [...] siehe DataCenter Map Blog [...]

  7. If anyone is interested in learning more on containerized data centers there is an informative event coming up. Including a tour of an actual container.

    Go to for more details.

  8. Thanks, I have added them now Jan.
    Apologies for the delay, got backed up with work due to a surgery.

  9. There is a new size catagory in the MDC space. The micro modular datacenter or MMDC.

  10. Could you please make sure that the website for the Datapod is pointed to We are the US point of contact for this product, thanks.

    For more info contact below:

    Ryan Mordhorst
    V.P. of Global Sales
    UNS, LLC

  11. Datapod’s own website seem more relevant to link to rather than a regional distributor, but your comment with the link will be available in the comments section for interested US customers.

  12. Hans Peter says:

    What does a fully equipped containerized data centre cost? Does anyone has bought one or has experience in calculating prices?

    We are considering to buy. That would be a great help.


  13. Bert Thiejnen says:

    cost will probably be largely depended of equipment used; fully equipped, just racks without cooling, ups or genset …..
    i suppose that the price can be between 200k —- 1M

  14. Phil says:

    The Rittal Data Center Container is missing, shown at the CeBIT 2011 in Hannover.

  15. If you like the value proposition of a containerized data center, but a 1-3 million dollar solution the weights 88,000LBS is not your idea of scalable, contact Elliptical Mobile Solutions at

    They have containerized solutions at the rack level or packed together from 3-60+KW per unit. water or air conditioned available PUE 1.05-1.6 *Lawrence Berkley National Lab findings

  16. [...] space, housing, shops, a bar, and even bridge supports. In a perfect tie-up (for this blogpost) several companies started offering ‘datacenter in a box’ solutions whose modular design makes them perfect for the scaleable requirements of cloud computing. In a [...]

  17. Xavier says:

    On our website, you can find more information about Adam DataBOX, our modular datacenter. Please visited de website, and if you need more information about this solution, contact with us. This solution is the most competitive solution.

  18. [...] a related note, if memory serves me right when all this ‘container’ data center talk started one of the more endearing aspects purported in their favor was the [...]

  19. [...] vrienden van hebben in 2009 een aanzet gedaan tot een overzicht, maar deze is een beetje verouderd. Hier onder [...]

  20. Arshad says:


    I have Sun s20 data Center, is anyone of you interested kindly let me know.




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