In 2003 I suggested to the Chinese government they could build a palletized data warehouse. This had started out as a joke. But given that major computer vendors have come out with containerized data centers, it might be time to revive the idea.
Palletized Data Warehouse (PDW)
The PDW would combine the space saving features of rack mounting computers and low cost of industrial pallet equipment. Rack mounted equipment would be fixed to standard ISO pallets. These pallets would then be stacked in a warehouse, using a fork lift truck.
Webbing straps, as used in deployable military command centres would be used to fix the equipment to pallets. This would allow standard racks to be used and provide some flexibility, to allow for vibration during transport.
The modules would be assembled and tested, before being shipped to the site and plugged in. The modules would be sized to be compatible with standard industrial pallet handling equipment for ease of transport. Small vans could be used for transport, along with aircraft. The pallets could be loaded into standard ISO shipping containers for long distance transport. Individual pallets could be moved by one person with a simple hand cart and fit through a standard door and into a passenger lift.
A low cost industrial pallet rack warehouse could be used as a data centre. Equipment modules would be tested at ground level, then stacked 15m high into standard pallet racks, using fork lift trucks. Lighting and air conditioning would be hung from the ceiling, with cabling snaking down the racks, using standard industrial fittings. There would be no expensive false floor, or office quality fittings, just a sealed concrete floor. Heavy air and power conditioning equipment would be pallet mounted at ground level for fast installation and maintenance.
Staff would wear overalls and hard hats, and be trained to use safety harnesses when servicing the elevated equipment. The open design would allow for easy re-cabling and service. For any major service work, a module would be removed from the pallet rack using a fork lift truck and returned to the ground level maintenance area.
The temperature in the building would be allowed to fluctuate more than in a traditional data centre, to reduce air conditioning costs. The open design of the building would allow good air circulation for cooling. In may locations the ambient temperature would be sufficient to cool the building most of the year, with just fans needed, not air conditioning, nor complex fluid based cooling systems.
The palletized data warehouse would use much less floor space than a conventional data center and be quick to build using standardized prefabricated warehouse building modules. The data center could be finished on the outside to blend in with office buildings, or with inexpensive steel cladding in an industrial park. It would also be easier to service and take less space than an ISO containerized data center.