I'll be posting occasional "Tour" pieces that might be helpful for utility program managers and account reps who are interested in becoming more knowledgeable about the data center market. If you've been around the industry block for awhile, by all means ignore these!
It's frankly pretty rare for data center operators to allow you to photograph their facilities, so I was really pleased to get these shots of a "cabinet colo" operator in California late last year. Although they didn't expressly prohibit me from naming them, let's leave them anonymous for now.
(However, if you're looking for cabinet level colocation services, let me know and I'll refer you to this top-notch operator!)
I've called this operation a "cabinet colo" because they make their business the leasing of colocation space primarily by the cabinet. They'll rent you space for a 1U piece of equipment, and they do have some whole rooms available for sole tenants, but ninety percent of their clients rent in cabinet increments.
The first photo gives you some sense of the scale of the facility, with rows extending maybe two hundred feet broken by a central aisle. The current phase of this facility has maybe thirty or so rows and the capacity for at least that again, plus the adjunct rooms that are currently unused.
As you walk down the rows you find everything from empty cabinets, cabinets with just a few pieces of gear, and multiple cabinets that are fully utilised. The ones in the last category often feature a standard equipment configuration that is duplicated in every cabinet.
I did see an occasional cabinet filled with "desktop" servers - simply servers in a PC cabinet form factor stacked on shelves.
I also took a shot of this - this is how servers are shipped, in lots of five, from the OEMs.
I always remember Christian Belady of Microsoft saying that one reason to pursue modular solutions is to avoid having to open these boxes and rack the equipment into cabinets. At a Microsoft data center I visited, they had a side room where technicians racked gear into cabinets, which were then wheeled into the data center and connected.
Now many of the utility scale data center operators order "rack in a box" solutions, and of course at the extreme source fully racked modular data center units (like the shipping container solutions).
Lastly, in terms of energy efficiency, you can appreciate the challenge of cooling a colo, and certainly a cabinet colo. Although there is usually an upper limit on power density per cabinet, the facility operator has no control of what is in each rack. With a completely heterogenious load profile, it is impossible to deploy cooling solutions that limit excess air flow and supply and return mixing.
This operator intends to deploy aisle containment when the center is more fully leased, maximizing the ability to use outside air.