Modular data center startup gets funding

Packing data centers in shipping containers is gaining traction.

keyblock lead image
Keystone NAP

Pre-fabricated, shipping container-like stackable modules, containing data center gear are the future, according to Keystone NAP, a startup vendor, who’s recently obtained new funding.

The modular specialist has borrowed $15 million through finance adviser White Oak to complete a property acquisition, and “finance expansion,” the Philadelphia Inquirer says.

Modular data centers are one of the three top trends in data center land, according to Keystone NAP co-founder Shawn R. Carey, writing last year on the Advance Healthcare Network website . The other two fads being outsourcing, and hybrid cloud.

Research last year projected a 31.2% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) between 2015 and 2020 for the modular data center genre, with developing markets like China and India leading the thrust.

Modular data centers are better than regular ones, thinks Keystone NAP. The KeyBlocks, as the company calls the large individual containers, offer more flexibility, particularly in a shared space, it says on its website.

“With different modules for different clients, companies can customize power, cooling, and network connectivity configurations,” the site says. In other words, each modular unit can be unique in temperature, security, bandwidth and so on. If a client wants a certain environment, or new switches, say, it can get the work completed on the units that pertain to it—the whole building doesn’t have to upgrade resources.

Modular data centers aren’t new. Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook have all deployed solutions, Keystone NAP says.

What’s interesting about the startup’s model, though, is that its business has an emphasis on multi-tenant environments. Theoretically, each container within the space can be dedicated to a different client. Previously, modular data centers have been usually implemented as a stopgap, rapid deployment, or flexible expansion solution by one operator, such as a Facebook, say.

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Hospital-owner Aria, Comcast, a managed cloud host, IBM, and a financial service company all have varying kinds of facilities located in Keystone NAP’s Philadelphia site, the newspaper says.

Modular has advantages. Healthcare, for example, likes modular solutions for security reasons, Carey said in his article. It offers “greater security over traditional data center cages,” he believes.

Conceivably, Keystone NAP, and others’ modular business could bridge a gap between enterprises who don’t want to run their own data center, yet don’t want to be co-located in someone else’s, and aren’t enamored with the cloud—or any combination.

The client gets its own fully controllable module, and realizes other gains, too. They include better cooling efficiencies, explains data center real estate firm Wired Real Estate Group on its website. Heat can be easier to remove from individual units, compared to floors in a building. Plus, the stackable nature also provides better equipment densities than those traditional setups, or modular cabinets, the fanboys say.

The Schneider Electric-built blocks that Keystone NAP have implemented can be piled three-high, explains Data Center Knowledge, who wrote about the initial KeyBlock deliveries, which were shipped on the back of a flat-bed, in January last year.

“The first KeyBlock arrived before the building fit-out was finished to demonstrate the capabilities to the customer,” Data Center Knowledge says. That’s “something that wouldn’t have been possible to do with a traditional approach,” it reckons. 

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