A VENDOR’S STORY
FOCUS on CONTAINERS
Modularity on a global scale
CEO of modular solutions and services company i/o, George Slessman, discusses his company’s diff erent take on the containerized data center. By Yevgeniy Sverdlik
Last year Phoenix-based i/o announced its i/o Anywhere modular data center solution at the DatacenterDynamics conference in San Francisco. Since then it has acquired a New Jersey site for its third mega data center, which will be based entirely on i/o Anywhere modules. The second phase of i/o’s data center in Phoenix will also be 100% modular.
We caught up with i/o’s CEO George Slessman in May to get an update on how the new modular model has been working and what future plans i/o has for its containers.
DCD FOCUS: What are the major building blocks of i/o’s business today? George Slessman: We have two operating divisions inside the company: our data center- as-a-service business unit, which is the i/o Phoenix, i/o Scottsdale, i/o New Jersey sites; and our products-and-software division, which is the i/o Anywhere division. i/o Anywhere is where our research and development engineering teams are located, as well as our manufacturing for the i/o Anywhere systems.
A customer can come to us and buy a modular data center solution or they can come to us and lease capacity using our modules in New Jersey or in Phoenix. In the first half of next year we’ll be expanding into Singapore and Europe as well.
What stage is your expansion into Singapore currently at? We’re in the process of doing site selection. What’s interesting though is with the modular solution, site acquisition really comes down to core power and network access. The physical
George Slessman, CEO of i/o
building itself becomes less important. We need essentially 25ft (ceiling) heights and 40 x 40ft column spacing. And then our modular solution fits inside of that. We don’t have to modify fire suppression systems. We don’t have to modify the physical structure. It’s all self-contained in the modules. It really opens up our ability to (enter) the market.
To drive the point home, we took possession of the New Jersey building on essentially April 1st. We’re moving our first customer in a 3MW data center on June 1st.
How much capacity are you planning to have in Singapore? Singapore will be a site similar to Phoenix and New Jersey, so it will be a very large site. From a core-capacity perspective (it will be) a 100MW- type location. It gets deployed as we deploy modules. We’re no longer in this CapEx cycle where we have to go build these very large data centers and hope that pricing holds up and hope that customer absorption holds up the market. We essentially go acquire a building – and it could be any building, as long as it has power and network access nearby. We do perimeter security and then we ship modules. When customers acquire capacity, we ship more modules. If they don’t, we ship them somewhere else.
How much modular capacity have you deployed to date? We’ve currently manufactured 14 to15 modules. We opened the factory in February. The next
22 are in production. We have existing orders placed for 120 modules between now and the end of the year.
We do maintain inventory. In our DCaaS business unit, we deliver inventory in both Phoenix and New Jersey – excess inventory – and then in the factory we always have some inventory (that is) work in progress.
What we found with our customers – the ones that are buying modules from us – we can actually build them and deliver them faster than they can get ready to accept them. We can manufacture in less 60 days, from beginning to end. To date though, customers have been taking three to four months to prep their sites.
How much of each module do you manufacture yourself? For power distribution elements we partner. Caterpillar is a significant partner of ours – it provides US$70m worth of capital to the business and is our prime partner on the power-generation side. All power generation is Caterpillar or Solar, which is a Caterpillar company.
The power-distribution equipment is sourced through our supply chain. We’ve just found that individual suppliers can’t keep up with the kind of throughput that we have so we have to go with multiple vendors. ABB is a critical strategic partner of ours as well. All of this infrastructure has been custom designed for our solution.
The actual physical boxes we manufacture. We do all the assembly of the structure. We designed and also have contract-manufactured the air-handling infrastructure and the operating system.
We have a software solution we built that runs on top of the standardized hardware platform that does all the optimization and management of the system. n
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