Toshiba has just completed the installation of a demonstration modular data center on the outskirts of Tokyo, signaling its entry into the emerging market. Rather than housing racks of data servers in dedicated buildings, the modular approach allows for the relatively quick construction of units housed in steel framed containers, which can be stacked to increase capacity without encroaching too much on the surrounding environment. In addition to reducing costs, Toshiba claims that its solution also requires less power to operate.

The construction of Toshiba's demonstration modular data center at the company's Fuchu Complex in western Tokyo was completed on November 16, reducing the usual lead time to just three months. The facility occupies an area of some 216 square meters (2,325 square feet) and runs nine racks of 46 servers supported by a fresh-air cooling system.

The natural air conditioning that keeps server room temperatures in check is said to cut power consumption by 65 percent compared to a typical data center. The free cooling system is used at all times apart from the hot summer season, but Toshiba acknowledges that energy savings will vary according to location. The installation also benefits from a 97 percent efficient uninterruptible power supply.

Should an increase in capacity be required, the steel-framed modules that make up Toshiba's data center solution can be stacked to avoid any increase in the construction footprint. The company says that its model provides the cost-effective flexibility and responsiveness needed for a market rapidly growing in response to rise in popularity of social networking, and the increasing use of online services and cloud computing.

The company is banking on its low-cost modular data center solution being worth around US$240 million by 2015. Toshiba will face some stiff competition from companies already committed to modular design, such as Hewlett Packard, IBM and Dell.

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