In between the custom-built home and the trailer park is the modular home: Built to industry standards, but indoors, under controlled conditions, and shipped to the home site on trucks.
Steven W. Jacobs wants to achieve that same middle ground for data centers.
In between expensive traditional backup data centers and backup data centers stuffed into metal shipping containers, his Chelsea-based Velocity Data Centers is marketing a standardized 30-by-30-foot reinforced concrete building packed with a standard set of backup power and cooling equipment, ready for those racks of IT gear.
“I like the idea of the containerized data centers, the small power and cooling needs, incremental growth, rapidly deployed,” Jacobs said. “But I don’t like the idea of putting $6 million or $7 million of IT gear into a steel shipping container. It’s like putting cheap tires on an Indy car. Every time the snowplow truck goes across the parking lot toward that container data center you’re going to get nervous. That plow truck could cut that shipping container in half.”
Instead, Velocity Data Centers will put that expensive IT equipment behind four-inch-thick concrete walls reinforced with steel bars — walls strong enough to pass a ballistics test with large-caliber weapons and hurricane-rated for 150-mph winds.
“I decided to combine the best factors of traditional data centers — robust, hearty — with the features of a container — small and uniform,” Jacobs said.
Those 30-by-30-foot buildings will be built at an indoor construction plant in Elkhart, Ind. — the heart of the RV and manufactured housing industry. The factory built approach allows Jacobs to deliver the data center to the customer’s site in just a few weeks versus the far longer time it can take to build a traditional data center.
The buildings will come standard with Siemens fire suppression systems and Liebert uninterruptible power and cooling systems manufactured in. And behind the 30-by-30-foot building, in a fenced-in area, will sit a backup diesel generator.
Jacobs is marketing the modular data centers through the giants of the storage industry, EMC and NetApp. And he’s working with their channel partners to introduce the concept — among them, familiar Michigan IT companies like Lansing’s Dewpoint and Auburn Hills-based Netarx. This strategy allows Jacobs to complement the IT solution that is being designed for the customer.
With several customers already interested in this design, Jacobs is in the process of constructing a prototype unit on Jackson Road in Washtenaw County, just west of Zeeb Road. The prototype is being designed and engineered bySaline-based Process Results.
Jacobs has 17 years of experience in the tech industry. He got into IT in 1994 with a Dexter company called Creative Solutions, where he built an early version of software as a service for the tax and accounting industry. Creative Solutions was sold to Toronto-based Thomson Corp. in 1997, and he stayed with Thomson until 2008, eventually working in mergers and acquisitions. After a brief stint with an Australian company as Global Director of IT, he created Velocity Data Centers. He has bachelor’s and MBA degrees from Eastern Michigan University.