The worldwide market for modular data centers and related equipment is set to grow from $8.37 billion in 2015 to $35.11 billion by 2020.

According to research agency Markets and Markets, North America is expected to remain the largest modular data center market in terms of size, while Asia-Pacific (APAC) is expected to emerge as a high-growth market.

Huawei outdoor modular container sold by T Systems
Huawei outdoor modular container sold by T-Systems – Peter Judge

Modular bonanza

Modular data centers consist of pre-fabricated building blocks that can be deployed in a fraction of the time it takes to erect a bricks-and-mortar facility. They include all the necessary IT, power, cooling, fire protection and access control elements.

The modular approach can help grow an existing data center in small increments, while maintaining optimum utilization. Modules can also be easily shipped to areas where building a permanent data center is impractical. They can withstand any weather conditions - modular data centers have been popping up in deserts, jungles and beyond the Arctic Circle - and are perfect for emergency response operations.

The small size and portable nature of such data centers also makes them suitable for mobile network providers, who are increasingly turning to distributed data centers as the platform to run network function virtualization (NFV).

The modular data center market is expected to grow significantly over the next five years, reaching $35.11 billion by 2020, as more hyperscale operators discover the benefits of this approach. This figure includes both complete containerized data center solutions and individual modules designed to provide IT, power and cooling for such environments.

Existing vendors of modular kit include Dell, Cisco, HP, IBM, Schneider Electric, SGI, Emerson Network Power, Flexenclosure, Baselayer and Huawei.

Last month at the Huawei Networking Congress in Beijing, Leon He, president of the Enterprise group for Western Europe, said he believed that cloud and analytics applications of the future would reside in modular data centers.

“At the very beginning, there was the centralized data center. Then, we’ve had the distributed data center, and now there are modular data centers. I think this is a very natural evolution of the data center solution,” he said.

Developing markets such as China, India, and Brazil are expected to lead the speedy growth of the modular market. The report notes that this trend will present plenty of opportunities for various data center infrastructure vendors, and providers of related services.