Why datacentres can be massive, but not gigantic

The IT industry has long abused words, touting almost any new product as innovative and disruptive. So it is with datacentres, too.

The IT industry has long abused words, and will label almost any new product as innovative and disruptive. Data center developers, especially those who write the headlines about datacentres, are particularly bad.

The very big datacentres built by Cloud providers or the NSA will be called humongous, gigantic, super-sized, colossal, mammoth and immense, among other monikers.

There's no agreement on what constitutes a gigantic versus a very large datacentres, but a datacentres user group, Afcom, published a paper that tries to do just that.

Afcom is offering definitions around commonly used terms to describe data centers that cover size and density metrics. The goal is to help everyone understand what a datacentres means when it says "average measured peak kW load," or what "extreme" density means, which is north of 16kW.

The paper, which Afcom is seeking comments on, also legitimizes the word "mega" to describe a datacentre. To qualify, it must be more than 225,001 square feet and have more than 9,001 racks. Next on the list is "massive," which would be a data center with more than 75,001 square feet. ("Gigantic" didn't make the cut, by the way.)

Tom Roberts, Afcom president and a former senior technical architect for datacentres at Trinity Health, said he hopes the paper brings some uniformity to the industry, especially internationally.

For instance, said Roberts, in some parts of the world a 50,000-square-foot datacentre might be described as "mega" but not in the US.

"The whole goal around this is to put some guidelines about what those definitions really mean," said Roberts.

In China, a Cloud datacentre data complex in Ningxia that's expected to include Amazon's new AWS operation there, is described as a "super datacentre," by the entity building it The actual size isn't detailed.

"Super" didn't make Afcom's list, either.

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