The data center industry is no stranger to esoteric arguments. I think we can all remember the days of pitched debate over things like “What is retail versus wholesale colocation?” and “What is modular, really?”

For the past five years or so, the latest topic constituting our penchant for navel-gazing is trying to determine a standard definition of the the edge. While the pitched battles played out across the pages, a host of trade journals have given all of us the opportunity to gather PR points. Exercises in determining the data center equivalent of “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” have left customers in a state of confusion and has probably hindered sales more than helped. Let’s face it folks, what the market is really looking for is the ability to add small increments of capacity wherever it’s required. There, was that so hard?

Not every application needs a full-sized data center to support it, and the customers whose needs are measured in kilowatts, not megawatts, really don’t care what you call it as long as they can add the capacity where they need it; when they need it; and, most importantly, without disrupting their existing operations, adding headcount, or trying to convince the finance guys to cut loose a bunch of company capital. In other words, what the market is really asking for is "white space as a service" (WSaaS).

WSaaS combines all of the support services associated with traditional data center projects in a small form factor data center. The inherent value of WSaaS offerings is the ability to enable end users to add incremental capacity at their existing data centers and to be able to do it remotely. This includes selecting locations, obtaining all permits and approvals, coordinating the physical installation of the data center and, if desired, monitoring and managing all of these newly installed units.

Through WSaaS, companies are able to are able to augment current applications or add new ones quickly, with the provider acting as a virtual extension of their existing operational structure to perform and complete the time-consuming and labor-intensive tasks ordinarily associated with adding capacity. Since WSaaS offerings use a familiar lease structure and can be incorporated into opex budgets, they enable capacity to be added without the additional time typically required for internal capital approvals process.

While the services element of a WSaaS package is essential due to the mission critical nature of the applications supported by the data center itself, albeit in a smaller form factor, must offer the level of functionality associated with a full-sized facility. Among the attributes the data center should include are built-in hot and cold aisles, full-sized rack support, multiple redundancy options (N, N+1, and 2N), and scalability. And, because remote operation will be a common requirement, all of these elements must be housed within an environment-proof container. In other words, it should be designed as a full data center with a smaller footprint as opposed to one developed based on the goal of providing ersatz functionality within a container o closet.