In life, and in the business world, there’s a significant difference between theory and practice.

A theory is how we anticipate a certain situation playing out, but practice is what actually occurs. For example, look no further than the evolution of modular data centers.

What began as a simple concept — manufacturers building prefabricated, repeatable and easy to assemble data centers inside a standard shipping container — has become a market where hundreds of suppliers offer so many tailored options and choices that some customers have become apprehensive about deploying these purpose-built modules — truly a paradox of choice.

Suddenly, these standardized units aren’t so standard anymore.

How did this happen? And will the lack of standardization eventually push modular data centers into extinction?

Modular approaches will always have their place in the mission critical and energy intensive world. Suppliers just need to get back to the basics and remind themselves why these systems came about in the first place.

Modular data centers offer a solution to an ongoing problem: providing IT, power or cooling when cost, time and space constraints exist.

The original premise was to provide a pre-engineered, factory built and pre-tested product that was fairly affordable and easy to assemble. The pitch was simple: deploying these alternatives would consume less time, money and effort than their conventional brick and mortar counterparts.

But as vendors attempted to meet customer demands, they began offering additional options.

Suddenly, the design process became grueling, costs increased and deployment of larger units made it hard to distinguish a modular data center from a traditional one.

Even worse, it became difficult for engineers to justify the expense! After all, one of the original value propositions of a modular approach was cost efficiency.

So, how can this situation be fixed? Many companies have simplified the selection process by offering standard options that provide a starting point to discuss design, which reduces complexity and shortens design and installation time.

By getting back to the original concept of providing a solution to a problem, we can again provide the intended benefits of modular data centers — quicker and less expensive than a conventional build.

Plus, vendors will see that less is more — fewer customizable options means less apprehension about modular design.