Prefabricated data centre modules can help businesses of today meet a range of challenges by providing cost effective, energy efficient data centre infrastructure that offers scalability, flexibility, and rapid deployment. John Thompson, Managing Director of Yorkshire-based Advanced Power Technology, outlines the benefits of opting for a prefabricated approach to data centre infrastructure.
When it comes to choosing the best way to add extra capacity to existing data infrastructure, facility managers and IT staff have several options available to them, including: upgrading and refurbishing existing plant, building a brand-new facility, or choosing a prefabricated solution.
Although prefabricated data centres have been available for some time, they are becoming a disruptive technology offering an innovative approach to the design and deployment of IT infrastructures. Driven partly by the growth in edge computing requirements, an application for which prefab solutions are ideally suited, prefabricated data centres remove time, cost, and complexity from facility upgrades, enabling industry to cope with the unpredictable nature of growth, whilst also delivering on resilience and efficiency.
What’s inside a prefabricated data centre?
The following are pre-installed, tested and commissioned inside a transportable container:
- Back-up Power
- Fire Suppression Systems
- Power Distribution
- Racks – Thermal Containment
- Security elements including an access control and CCTV system
- Data Centre Infrastructure Management Software
Prefab deployment is quite often driven by the lack of suitable space within a facility. Access to suitable, additional space is often particularly challenging for companies who lease their company premises. Once a lease expires, or when a facility is no longer available, transporting a fully functioning prefab data centre to a new location is relatively simple.
Another factor to be considered is the data centre’s proximity to the end user. Some high bandwidth applications can be very sensitive to the effects of latency. If no suitable space can be found within the maximum distance over which a signal can be routed, a prefab data centre could offer the ideal solution if placed on a roof or slotted into a courtyard, for example.
Prefabricated Data Centres Can Deliver Value for Money on Day One
Prefabs are essentially off-the-shelf solutions. Design costs are minimal, and savings can be made on both manufacture and install, on top of this, there are significantly fewer variables associated with prefab deployment making the costs much more predictable. It is however important to remember the added cost of the container. To enable a fixed data rack architecture, it is necessary to build a custom sized container, slightly wider than your standard ISO container. Thankfully, these wider containers are still below the maximum width for transportation on UK roads. Smaller solutions with movable data racking are also available.
As these solutions are often built at volume in dedicated factories, economy of scale also helps drive down the final installed cost.
The scalability of these systems offers something a conventional facilities DC build cannot. Adding additional units at a rate equal to your facilities growth requirements can be done either by docking two prefabs together, or by simply delivering a second-third or fourth unit.
Significant reductions in Operational Costs
Prefabs offer an ideal way to enjoy reductions in operational costs. Prefabs are ideally suited to free cooling technology as their exterior walls and half-cool-aisle layout make it easy to install self-contained cooling units that force filtered, ambient air into the cool aisle. It is much harder to implement this style of high efficiency cooling tech into a traditional facility located in an internal room with no exterior walls such as a basement, for example. Free-Cooling technology is however always an option for larger Data Centres that adopt a chilled-water cooling architecture, but this is a much more costly way to achieve the same result. It is not unrealistic to expect a reduction of around 80% in cooling costs.
Whether you own or lease your business premises, the cost of this space may either be capex or Opex, but either way, external brown site square-footage will always command a lesser premium than the equivalent internal white-space. The scalability of prefab solutions may also negate the need to borrow costly capital for investment in a facility, sized-for-the-future DC solution. Again, this will reduce your Opex.
Just invested in a conventional facilities date centre design and build, do not despair? If you had the space, cooling capacity, and power within an existing facility, this was probably the most cost-effective option, but as explained above, the prefab certainly has its benefits. Should you be constrained by a lack of suitable space, require quick to deploy staged upgrades or your IT requirements face promising, but uncertain growth, a prefab deployment is a fantastic option. As with everything, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, however with prefabricated data centres, you can get pretty close.
The above article should go some way to highlighting the benefits of the Prefabricated Modular Data Centre Pod.