4 Potential Drawbacks of Data Center Facility Modules

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In a related post (“Save Time and Money with Data Center Facility Modules”), we discussed the many advantages of containerized power and cooling modules – or “facility” modules – in data center expansion projects.

Facility modules can save enterprises money in the design/field installation phase because they are pre-installed, pre-tested physical infrastructure systems delivered as a plug-in to an existing or new data center.

Not only do facility modules save money on design and installation, they shorten installation schedules, eliminate on-site disruption caused by construction activities and downtime, and reduce the logistical and scheduling challenges facing the data center team.

In addition, the pre-engineered design of facility modules allows for better integration of power and cooling system controls, which will result in lower energy costs over the long run.

APC by Schneider Electric estimates that facility modules can save 60% in deployment speed, 22% in initial costs and 18% of total cost of ownership (TCO) versus a traditional power and cooling infrastructure expansion project.

What’s not to like?

Not much, but there are a few things to watch out for. While the cost and time savings of facility modules are apparent and compelling, the modules come with several drawbacks – some situational – that data center project managers need to consider.

Proximity challenges

In many cases, outdoor facility modules supply power and cooling to data centers located indoors. When the indoor data center is housed along the perimeter of a building, facility module connection costs are small.

But some data centers are located in the middle of large, sprawling buildings. In such instances, connecting the data center to an outside facility module would quickly transform what should be a “site integration” project into a construction project. Cable and piping must be run through walls and/or ceilings, which means time, expense and disruption along the connection route.

Elements of risk

Facility modules located outside are susceptible to damage from a variety of sources, including rain, wind, vandals, animals and insects and, if located in a parking lot, traffic.

Form factor restrictions

The functional advantages of a “modular” design are flexibility, mobility and adaptability. But facility modules are what they are – pre-assembled power and cooling systems, typically housed in 20 foot by 40 foot shipping containers.

Which means, for one thing, a facility module may be too heavy to place on a building’s roof. And because facility modules are built as limited, self-contained units, they aren’t able to accommodate further data center expansion. An enterprise seeking to add to its data center infrastructure would have to buy more facility modules.

Squeeze box

Facility modules were built to provide power and cooling for data centers, not to provide a secret recreation room for data center staff. The limited space inside may mean minor contortions for maintenance personnel dropping in to do repairs.

In addition, facility modules that provide service personnel access through an outside door are exposed to corrosive elements – heat, moisture, dust, cold – when these doors are opened.

For more information on the caveats and benefits of facility modules, check out the APC by Schneider Electric white paper, Containerized Power and Cooling Modules for Data Centers.

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