In the first 2 blogs of this series, I shared some practical considerations with planning, design, and site preparation for data center projects using prefabricated modules (from the white paper Barry Rimler and I wrote titled Practical Considerations for Implementing Prefabricated Data Centers). There are also some key differences with the procurement process – specifically with transportation and packaging – that are worth noting. The procurement of a data center made of prefabricated modules is simpler and quicker than a traditional data center… largely because the module is purchased from a single vendor as a complete “system” and not a collection of parts from various vendors, where headaches like missing parts and incomplete bill of materials occur.
Transportation: Mobility tends to be one of the appealing characteristics of prefab data center modules. Prefab vendors and integrators will typically consider roadway regulations that specify dimensions and weight limits to ensure seamless delivery. They’ll also ensure loose items are tied down, outside connections and systems are removed, and doors are secured. And when a module is not weather tight during delivery (such as an IT module that ships in 2 parts and gets connected together onsite), thought must be taken to how it is shipped to avoid water or wind damage. Some use plywood, others use a heavy duty shrink wrap, similar to how boats are protected during transportation. The latter is able to be unpackaged much more quickly.
Packaging: The amount of packaging materials with prefabricated facility modules vs. traditional stick built is a night and day difference. Think about the volumes of palettes, cardboard, plastic, and other packing materials used to safely deliver the individual components of a traditional data center. With prefab, most of the systems are already installed and secured prior to delivery so the packaging needed to transport it is reduced by an order of magnitude! This figure illustrates the typical volume of trash with a traditional 500 kW 2N data center and then the equivalent prefab data center.
In the last blog of this series, I’ll go into site installation considerations such as positioning prefabricated facility modules, placing them on their foundations, and securing them.