Deploying a Federal Prefabricated Data Center: Tools, Tips and TCO

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If you have experience working in a government data center and read my last post on prefabricated solutions, you might have thought I exaggerated on the time it takes to get up and running — 12 to 16 weeks. But it’s true. Here’s why the timeline is compressed compared to a traditional data center implementation and how you can be sure a prefabricated option makes financial sense.

Essentially the steps to get there are the same: planning and design, site prep, procurement and installation. Prefabricated data centers shorten these steps because they can be based on existing designs and are fully built and tested before being put in place. You can see a side-by-side comparison of prefab versus traditional deployment steps in white paper: Practical Considerations for Implementing Prefabricated Data Centers.

Traditionally, we spend a huge amount of time on design. There are so many different ways a data center can be configured that it can be hard to know where to begin, particularly if you are an agency tasked with consolidating

With prefabricated systems, an initial design can be pulled from a standardized selection. In fact, Schneider Electric has an entire library of reference designs. My colleague Patrick Donovan explained in a previous blog post, “These high level conceptual plans simplify planning by helping project teams quickly determine key project parameters (capacity, redundancy, efficiency, density, budget, and so on). These validated designs along with owner constraints & preferences serve as a very solid input and a great head start into the detailed design phase.” Imagine how much quicker the time to completion is when project parameters of criticality, capacity, efficiency and density within the context of budget have been determined.

Recently a Federal client came us after finding one of these standardized designs.  After meeting with him it was clear that the design was around 90% of what he needed and just required a couple of quick modifications.

We took those modifications to our engineering teams and they were able to tweak the design to meet the customer’s exact requirements.  We were also able to provide them professional turnkey installation, engineering and project management to complement the prefabricated solution.  This greatly shortened planning time for submitting a full solution for budget approval.

See for yourself. This less-than-a-minute video shows you how to go from “blueprint to reality.”

With traditional builds, you also face a traditional complex procurement process. With prefabricated data centers, the path is simplified. The white paper points out, “The procurement process for a prefabricated data center is simpler and quicker than that of a traditional data center.

The simplicity, in part, is the result of each module being purchased from a single vendor as a single complete system or set of systems, and not a collection of individual subsystems from various vendors. Delivery challenges from traditional data center projects – such as receiving incomplete bill of materials, or missing delivery schedules for certain parts – are avoided when the entire system ships as one.”

Making Prefabricated Work for You

Using something tried and true doesn’t mean you won’t have the option to customize. Clearly, while every data center has commonalities, each has unique requirements too, especially in government. By nature, prefabricated data centers are flexible. From a cost perspective, they can also be predictable.

Tradeoff tools will help you calculate the cost with each change you make.

There’s even more evidence of the benefits and cost savings in white paper, “TCO Analysis of a Traditional Data Center vs. a Scalable, Prefabricated Data Center,” which calculates an approximate 30% savings.

On top of everything I already mentioned, prefabricated data centers could save energy. The ability to scale means you don’t have to overbuild. This, in turn can aid with sustainability compliance. Here’s a full working example of total cost of ownership: “Quantitative Analysis of a Prefabricated vs. Traditional Data Center.”

There are many factors to consider when deploying any data center. For agencies that need to meet current mandates, while being ready for future demand at a calculable cost, the choice of prefabricated could quickly address all your challenges.

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