Why are Data Centers Going Prefabricated?

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Recent research by DatacenterDynamics Intelligence, the business intelligence division of DatacenterDynamics (DCD), says that the subject of modular data centers is a source of widespread debate, disagreement and misunderstanding. At the same time, 451 Research, also a respected analyst working in the data center sector, says that after a prolonged infancy, the market is about to come accelerate. I met with Dave Johnson, Schneider Electric senior vice president, Solutions, at DatacenterDynamics London 2013 to try and get some insight into why interest is starting to peak.

Dave Johnson said, “We are really in a period of great change right now, you have a lot of disruption in the market, you have cloud computing, you have an explosion of mobile devices, you have social networks and social business, you have Big Data. So you have a lot of change in the industry that’s causing a need for new designs and new approaches to data centers and that’s where we see a role for prefabricated modular data centers.”

In 2010 Schneider Electric had chosen this show to announce their EcoBreeze modular indirect evaporative and air-to-air heat exchanger cooling solution (you can read how the Neoclyde data center is making use of the EcoBreeze modular cooling solution elsewhere on this blog). The following year Schneider Electric announced it’s Power and Cooling Facility Modules to enable data center power and cooling capacity to be added in 500kW increments, enabling physical infrastructure to be right-sized to the IT load and eliminating a major cause of inefficiency and wasted energy. In 2013, Schneider Electric exceeded all expectations by announcing 15 prefabricated data centre modules and 12 new prefabricated Data Center Reference Designs.

Given the idea of prefabrication is not a new one, I asked how it addresses customers’ current business requirements. Dave said, “Prefabricated data centers provide a lot of benefits for today’s data center customers. If you take a co-location company for example, which is driving a lot of the growth in our industry, they need to bring in their customers quickly, they need to get their data centers built as fast as possible so they can optimize their cash. So the flexibility that comes with a prefabricated data center, the speed at which you can deploy it and the scalability later. You’ve also got the predictability that comes with a prefabricated data center. So if I manufacture a component or element of the data center before it arrives, I know how it’s going to behave once its installed. Those benefits really play out today’s market.”

You can learn more about Schneider Electric’s offering for prefabricated data centers by visiting the company’s website, alternatively, white paper #160 “Specification of Modular Data Center Architecture” which available for free download from www.schneider-electric.com, provides useful information about how modular approaches address data center problems such as installation time, quality, compliance, fault tolerance and energy efficiency.

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