Why Aren’t Standardization and Modularity a Bigger Part of the Data Center Market?

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In their report “Prefabricated Modular Data Centers; 2014 and Beyond”, 451 Research – a leading analyst serving the data center market – says that the way most operators plan, design and build data centers is still fundamentally the same as it was 40 years ago. In the intervening period, IT systems have come a long way in their computational capability, and (from a facilities point of view) power density. Although you could probably squeeze near-supercomputing performance out of a small server room, you still need to power and cool your servers effectively. Ideas like modular and standardized data center infrastructure have been around for a while now, and the benefits of the approach over legacy, custom engineered solutions are well received. So it’s a wonder why 451 Research can more or less make their observation unchallenged.

During DatacenterDynamics London 2013, at the EMEA launch by Schneider Electric of 14 new prefabricated data center modules and 15 new Data Center Reference Designs, I asked the company’s Vice President of Data Center  Offer, Kevin Brown, why he thought modular data centers had been through what 451 Research calls a prolonged infancy and why weren’t standardized, modular components already a bigger part of the data center industry.

Kevin said, ” We’ve looked at the market pretty closely and what we’ve seen is that generally, the industry for prefabricated solutions, is dominated by very small players or by global players who didn’t give a complete offering. So what we are here today is as a major industry player coming in and trying to show the industry what a complete offering is going to look like so that they can realize the benefits of prefabricated data centers.”

Analysts tracking the sector have a list of up to 40 companies supplying prefab and containerised solutions to the industry, although these offerings tend to be limited in range. I asked Kevin about the new Data Center Reference Designs, and what of solutions the new library covers. He said, “So, the 15 data center designs that we have done and are going to make freely available for people to see are all prefabricated and are at various densities and various sizes from 250kW to 2MW and different Uptime Tier levels. Each of those is made up of 9 various building blocks that we can show with various cooling technologies and various power configurations.

And so far, how had customers responded to the new offering? “What we’re hearing from our customers is that they are very excited about this,” said Kevin, “Because for the first time they are starting to see how they would realize the benefits of prefabricated solutions, but without having to make the significant compromises in design that they have been asked to do in the past, by what they’ve seen previously. For the first time we can go to them and show them here’s how you achieve your goals and we’ve put in a structure so that we can accommodate their preferences and some of the constraints they might have with the site they are working with.”

To get more details about the Schneider Electric offering, including Enclosed Modules, with integrated UPS, switchgear and management software in a weather proof enclosure, optimized for scalable data center power; IT Modules with integrated racks, power distribution, air conditioning, management software, contained in a weather proof enclosure to create a functional IT space; or its prefabricated Hydronics Modules including chilled water piping system with variable speed pumps and controls fors an efficient and flexible solution for Tier II and III data center cooling, please visit the Fully-Prefabricated Data Center Module Configurations webpage.

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