With the announcement of an extensive range of prefabricated data center modules, Schneider Electric has added impetus to a market which is set, according to 451 Research, to gain a higher share of certain markets. The analyst also forecasts that the pace of data center technology is set to accelerate along with the spread of data center facilities. Since different sectors and requirements have generally driven approaches to data center design, I asked Kevin Brown, VP Data Center Offer at Schneider Electric, whether he thought some applications would have a stronger attraction to prefab solutions than others.
“When we first started looking into this market we thought that there were very specific applications where prefab made sense and there would be other applications where it did not,” Kevin told me. “What our experience from the last couple of years is showing us is that the interest is actually quite broad based.”
“We have co-lo’s that are coming to us to get faster deployment to get better use of capital so they are looking for prefabricated solutions. We have some financial institutions that are dealing with similar issues and still want to build in-house and they are looking at prefabricated. There is also a form where people are looking at using ISO-containers and that tends to be much more in applications where they want to be able to easily deploy and easily ship – so they have a very standardized format which is very important. It’s very varied and what we are seeing is that the application for each one of those changes a little bit but the solution is quite broad and we think we can come up with some interesting solutions in all of those applications.
Demand for prefab seems to coming from across a broad spectrum of data center types. According to Schneider Electric white paper #163, the sorts of applications which are very well suited to the use of prefabricated modular construction could, as Kevin Brown pointed out, include co-location facilities seeking faster, cheaper ways to “step and repeat” computer power and support systems for their customers. In co-lo applications, prefab modules may provide a solution allowing them to cost-effectively upsize and downsize in large kW modular building blocks when demand for their services fluctuates as a result of market conditions.
But prefab may also be useful in retrofit and upgrade projects when data centers are out of power and cooling capacity or out of physical space. In these sorts of cases, prefab enables cooling and power capacity to be quickly added so that additional servers can be placed into existing racks for higher space utilisation and to create a higher rack density environment more suitable for state-of-the-art servers and storage equipment.
Prefab may also be the right solution for companies with a tight window of opportunity and where time delays could be commercially problematic, i.e., the cost of time is important to organizations that place a high value on early delivery (e.g., companies who want to be first to market with new products or services).
Prefab may also be helpful to data center operators in leased facilities, especially where they may not want to pour money into a fixed asset that they would have to leave behind. If their lease is not renewed, modules can physically move with them. Or the architecture could be used to improve efficiency and reduce energy costs an carbon emissions. For example, data center facilities saddled with existing infrastructure characterized by poor PUE may only be able to gain marginal improvements within the constraints of their existing physical plan, however, adding prefab modules provides an alternative method to help solve problems inherent to the inefficient data center design they may have inherited.
Finally, an organization with vacant space could benefit from prefab modules. Take the example of an empty warehouse space which could be populated using a series of pre-packaged modules. In this case the customer can benefit by leveraging unutilized space as well as avoiding the delays and construction costs of building a new brick and mortar wing.
If you think that using a prefab approach could benefit your data center build or upgrade, Schneider Electric white paper #163 “Containerized Power and Cooling Modules for Data Centers” is available as a free download, or find out more about Schneider Electric fully prefabricated data center module configurations online.