Data Centers Go Modular

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print

Prefabricated data centers can add serious efficiencies to construction, management, and operations.

A report from The Green Grid indicates that organizations benefit enormously by adapting a modular and prefabricated approach to data center construction.

The report, Deploying And Using Containerized Modular Data Center Facilities, found that pre-engineered and prefabricated data centers eliminate the expense of custom engineering and architecture, and they can be deployed rapidly. They also help companies spot structural defects early in the design process and make it easier to iron out associated problems.

The Green Grid estimates that a modular approach can result in 30 percent lower capital outlay and provide an average cost savings of 60 percent through lower power usage efficiency (PUE). In addition, such structures can be built up to four times faster than a typical facility. Hewlett-Packard claims that its EcoPOD modular design can reduce energy costs by 95 percent compared to a traditional facility.

“The assembly line revolutionized manufacturing and commoditized many goods, creating efficiencies in both cost and performance,” notes Tim Mohin, a Green Grid board member and director of corporate responsibility at AMD. “The same revolution is now happening in data center production and deployment, building greater potential for cost savings and increased energy efficiency.”

But the report also found that the benefits could extend beyond the initial building of a data center. A Just in Time (JIT) approach also allows enterprises to decommission facilities quickly when demand declines. “This may be a very real risk for IT managers as virtualization and other technologies moderate demand and changing economic cycles affect industries differently than historical records would suggest,” the authors write.

Key issues in adopting a modular approach include: site-selection factors, including weather and natural disaster risks; transportation considerations, including the ability to move manufactured components to a specific location; security issues such as the use of perimeter fencing, crash barriers and surveillance; and ecological factors, including the fact that most green measures, such as LEED, are not specifically designed to account for the installation and use of CMDF modules.

Concludes Mark Monroe, executive director of The Green Grid:  “The modular data center is an increasingly popular alternative since it’s more cost-effective and can be equipped with higher density, energy saving technologies that reduce costs as well as space.”

This article was originally published on 2011-11-28
Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.
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