Wendy Torell, Sr. Research Analyst, Data Centre Science Centre, Schneider Electric Secure Power Division, calculates the costs
As data continues to grow inexorably, driven by the digitisation of public services, the increase in streaming and the emergence of new Internet of Things (IoT) applications, many businesses have migrated towards a hybrid data centre and cloud-based model with its promise of low-cost, reliable and scalable functionality.
As such, many data centre operators need to deploy new resources quickly and reliably in order to meet increased demands and to do so in a manner that is both measurable and transparently cost-effective.
The increasing modularisation and standardisation of hardware, that includes pre-integrated servers, storage and networking combined with uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), cooling, racks and Cloud-based Data Centre Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software, has both simplified and increased the speed of deployment for such operators. At a more fundamental level, however, the decision of how best to add new capacity can present a challenge.
For many of today’s cloud and colocation service providers, a primary consideration is whether to invest in an entirely new facility or to upgrade and retrofit an existing building. Such a decision will involve various technical and financial considerations in order to determine which is the best solution to solve the organisations challenges.
An alternative to building an entirely new facility is to opt for a prefabricated data centre solution, allowing the user to add capacity, whether in power, cooling or IT increments, to spaces both inside and out of a building. For a colocation provider, this presents a unique opportunity to scale up quickly, in some cases in as little as 12-24 weeks, or indeed add power provision and free up new white space to increase revenue generation.
The benefits of prefab
Prefabricated data centres are pre-engineered, pre-assembled and pre-tested systems and can comprise racks, chillers, pumps, cooling units, power infrastructure—including switchgear, transformers, power distribution units (PDUs) and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), all delivered in its own container.
The size can range from smaller micro data centres used to meet the demands of edge computing and which in some instances, can be wheeled into any available corner or office space, to larger prefabricated building blocks, that can be delivered on the back of a lorry to the top of a building or a car park.
There are, of course, many trade offs to be considered when choosing the prefabricated or traditional brick and mortar approach. The benefits of opting for prefab are many, speed of deployment is an obvious one as building a data centre from scratch can take up to two years, depending on size, complexity, local planning issues and design constraints. Opting for a prefabricated, approach can also save as much as 50% of the design/engineering time due to the modules being built and tested prior to deployment. Here much of the integration required to ensure all subsystems operate together effectively is completed prior to delivery and repeatable, if required.