When might you need to consider a prefabricated data centre?
Thu 16 Jul 2015
Matthew Baynes, Data Centre Solutions Director at Schneider Electric, discusses how prefabricated infrastructure modules allow data centres to expand their facilities to meet changing needs quickly and reliably through rapid predictable deployment of power, cooling and IT facilities.
In today’s world flexibility is a key attribute for any business as the ability to react quickly and appropriately to changing market conditions can mean the difference between success and failure. In terms of an organisation’s IT resources, being able to match the amount of equipment to the required information processing load at any one time is critical: insufficient IT capacity can cripple a company’s operations; over specifying the amount of IT can be ruinously expensive.
Whether a data centre is operated internally by an organisation for its own needs or by a service provider on behalf of a variety of clients, its management must continuously take tough decisions regarding capacity planning and deployment. For large capital-intensive projects, as data centre builds usually are, the time necessary to deploy new infrastructure introduces a number of risks.
Will the return on investment justify the expense incurred? Will changes in technology in the interim between planning and fit out of a new facility have implications for the amount and type of infrastructure deployed? As an example of the latter, over the years analysts have predicted that rack densities are set to increase dramatically with power dissipation of between 20 and 40kW a rack becoming commonplace. Although such forecasts have so far have to materialise, such increases could have implications for the amount and type of power and cooling infrastructure that must be deployed. Getting it wrong will have severe implications.
Taking data centre deployment modular
Modular prefabricated data centre infrastructure provide a solution to these challenges, offering speed of deployment, flexibility, scalability and a greatly reduced risk of deploying redundant or obsolete infrastructure.
Naturally, there is no one size of prefabricated data centre that meets all situations. Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) operating their own IT facilities often need tactical solutions to immediate problems, needing to deploy small amounts of extra IT capacity in limited physical space. Larger organisations or co-location operators may need to expand rapidly and have time-to-market issues that cannot be met by a major construction project. And then there are companies with special requirements such as in the oil and gas industries who need rugged facilities to operate in harsh environments.
Not all situations require the same type of modular expansion. Typically the functions of a data centre can be broken down into three categories: power plant, cooling plant and the IT space. In many scenarios only one or two of these facilities may be required; in some a complete all-in-one facility including all three will be necessary.
Use cases for the prefabricated data centre
Examples of when fully prefabricated data centres may be required include situations were scalability is a key factor and data centre capacity needs to be expanded quickly; a data centre with multiple clients may want to partition its facility to keep equipment servicing different customers apart; there is a temporary need for IT to service a major event such as a sporting fixture or festival; or a remote branch of an existing organisation may require a small data centre.
In terms of speed of deployment, prefabricated modules can be delivered on site preconfigured and pretested to be installed with a lead time of between 12 and 16 weeks, very much quicker than would be required for a new building or major refit of an existing facility. Site preparation and module production can be completed concurrently, resulting in minimised on-site construction and deployment time.
The range of modules configurations and reference designs available allow a infrastructure to be deployed and scaled with great accuracy to meet the power, cooling and data-processing demands of the facility. Another clear advantage of prefabrication and factory testing is that the performance of the new facility is predictable and reliable, resulting in a reduction of human error and on-site construction risks during deployment.