Is a Prefabricated Data Centre the Right Choice for You?

Today’s business requires data centre infrastructure that can meet the need for flexibility, scalability and rapid deployment – prefabricated data centre modules can help meet these requirements.

When deciding how to add capacity to existing infrastructure, facility managers have several choices, these include whether to refurbish and upgrade an existing plant, build a new facility or deploy a prefabricated data centre.

Although not new, prefabricated systems are a disruptive technology changing the way we approach the design and deployment of IT infrastructure. This change is partly being driven by the growth in edge computing requirements, an application for which prefab solutions are very well suited. Prefabs can remove time, complexity and cost from facility upgrades, enabling industry to address the unpredictable nature of growth, while also delivering on efficiency and resilience.

This post will discuss the benefits of opting for a prefabricated approach.

What does a prefab DC consist of?

  • Cooling
  • Back Up Power
  • Fire Suppression Systems
  • Power Distribution
  • Racks – Thermal Containment
  • Security elements such as Access control and CCTV systems
  • Data Centre Infrastructure Management Software

The above is pre-installed, tested and commissioned inside a transportable container.

Example layout of a prefab unit delivered by Advanced Power. This is a view into the cold aisle.

The lack of suitable space within a facility is one of the biggest drivers behind prefab deployment. Finding space is especially challenging for companies that lease office space. If a lease expires, or the current facility is no longer suitable, it can be relatively simple to transport a fully functioning prefab data centre to a new location. 

The importance of proximity with respect to reducing latency is also worth considering. If no suitable space exists within the maximum distance over which a signal can be routed, a prefab DC may present the prefect solution if shoehorned into a courtyard or placed on a roof.

CapEx – Deploying a prefab DC can deliver value for money

Prefabs are essentially off-the-shelf solutions. Design costs are minimal and savings can be made on both manufacture and install, on top of this, there are significantly fewer variables associated with prefab deployment, this makes the costs much more predictable. It is however important to rememer the added cost of the container. 

As these solutions are often built at volume in dedicated factories, economy of scale also helps drive down the final installed cost.

The scalability of these systems offers something a conventional facilities DC build cannot. Adding additional units at a rate equal to your facilities growth requirements can be done either by docking two prefabs together, or by simply delivering a second-third or fourth unit.

OpEx – A significant reduction in operational expenditure is achievable when deploying prefab solutions

Prefabs lend themselves well to free cooling technology as their outside walls and general half-cool-aisle-containment configuration make it easy to mount self-contained cooling units that force filtered, ambient air, into the cool aisle. It is less easy to implement this high efficiency cooling tech in a traditional DC facility that may be situated within a room possessing no outside walls, i.e. a basement.  A recent Advanced Power prefab DC deployment saw a reduction in cooling power demand of 80%+ when compared to the direct-expansion cooling system found within the clients decommissioned facilities DC.

Depending on whether you own or rent the space occupied by your DC, the cost of this space may either be capex or opex, but either way, external brown site square-footage will always command a lesser premium than the equivalent internal white-space. The scalability of prefab solutions may also negate the need to borrow costly capital for investment in a facility, sized-for-the-future DC solution. Again, this will reduce opex.

Just invested in a conventional facilities date centre, don’t despair? If you had the space, cooling capacity and power within an existing facility, this was probably the most cost-effective option, but as explained above, the prefab certainly has its benefits. Should you be constrained by a lack of suitable space, require quick to deploy staged upgrades or your IT requirements face promising, but uncertain growth, a prefab deployment is a fantastic option. As with everything, there is no one size fits solution, but the above post should go some way to highlighting the benefits of the Prefabricated Modular Data Centre Pod.