Modular Data Center Design: An Approach, Not a Technology
In the current data center market, an increasing number of organizations are opting for a modular data center design as opposed to traditional brick-and-mortar structures. These facilities offer a range of benefits to operators and developers, but first decision makers must choose between the different styles of modular designs.
Each design strategy, including different container styles and modular builds, offer varying levels of portability, speed and completeness depending upon the chosen approach. To help foster the decision making process, here is a brief overview of the available modular approaches and general benefits this type of data center deployment can provide.
Modular Design Differences
Modular data center designs provide a range of advantages including cost savings, rapid deployment and grater reliability â€“ see infographic index. Custom design features of a stick-build (aka “Snowflake” owing to the custom nature of the finished product) are rare to find in modular approaches, but what modular designs lack in custom features they make up for via the benefits of a standard, factory-tested, and repeatable process. A modular approach assumes a standard design and components that have been to some degree pre-assembled. The primary focus of modularity is to establish a steady-state, repeatable process for consistency, which leads to less re-work, shorter delivery, and lower cost.
Containment construction is a limited, pre-packaged system that requires on-site setup. This approach offers a mid-range level of portability and speed, and a low level of completeness of product. One organization offering this type of solution is Polargy, who provides a range of related containment products, including prefabricated aisle containment and a modular floor-mounted infrastructure.
Boxes, which often though not exclusively take the form of shipping containers or other single-unit transportable structures, represent another style of modular facility. This approach provides a high level of portability and speed, but a low level of completeness, lacking close integration with the on premise utility supply. HP, Sun Microsystems, Dell, AST and SGI gained attention with their “data center in a box” solutions, though success has been somewhat elusive for these firms.
Pre-fabricated designs are semi-permanent structures that are partially assembled before being shipped. This approach offers mid-range portability, completeness and speed. Bladeroom, Centercore, NxGen, Compass and RAD Data Center Systems are several approaches that provide factory-tested, standard data center designs that are largely pre-assembled.