BladeRoom Brings its Data Center Building Blocks to the U.S. Market

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The exterior of a data center created with technology from BladeRoom, which is partnering with Modular Power Solutions to enter the U.S. market. (Photo: BladeRoom)

BladeRoom is bringing its next-generation modular data center designs to the U.S. market. The U.K.-based company has teamed with Modular Power Solutions to form BladeRoom USA, which will manufacture pre-fab components in a factory in Michigan to create modular data centers at customer sites across the U.S. In January the company will open a technology center in Chicago to showcase its designs.

BladeRoom has built more than 30 data centers in Europe, Asia and Africa using designs that can be delivered in as little as 20 weeks. These include Merlin, the CapGemini UK data center that is among the most efficient in the world. BladeRoom says its designs, which feature fresh-air cooling, can deliver Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) energy efficiency ratings of between 1.09 and 1.17 in major markets in the U.S.

The 20-year-old company came to the data center business via an unusual route. Its initial focus was creating modular buildings for commercial kitchens (including some for the Olympic Games), which required expertise in heat management. It then built more than 150 modular operating rooms for hospitals, technical complex facilities which required exceptional filtration and ventilation to maintain a sterile environment. In 2008 it rebranded as BladeRoom and shifted its focus to the data center industry.

Humble Origins, Global Ambitions

“We come from humble origins building operating rooms and kitchens,” said Barnaby Smith, Head of Communications for BladeRoom USA. “We break the overall data center down into a series of pre-engineered building blocks. You can combine these to create a facility of any size and density.”

Although it has humble origins, BladeRoom is plenty ambitious about its expansion into the U.S. market.

“We see BladeRoom USA leading the necessary progression of the data center industry because we are the only manufacturer of a factory assembled facility that is built to your exact requirements without compromising the flexibility and robustness of a traditional data center,” said Smith. “Our facilities become operational faster, and operate at a lower cost than your standard data center solution due to increased energy efficiency.”

Modular Power Solutions (MPS) is a unit of Rosendin Holdings (also the parent of Rosendin Electric), and has delivered more than 60 megawatts of modular power rooms for clients including Digital Realty Trust and Bank of America. With its experience delivering modular power infrastructure, MPS/Rosendin proved an ideal partner for BladeRoom’s expertise in modular IT data halls.

“We’ve always had our eye on the US market,” said Smith. “Last year we made contact with Rosendin. Once they saw the systems, they were interested.”

Flexibility in Modular Design

BladeRoom is in the vanguard of companies that have developed factory-built components offering greater flexibility in creating modular data centers that resemble traditional brick-and-mortar buildings. Others offering these type of next-generation designs include IO, Datapod, Colt and AST Modular.

But BladeRoom doesn’t see other modular providers as its competition.

“The (modular) competition that we’ve seen in the market are largely based on ISO solution or a data center shoehorned into a particular size,” said Smith. “It’s a very different animal than a BladeRoom. We’re competing with traditional data centers and clients looking to build a permanent data center. We do sometimes compete on modular projects, but our core focus is on the traditional data center.”

BladeRoom is IT vendor neutral, designed to accommodate any racks or free standing IT equipment and says its system can be delivered at any size and power density. BladeRoom’s modular data hall designs support IT capacities ranging from 70 kW up to 1.5 megawatts of space. Optimized for air cooling, the halls average 1 to 20kW per cabinet, with spot delivery of cabinets of up to 50kW.

The cooling system is set to automatically adjust the airflow to use the least required amount of energy and water.  BladeRoom is optimized to use filtered outside air in an evaporative cooling system, with a backup DX refrigerant system. The company’s “match technology” automatically ramps cooling up and down to match the IT demand. The design doesn’t use a raised floor or ductwork.

“This really is the secret sauce,” said Smith.

More Diverse Requirements in the U.S.

Rosendin/MPS will provide its local knowledge and operating expertise in different climates around the U.S.

“The US is a different animal from the rest of the world,” said Smith. “It’s got very diverse requirements across the country. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. We’ve adapted the system for greater flexibility for clients in different areas of the US.”

That includes the ability to create facilities with high seismic reinforcement for earthquake-prone areas or BladeRooms with high wind protection for regions where tornadoes or hurricanes are a concern.

One of BladeRoom’s selling points is the ability to use a smaller construction team when deploying its designs. “One of the benefits of a product approach is that we’ve defined our processes and components to be precise,” said Smith. “This allows us to have concurrent efforts at different sites.”

In its international business, BladeRoom says it has seen strong uptake with companies providing colocation services or wholesale data center space, including Metronode (Australia), Megatron Federal (South Africa) and Ark Continuity (UK). The same equation could work in the U.S., where service providers have been looking to outsource the construction of their facilities. One beneficiary has been Compass Datacenters, which uses a repeatable design and some pre-fab components, and is currently building data centers for Windstream, Savvis/CenturyLink and Iron Mountain.

BladeRoom USA will be opening the doors to its new BladeRoom Technology Center in Chicago, Illinois in January to allow prospective clients a first-hand look at a BladeRoom data center facility. For a visual overview of BladeRoom’s design, check out Inside a BladeRoom: A Closer Look At Its New Modular Design.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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