How to Approach a Move to Modular or Pre-Fab Data Centers

What do you do when a data center is reaching the limits of its capacity? Often, modular or pre-fabricated data center tactics are considered in this scenario.

Colleen Miller

April 2, 2015

3 Min Read
How to Approach a Move to Modular or Pre-Fab Data Centers
Rittal, above at a trade show, is a company with long experience in the data center equipment business.

Data center managers and operators face many challenges today, including concerns such as cost, capacity or even the increasing use of cloud computing. One situation faced by industry leaders is what to do when a data center is reaching the limits of its capacity, as many are. The questions revolve around how to increase capacity quickly, easily, and affordably. Often, modular or pre-fabricated data center tactics are considered in this scenario.


At the spring Data Center World, which will convene in Las Vegas on April 19-23, Herb Villa, Senior Application Engineer, Rittal, will present a session, "The Move To Modular: A Technology Review." The conference’s educational tracks will include many topical sessions, covering issues and new technologies that data center managers, service providers as well as owners and operators face.

Container, Modular or Pre-Fabricated

Villa said that there is a need for language clarity in the modular or pre-fabricated part of the industry. "I use the term pre-configured," he said. "Some use the word modular to mean a 100,000-square-foot data center that is built out in increments of 20,000 square-feet, in a modular style." He said that is not correctly referring to pre-configured or pre-fabricated units that are factory-built off-site. "We need to first speak a common language," he added.

For the technology review, while planning for the move to pre-fabricated units, there are simple questions the end user needs to focus upon:

  • What are my organization's priorities?

  • Where are we going? Is it our own space, local space, remote space or a shared space?

  • What are we putting in there? What kinds of products do we have or need to purchase? E.g. servers, switches, etc.

  • What are your organization's plans for growth? What does the current and future state look like?

Staffing and Resources

Two other key factors in considering modular or pre-fabricated units is the "allocation and availability of resources, both money and people," Villa said.
These are important consideration in buy vs. build discussions, he said.

Villa said that the end user needs to have the answers to these questions in mind when dealing with their vendors. "I am not going to tell you where you are going or what you should be doing," he said. "I am going to listen to what you are telling me."

System Thinking

Many companies are moving from a component-based solution, where every piece of equipment is "cherry-picked" to a solution that comprises an entire system, Villa said. He said the purchase is more like buying an automobile now, with options, such as adding an infant seat. One is purchasing an entire transport system, that is branded Ford or Mercedes.

"End users are moving beyond traditional IT space to the industrialization of IT space," he said. This means systems are manufactured and pre-configured off-site, then deployed in the customer's space. He said one example of an application of this is when IT equipment lives outside a data space, such as on the factory floor.

German-based Rittal, which is an enclosure manufacturer with products covering the power, cooling, enclosure, software monitoring and climate control spaces, is deploying these kinds of pre-configured products globally. For example, Villa said, a DIY room based kit, deployed in Southeast Asia, China and the Middle East, is very popular in regions where there is less environmental and physical security than the United States. It was launched two years ago by a German-based cloud provider and it has gained traction around the world. "It's a viable solution where appropriate," he said.

To learn more and discuss the pre-fabricated approach to data centers, attend Villa's session at Data Center World Global Conference in Las Vegas this month. To register, visit the Data Center World website.

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