Insight and analysis on the data center space from industry thought leaders.

Modular Data Centers Meet Demands for Speed, Agility and Efficiency

Modular data centers provide 40 percent greater energy efficiency than an open data center environment.

Industry Perspectives

January 10, 2019

4 Min Read
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Marcus Doran is VP & GM at Rahi Systems, Europe.

IT teams recognize that the traditional “box-by-box” approach to deploying IT infrastructure is no longer sustainable. Businesses require ever-more-rapid rollout of new applications and services. This reality is helping to drive the adoption of hyperconverged infrastructure and other modular, pre-integrated systems.

A similar approach can drive efficiencies in the implementation of physical data center infrastructure. Instead of specifying, configuring and installing individual racks, cabinets, cooling systems and other components, organizations can take advantage of modular data center systems. Modular data centers include all the resources an organization needs to build out data center space in an integrated package.

The Prefab Approach

Modular data centers are self-contained units that can be installed virtually anywhere. In a typical configuration, racks and cabinets are set up in two rows with aisle space in between, or in a single row with aisle space to be placed against a wall. A roof, aisle doors and blanking panels create a fully enclosed unit with integrated cooling and aisle containment. Many units also incorporate cable management, power distribution and physical security.

Modular data centers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Smaller units, often called “pods,” typically provide space for up to six enclosures. Larger systems can support up to 40 enclosures of varying dimensions. Best-in-class units are highly flexible, enabling organizations to specify the overall dimensions, the types of enclosures and cooling system, and other features.

A key benefit of modular data centers is speed of deployment. They can be assembled quickly in virtually any location — an existing data center, a co-location facility, or even office or warehouse space. That makes them ideal for lab and testing environments as well as production data center infrastructure.

Greater Data Center Efficiency

Because all infrastructure components are included, modular data centers help create a consistent, standardized data center environment that streamlines IT operations and provides predictable performance. Modular data centers can be scaled by adding more units, making it easier to accommodate changing business and IT requirements.

Cooling efficiency is another feature of modular data centers. It is easier to cool the confined space of the modular data center than one large room, and built-in aisle containment minimizes hot and cold air mixing. According to data from BICSI (Building Industry Consulting Service International), modular data centers provide 40 percent greater energy efficiency than an open data center environment. What’s more, the in-row cooling units that are used in best-in-class modular data centers cool more effectively than traditional computer room air conditioning units. It’s simple physics — the chilled air travels a shorter distance to reach the equipment, so heat can be dissipated faster.

The cooling efficiencies afforded by modular data centers help to minimize the problem of stranded capacity. Adding more equipment does not increase the heat load of the data center or create hotspots, and pods can be strategically positioned to optimize airflow. Organizations can maximize the capacity of their valuable data center space.

A New Organizational Unit

The value of modular data centers raises a question: Does the rack still make sense as the basic unit of measure for data center resources?

Traditionally, data center managers have described data center space in terms of the number of racks and the amount of power consumed by the equipment in each rack. However, that approach does not take into consideration all of the physical infrastructure components necessary to support IT services. The modular data center offers a new way of thinking about the data center environment.

The modular data center makes capacity planning simpler, enabling data center operators to precisely meet the power, cooling and cabling requirements of the equipment. All of the IT resources needed to support a particular workload can be organized in one unit of space to facilitate operational processes and change management.

This approach makes even more sense given the rise of edge computing. Organizations can use modular data centers to provide a uniform design in edge facilities and to serve as the basic unit of data center infrastructure.

Building out data center infrastructure using a traditional best-of-breed approach is too slow and complex to meet accelerating business demands. Just as hyperconverged infrastructure has helped to streamline the deployment of compute, storage and networking resources, modular data centers enable fast, consistent implementation of energy-efficient physical infrastructure.

Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating.


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