An Essential Strategy to Future Proof the Data Center
The speed of disruption and the current data surge cycle continues to demand transformation in the data center industry. The response to these demands bring (prefabricated modular) PFM data centers to the arena – delivering low-risk, high-value implementations with the added benefits of faster delivery and easier on-site assembly.
But new technology invariably introduces a knowledge gap, and perceived risks of the unknown: what do we mean when we say prefabricated, what do we mean when we say modular, and what benefits do they confer to the construction, operation, and modification of critical facilities like data centers?
This white paper addresses those questions and provides clarity on the specific benefits that PFM data centers can offer over traditional construction techniques; benefits that could eventually see PFM shift from being an alternative and disruptive technology to becoming the default option for new data center capacity in the future.
Disruption in the data center industry brings a multitude of challenges, but one primary concern is universal: how to manage unpredictable growing demand today while remaining flexible for the future.
Growing edge compute use cases will potentially require vast volumes of medium to small (or even micro) data centers to manage the workloads associated with an explosion in demand related to IoT. Edge site deployments could range from a 5MW facility in a city to a single, hardened-rack next to a 5G mast on a building rooftop. Meeting that disruption from the core to the edge with conventional building approaches where every new facility is a “beautiful, unique snowflake” will be near impossible.
Traditional approaches, such as the conventional ‘stick-build’ construction process, have represented the default choice for many organizations seeking to add capacity simply because there has been no viable alternative. However, traditional methods have proven insufficient in many cases. They can’t meet the accelerated development requirements of dynamic organizations and often don’t factor future growth into the design. Relying on these processes, organizations have either had to deploy capacity before it is needed —creating risk and stranding capital— or consistently stay a step behind their capacity requirements, limiting growth.
Prefabricated and/or modular methods are increasingly the choice of data center owners and operators for the value of its integrated approach. Designing, configuring, and fabricating data center infrastructure off-site is creating tighter integration across systems, streamlining processes and enhancing management of those systems. Through the review of the background and history that led PFM data centers towards industry mass adoption, a summary of variations that meet market demands, and analysis of PFM benefits, this paper provides information and support as to why PFM should be a default consideration for data center operators.
“PFM methodology is becoming the preferred way to expand and build new data center capacity, turnkey or critical subsystems. Underpinned by industrial processes, it has distinct advantages in terms of quality control, installation speed and build consistency”Daniel Bizo, principal analyst 451 Research.
A Variety of Solutions
Prefabricated modular encompasses data centers and other critical facilities that are pre-engineered with systems assembled, integrated, and tested in a factory environment to shorten deployment time frame and improve the predictability of both schedule and cost performance. They are flexible, allowing for faster deployment and lower risk, scalable, allowing for customization and rapid response to unforeseen demand, and efficient, allowing for lower total cost.
It can include such subsystems as thermal management, power protection and distribution, controls and management software, and services — plus ancillary systems such as lighting, fire protection, physical security, and water treatment — pre-configured to create a complete environment for the efficient and reliable operation of technology systems.
For the expansion of pre-existing facilities and retrofits, building block solutions range from single enclosed racks to larger multi-rack contained systems may represent a viable answer, as they allow for a staged retrofit or expansion with minimal disruption and controlled growth. A refresh of this nature could include a range of other form-factors including infrastructure that is not entirely enclosed but delivered on a skid.
For new builds, prefabricated facilities represent an emerging solution. These modular, facility-sized solutions allow organizations to bring new capacity online faster and can be easily scaled. Prefabricated methods design the growth plan into the solution from the beginning. PFM data centers are custom designed to match the geography, climate, technology profile, IT applications, and business objectives of a project while taking advantage of the speed and economy of modular design and pre-fabrication. Modular integration techniques combined with the off-site prefabrication process results in a state-of-the-art, tightly integrated facility deployed faster and at an overall lower cost than a similar facility using traditional construction practices.
For augmentation of conventional facilities, PFM units can be deployed to add additional power (UPS) or cooling capacity to a new or existing site that may have sufficient whitespace but that are constrained from a thermal or resiliency perspective.
A specific example of this technology in action is Vertiv’s Power Module product family. The Power Module design is for deployment in new or existing facilities that require an agile and flexible way to scale-up power distribution and resiliency.
At new sites it allows the data center operator to deploy critical power infrastructure in a pre-packaged way, independent from other construction activities. For existing facilities, the module deploys outside the facility without taking up expensive floor-space that could otherwise be used for IT equipment. Operators can also utilize the module in a site architecture that is hot scalable – meaning you can add capacity to the site by simply adding additional units, without taking the critical loads offline.
For expansion beyond the core data center, PFM units come in various shapes and sizes, but come fully self-contained and, in some cases, ready-to-order. The all-in-one data center generally includes IT cabinets, power distribution, and uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) with batteries and direct expansion cooling.
This ‘plug and play’ approach has the benefit of not only cutting the time for startup and commissioning – to just a few days instead of weeks or months – but also reducing the potential for quality issues as components are pre-integrated and pre-tested off-site. The pre-engineered and integrated design also provides greater cost-certainty for customers by reducing the likelihood of additional on-site modifications. The ability to enable on-site assembly rather than build and integration allows the data center to push closer to businesses and consumers in previously inaccessible locations.
We know that every project is different, and that the selection, setup, and configuration of new products can be intimidating. Why not lean on the experts to help design and build a solution for your challenges? As your local Vertiv representative, our Access, Inc. sales engineers have years of experience in designing systems specific to your application.