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How Prefabricated Data Centers Are Booming in the IT Sector?

Updated on Jun 1, 2022
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What Are Prefab Data Centers?

Prefabricated data centers are specialized data centers with standardized and pre-engineered components whose infrastructure units are assembled in the factory as per the demands of a project. These units can later be assembled in the field according to use. In the data center jargon, these units are called modules. For this reason, prefabricated data centers are sometimes also referred to as modular data centers. These centers offer increased functionality, interchangeability, and a combination of their modules.

Prefab data centers are a more evolved form of containerized data centers. The latter typically deploys its infrastructure in 20 or 40-inch containers. These containers are easily movable, expandable, changeable, deployable, and conveniently handled. Given relatively smooth environmental and natural conditions, these data centers are easily installed at various locations such as exploration sites, military sites, maritime research vessels, etc. One of the greatest perks of a prefab data center is that it is six times stronger with less than half the construction cost of its legacy counterpart. Tier1 Research, an established researcher in the data center industry, studied datacenter costs and based it on 20 modular data center (MDC) providers. They calculated that the value should be $10 per watt on average. However, tech giants like Google incur costs below $5 per watt due to economy of scale. For individual, containerized, facility modules, it can be much lower.

When not deployed to external peripheral or disaster recovery locations, these containers can be removed for indoor use without affecting their operational ability.

Prefabricated data centers commonly take the forms of containerized or modular centers, but they also come in other forms. Any data center with a customized infrastructure and the ability to reassemble its unit can be categorized as a prefab modular data center and will more or less offer similar perks and functionalities.

What Are the Advantages of Prefabricated Modular Data Centers Compared to Legacy Datacenters?

Prefabricated data centers have precedence over legacy data centers for several reasons.

Simplifying Design Complexity

Unlike legacy data centers, prefabricated data centers work tremendously well when it comes to simplifying the complexity of design and saving space. Since they are not functionally adjusted at the beginning of the construction, their modular units are a strategic and cost-effective combination of the server room, power room, and cooling room.

Increased Reliability Due to In-house Assembly

Another great perk of a prefabricated in-house data center is the optimized engineering quality of its modular units. The units for modular data centers are prefabricated in-house. The infrastructure includes rack cabinets, cooling equipment, power distribution units and networks, monitoring, wires, lights, lighting, panels, and the terminals connecting them. Assembling these units in-house increases their reliability and functionality.

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Standardized Installation

Following a simple installation procedure, prefabricated modular data centers can be assembled and berthed on-site. A standardized structuring method dictates the assembly of these modules and their inner components. Data centers can reduce costs, expedite the construction process, and resolve avoidable engineering difficulties with this construction method. While a legacy data center may take one to two years to complete its construction, prefabricated data centers bring down the construction period to one to two months.

Improved Efficiency and Scalability

Prefabricated data centers are built on a WYSIWYG basis, i.e., “What you see is what you get.” Since these data centers are built on demand, their modular functions and capacity can be expanded as per the need of a project, and their overall efficiency can be improved with time.

Lower Costs and Higher Power

Prefabricated data centers bring down the cost of operations and boost power density by combining hot or cold aisle containment with in-row cooling next to hot spots. The whole system ensures an even airflow, excluding gradient temperatures. The idea is to strictly manage the airflow movement and optimize the cooling efficiency of the racks. This way, prefab data centers can maintain a rack power density of 20kW and beyond for just one rack cabinet. It lowers the PUE ratio and brings down electricity charges.

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One-Stop Service

Prefabricated data centers allow business clients and manufacturers to eliminate the need to hire multiple professional services. Manufacturers can access one-stop services since the features were planned under an advanced data center infrastructure management solution. Administrators know the operation status of the data center and have full control over it at all times.

How Are Prefab Data Centers Built, Transported, and Deployed?

A prefabricated data center is pre-assembled and predesigned. It comprises modules that refer to infrastructure units or reassembled finished products to help a data center operate most efficiently. Keep in mind that instead of the individual components, manufacturers customize the entire modules.

One of the great advantages of a prefabricated data center is that manufacturers can debug the center and ensure modular compatibility. They do this by matching the components in the overall data center design and repeating the process for the production lines.

Once prefabricated data centers are designed, assembled, and tested, they can be quickly and easily deployed. This comes in handy for large-scale data centers. Since the modular functionality for such data centers is identical, they come with an infinitely scalable design. Manufacturers retain the option to add more modules per need over time since these are very flexible.

Top Prefab Data Center Manufacturers

Given the massive advantages of prefabricated modular data centers, several countries have already begun promoting the construction of these. Currently, tech giants such as Google, IBM, and Microsoft are standing at the forefront of developing prefabricated data centers.

One prefabricated modular data center by Google in Oregon, USA, became the talk of the town for its powerful infrastructure comprising 1,160 tailored servers with a PUE of up to 1.25 and power consumption of 100MW.

Delta® Infrasuite has taken over the industry as one of the leading power management and thermal solution supplier. Their goal is to maintain their customers’ mission-critical system while minimizing the cost of operation as much as they can. Not only does Delta Infrasuite understand the industry demand, but they are one of the biggest solution providers who can satisfactorily meet them. They offer both containerized data centers and prefabricated modular ones.

Other than Delta, Chinese enterprises such as Alibaba and Baidu have also embraced prefabricated data center designs. Alibaba has launched several core businesses in the north and its Zhangbei Cloud-Based Planning reached an impressive RMB 20 billion by the mid of 2016. The enterprise built two large-scale data centers in just one year in Zhangbei, where temperatures can drop to -38°C. Favoring prefabricated designs instead of legacy data centers allowed Alibaba to set up the two in a short period.

Prefabricated data center solutions can be expanded to cover small, medium, and large-scale projects and a wide range of application scenarios. Their design flexibility, ease of deployment, and lower cost of operations give them an undeniable edge over legacy data center.

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