When it comes to data center design, construction, and operation, the goal is to create a scalable, high-performance data center while expediting time-to-revenue. However, cost considerations will vary depending on where you are in data center deployment. You want to minimize construction costs, only if cutting construction costs will not negatively impact operational costs later. By deploying a modular data center, you can benefit cost savings in both construction and operations, ultimately minimizing total cost of ownership (TCO).
Saving on Construction Costs
To calculate TCO, you need to start with data center construction. When comparing costs of a modular data center to a stick-built data center, the cost of materials and construction may make the modular option seem to be the more expensive choice. However, when you look at all factors involved in design, assembly and installation, you will find a modular data center is going to be much more cost-effective. Here are just a few ways you save on construction costs:
- Real estate costs – Modular data center construction can deliver savings before you even break ground. Real estate costs are rising, especially in metropolitan areas where there is high demand for data centers and property costs are most expensive. These metropolitan areas where cost and demand are at a premium, include Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Northern Virginia and Silicon Valley. Modular data centers can help circumvent this issue, as they have a compact design. This means they can be installed almost anywhere, whether it is inside or on-top of an existing structure, adjacent to a building or in a parking lot.
- Installation costs – One of the biggest challenges contractors face today is a shortage of qualified laborers. Though data center construction is expected to double over the next few years, only three percent of millennials have any interest in making construction a career, which will prolong the national skilled labor shortage. Commissioning a prefabricated data center that is delivered ready to install significantly reduces the need for skilled electricians and engineers on site.
- Time saving – In data center construction, as in all things, time is money. Building modular data centers can reduce construction time by as much as 30 percent. Outsourcing data center construction is much more efficient and allows you to continue on-site construction, while the data center is being assembled off-site.
- Total cost control – Commissioning a pre built data center gives you total control over costs and delivery schedules. According to a construction survey by KPMG, only 31 percent of projects came within 10 percent of budget, and 25 percent of projects were within 10 percent of original deadlines. With a factory-built data center, costs and delivery dates are fixed in advance, so there are no surprises.
Savings on Operational Costs
Operating costs for a modular data center also are substantially lower than conventional data center designs. Modular units tend to be more compact, which means they are more energy-efficient. When you consider the operational savings you get with a modular design, the TCO for modular data centers looks very appealing. Here are just some of the ways you can save operating costs with modular data centers:
- Less space required – Although commercial space is still expensive, the cost of office space in major markets, such as New York City and the San Francisco Bay Area, have been dropping; and in growing markets, like Seattle, Denver, and Charlotte, North Carolina, commercial rents are climbing with no end in sight. Going modular means your data center has a more compact design, which can reduce the amount of square footage required.
- Scalable design – Modular means building the right-sized data center solution. Most data centers are overbuilt to accommodate additional IT systems, chillers, backup systems, etc., as the data center expands. By integrating a modular design, additional computing power can be added as needed, without having to overprovision from the start.
- Lower PUE – Scalable modular data centers reduce TCO by improving power usage effectiveness (PUE). PUE is calculated by comparing the total energy entering a data center and the total energy used by the IT equipment, including cooling, ventilation, power conversion, distribution, etc. Modular data centers are designed using matched components, so capacity matches computing requirements, rather than overprovisioning for future expansion. Implementing this design results in a substantially lower PUE.
- Less cooling required – Matching IT components for optimal performance means more compact designs that require less cooling. Cooling consumes about half the power of conventional data centers. While modular designs require less cooling, they also give you various energy-saving cooling options, including rear door heat exchanger, in-row cooling, split systems, air or water cooling, free air cooling when available, and more. The more compact design of prefabricated modules can reduce the space needed not only for cooling, but heating and ventilation processes, which results in savings between $100 and $150 per square foot.
- Alternative energy options – When assessing PUE, the total energy entering the data center can include alternative energy sources, such as solar or wind power. Modular data centers, especially external self-contained units, can be equipped with solar panels and solar storage to offset power consumption and lower PUE. Green House Data, for example, has a data center that is 100 percent wind powered and has an average PUE of 1.25, and as low as 1.14.
- Modular is mobile – With the right modular design, you also get portability .In the event that the company offices move or the data center needs to be relocated elsewhere, it’s much easier to transport a self-contained modular data center, especially if it’s on a skid or a self-contained enclosure, which protects your data center investment. The plug-and-play modular design makes it easier to relocate pre built systems or entire data centers, without having to reconnect and reconfigure individual components, which saves time and money.
These are just a few of the ways that modular data centers can save any organization money. When you consider TCO, including capital expenditure (capex) and operating expenses (opex), you will find that modular design will save you more in the long run. If you want to learn more about modular data center trends and strategies, be sure to read The Complete Guide to Modular Data Center Solutions.