Designing any type of data center is a collaborative process. It requires careful preplanning with input from the information technology (IT) team, engineers, architects, electricians, contractors and others. This collaboration ensures the final construction conforms to specifications and meets both current and future data processing needs. Even with input from so many stakeholders, the needs of the engineer responsible for managing the data center can be overlooked. However, with modular data centers, the compartmentalized design can simplify day-to-day operations and maintenance.
Modular data centers offer a variety of advantages. They are compact and promote higher density computing, with lower power use effectiveness (PUE). They reduce time to deployment because they arrive either ready to assemble or as a self-contained unit. They are versatile and easy to scale, so you don’t need to overdesign for future computing needs because you can add capacity as required. Also, all the components used in modular data centers are fully customizable, so the design can accommodate available space and still deliver the necessary capacity.
These benefits are the result of careful planning at the design stage, but what about after installation? When properly designed, modular data centers can be easier to operate and maintain than many stick-built data centers.
Modular Design Advantages for Data Center Engineers
Even though modular data centers are prefabricated, the modular design makes it easier to access systems, connections and equipment. Here are just five of the advantages data center engineers see from using a modular data center design:
- Available space and expansion – One of the reasons to opt for a modular design is to accommodate available space. Systems can be designed and components configured to expand an existing data center or even fit an unusual space. Self-contained modular data centers have a small footprint and can be installed adjacent to office buildings, in a parking lot or almost anywhere that allows for close proximity, without a property investment. For example, micro data centers for edge computing applications need to be physically located near the data source to reduce latency. By utilizing a modular design, these micro data centers can be prefabricated and installed adjacent to data storage facilities, without requiring a large build-out. Modular design also makes expansion easier, as additional prefabricated components can be added as needed.
- Better cooling and airflow management – Properly designed modular data centers deliver superior PUE, and much of that efficiency comes from cooling and airflow management. Cooling is made more efficient because of the smaller space and modular design. In addition, precision airflow requires less HVAC and less energy to cool racks and cabinets, while making it easier to accommodate expansion without overtaxing the cooling system.
- Easy access for maintenance and repairs – Modular design simplifies maintenance because system controls are readily accessible. Panels are positioned so equipment problems are easy to identify, and hardware can be swapped out quickly by design. An added benefit of self-contained modular Tier II and IV data centers is concurrent maintainability, which makes it possible to perform mechanical and electrical repairs, without affecting the power, IT load, cooling or other data center functions. When combined with data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software, problems can be isolated and resolved much faster than with most conventional data center designs.
- Enhanced security – Security is an ongoing concern for data center engineers. Prefabricated data centers can be delivered with physical security built in, including biometric locks, fire suppression systems and protection from electromagnetic interference. The compact, modular design also makes it easier to set up the data center inside another secure building or facility. In addition, modular data centers are ideal for disaster recovery, especially if it is configured as a standalone system.
- Standardized and repeatable design – Once you have developed and documented a modular data center design, that same design model can be used to create similar modules or even entire data centers. The advantage of cloning the design is that it simplifies manufacturing, because you are using the same parts. It also standardizes maintenance by using the same configuration across different modules at the same or multiple locations.
Every modular data center design is unique, consisting of different matching components to deliver the client’s required performance. However, prefabricated doesn’t have to mean that systems are difficult to access, operate and maintain. An efficient modular design goes beyond merely meeting specifications, as it delivers superior performance and supportability. Modular designs also have the end user in mind, and data center engineers will find that their jobs are much easier when they work with modular data centers.
If you want to learn more about modular data center design and how it can benefit your operation, be sure to download The Complete Guide to Modular Data Centers.