Data drives the modern world. Between cloud computing, big data, and the Internet of Things (IoT), this data-generation frenzy is creating a colocation data center construction boom. But COVID-19 has caused major supply chain issues for the construction industry, which is making it difficult to build enough new data centers to keep up with the demand.
Colocation data center operation is already a competitive field during normal times. With materials currently hard to come by reliably, many organizations are looking for ways to gain an advantage in the marketplace. One strategy that is gaining popularity is using modular construction, instead of stick-built, for new colocation facilities.
Why Choose a Modular Approach to Colocation Data Center Design?
Modular colocation data centers have several advantages over traditional data centers, including scalability, quality, reliability, reduced environmental impact, and cost savings.
Modular data center construction isn’t an all-or-nothing initiative. The nature of modular design makes incremental growth possible, so colocation facilities can increase capacity as needed, without the wasted expense of maintaining unused space.
Because modular colocation data centers are built in a controlled factory environment, there are fewer quality issues, components are more readily available, and there is less waste because materials can be recycled and reused. Many of the expenses associated with traditional construction practices—waste removal, construction crews, equipment, and so on—aren’t necessary when building a modular data center.
If you are planning to build or expand a colocation data center in the near future and you want to learn more about modular construction, here is what you can expect during the process -- from planning to installation.
Choosing a Modular Construction Partner
One of the most stressful parts of any new project is picking the right vendors and service providers. Finding the right modular data center construction partner isn’t any easier.
It’s important to do your due diligence during the hiring process, because the difference between hiring the right partner and hiring the wrong one can mean thousands of wasted dollars, hours of rework, and many unnecessary headaches.
A few important questions to ask during the information-gathering phase are:
- Does your potential partner have experience building modular colocation facilities?
- Do they understand your organization’s goals and have a plan to help you achieve them?
- Do they have a quality management system in place and a strong track record for sticking to scope and budget?
- Do they take a vendor-agnostic approach to sourcing materials and components so supply chain issues are less impactful?
The Modular Data Center Construction Process
Once you find the right partner and sign off on the scope of the project, it’s time to start the construction process. At this stage, the differences between traditional and modular approaches to building a data center really stand out.
The modular approach to data center design, combined with the latest construction techniques, allows for high-quality, scalable, and fast deployment of data center capacity that traditional construction processes can’t match.
Modular construction is efficient and fluid, so what might take two years to achieve using traditional construction will go much faster in a factory-built environment. In fact, because modular build activities are done in parallel, rather than sequentially, it can take up to 30 percent less time to complete a modular data center.
Data centers are notoriously bad for the environment because they require large amounts of energy to run the equipment and cool the facility. But modular data centers are designed to reduce their environmental impact both during the construction process and during day-to-day operation.
Unlike traditional construction, modular data centers are built in a controlled environment that doesn’t require clearing land, bringing in heavy equipment, and constant traffic to and from the site, which significantly reduces emissions. Modular design practices also minimize waste by reusing and recycling materials that otherwise would end up in a landfill.
Because modular colocation data centers are customizable, the space can be designed to optimize cooling. Owners can also select from a broad range of energy-efficient components and sustainable power sources for long-term savings and a smaller carbon footprint.
This is one area in particular where your due diligence comes into play. Do your homework and select a modular data center vendor that adheres to the highest quality standards, such as ISO 9001:2015 quality management principles.
These partners have strict quality controls in place that are designed to eliminate waste during fabrication and assembly. In addition, they conduct pretesting and precommissioning before delivery, so your colocation data center is up to code and ready to perform out of the box.
Third-party inspections and UL testing
Modules are tested before they are delivered, to ensure they comply with the National Electric Code and UL Classifications. This provides owners with the peace of mind that the colocation facility is in compliance with regulations and that tenant data is secure from day one.
The Modular Data Center Installation Process
The construction industry is facing a critical shortage of skilled labor, which makes modular colocation data center construction even more appealing. The modules are prebuilt and pretested at the factory according to your specifications. Then the data center is delivered to your site in whatever configuration you prefer, ready for fast installation by the vendor’s technicians. These configurations are:
- Prefabricated: The data center is complete with modular enclosures, and all IT, power, and cooling capabilities are fully tested at the factory.
- Partially prefabricated: The major components are built and tested at the factory, then they are delivered to your site for integration with a stick-built colocation data center.
- All-in-one: The data center is in a self-contained unit; just add network and power connections after delivery.
Today’s high demand for data, coupled with significant supply chain and staffing issues is driving more colocation data center owners to consider modular construction over traditional data center building techniques.
Modular colocation data centers are customizable, scalable, and fast to build and install, which can create a huge advantage in this highly competitive marketplace.
Download The Complete Guide to Modular Data Center Solutions to learn more about the benefits of choosing modular for colocation data center construction or expansion.