Need for speed: prefab market gaining momentum

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Prefabricated data centre solutions are growing in popularity, but operators are demanding the same levels of resilience and Tier certification that they are accustomed to with traditional data centre builds. 

Prefabricated solutions can be delivered in as little as 16 weeks and this speed of deployment is a key benefit for colocation providers seeking rapid growth.

The Uptime Institute reports that prefabricated and modular data centres are on a growth trajectory as organisations strive to bring business services closer to their constituents. Other market intelligence appears to substantiate this view, with the modular data centres market expected to grow US$800m by 2022, at a high compound annual growth rate of 23%. 

To address this demand, Schneider Electric has been working with the Uptime Institute to deliver solutions that meet the requirements for cost-effective deployment as well as resilience.

Part of Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure for Data Center architecture, Tier-ready reviewed designs are now available as a 90kW Tier II All-in-One module and a 500kW Tier III multi-module solution for 400V regions. Each reference design includes comprehensive technical documentation, schematics, layouts and equipment all reviewed and approved by the Uptime Institute. 

The Tier-Ready design review programme has been developed to help improve the process from design to deployment for customers who are pursuing full Tier certification for their prefabricated modular data centres.  

“Prefabrication makes the whole process simpler and dramatically reduces costs for the end-user,” explains Scott Neal, global product marketing director, prefabricated data centres, Schneider Electric. “We expect to see an increase in uptake of this approach and are already seeing a lot of interest. The prefab market is being driven by the need for speed, standardisation and higher quality.” 

Prefabricated solutions can be delivered in as little as 16 weeks, depending on the size of the unit, and this speed of deployment is a key benefit for colocation providers seeking rapid growth. The modular nature of prefabricated facility modules also enables scaling and right-sizing to actual data centre loads. Right-sizing has the potential to eliminate up to 50% of the electrical bill in real-world installations, according to Schneider Electric’s calculations. This, in combination with current power and cooling distribution technologies, is claimed to result in TCO savings of nearly 30% compared with a traditional data centre (27.2% capital cost and 31.6% operating cost).

Whether deployed for edge sites or medium to large colocation providers, prefab solutions cannot afford to compromise on security or resilience, however. 

“Services must be delivered with the same level of mission critical performance seen in larger data centres, but at a dramatically smaller scale, which can be deployed in a fraction of the time, all without incurring the traditional risk associated with remote infrastructures,” comments Uptime Institute chief revenue officer Phil Collerton. 

“The Tier-Ready design review programme dramatically simplifies and speeds up the Tier certification process,” he adds.

With the prefabricated modular data centre market showing strong growth and increasing demands for more critical power with shorter lead times, Schneider has expanded its range of prefabricated power modules and skids from 625kW up to 1.25MW in 400V regions. The customisable designs feature the latest high efficiency Galaxy VX UPS with Li-ion battery options, Prisma LV switchboards, and are all EcoStruxure ready. 

“Large retailers, industrial sites, the mining sector and even hospitals are looking for a simplistic approach. They are finding that they need to put a data centre where they have never had one before and it needs to be robust,” Neal explains. 

“A prefab structure makes this easy. Hospitals are increasingly reliant on digitisation, for example, but the space to accommodate new data centre infrastructure just isn’t there. Locating the data centre outside of the hospital building, through a prefabricated solution, means that valuable space can be kept free for patient care.”

Schneider Electric points out that traditional designs almost always intentionally incorporate excess capacity upfront because subsequent expansion of power and cooling capacity is extremely difficult and costly in a traditional data centre. This often has the effect of people being overly conservative in capacity planning which then results in higher upfront capital costs and a chronically inefficient data centre. 

The proper deployment of prefabricated facility modules, on the other hand, eliminates this wasteful over-sizing tendency, because standardised, modular architecture makes adding or reducing capacity to meet real-world, dynamic demand much easier. 

Ultimately, prefabricated design resolves many issues for many industries, according to Neal, but what sets the Schneider solution apart is the breadth of capabilities that are being integrated into the prefabricated portfolio – from power and cooling, to software and monitoring services. 

“In 2018, we have seen a large adoption rate and the data centre sector is now seeing this as a viable option… the big growth is largely being driven by the mid-scale, up to the hyperscale, but adoption is also being seen with edge platforms,” comments Neal. 

 He adds that the growth in adoption has been on a global scale (although the main focus has been within North America). However, there has been a particularly rapid increase in Asia, which has surpassed expectations. Many colos are expanding into the Asian markets and using prefabricated solutions to support their growth in the region. 

Power modules, in particular, are helping to manage this expansion, in terms of infrastructure. Even where the IT space retains a traditional approach, power is being moved outside of the building, Neal concludes. 

Schneider has expanded its range of prefabricated power modules


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