Containers have become a hyperscale and multitenant data center (MTDC) industry design standard, integrating both mechanical and electrical equipment into the overall prototype program. Originally, they consisted of a modular design that included servers installed in a container supported by a 2N design with water-cooled HVAC units and a UPS installed within the racks. Mike Manos, who worked at Microsoft, played a big role in the design of containers, so everyone thought the design would take off, including HP. Yet, the server container industry really didn’t gain traction.
Enterprise clients were hesitant to put servers outside or within a warehouse. Additionally, Digital Realty was developing skiffs that were pre-engineered for electrical equipment off-site and installed at their data centers.
As we entered the COVID-19 era, the industry as a whole continued construction, since data centers are considered essential businesses. Certain projects may have gone on hold to adjust to this new protocol, but, in general, life went on.
Effects of COVID-19
It wasn’t as if the industry planned for COVID-19 to occur; we are just fortunate that our construction concepts adhered to the times. As we develop prototypes for both hyperscale facilities and MTDCs, most designs integrate exterior containers that support electrical and mechanical operations.
A typical hyperscale construction project can have between 300 to 600 electricians on-site, which is a nightmare in regard to social distancing and other COVID-19 procedures. As we move to a modular design and installation process, equipment is manufactured off-site, which considerably reduces the number of electricians on-site. Additionally, it enables manufacturers to maintain a steady production schedule. Data centers are a speed-to-market industry, and having inventory the manufacturer knows will be depleted helps our overall cause.
Also, as equipment is being constructed off-site, Level 4 commissioning (Cx) is integrated with factory testing, reducing Cx agents in the field.
Our biggest challenge to date is the 14-day quarantine period the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends after travel, but, luckily, virtual site visits are now a reality.
There are No Conclusions
When it comes to COVID-19, I have no conclusion or predictions. But every time I look at one of our job sites, I hear Outkast and Snoop Dog singing “So Fresh and So Clean.”