There has been a seismic shift in the world of modular data centers recently that should have every organization considering a new data center taking notice. When you consider that prefabricated, modular data centers can often be developed at about the same cost as data centers being built using traditional processes, while delivering faster deployment, better performance and designed-in scalability, you see why cloud and hyperscale operators have already embraced the modular data center concept and enterprises are following suit.

Until recently, free-standing modular data centers were limited to container-based designs that worked well in some applications but didn’t meet the needs of most organizations. Containers can’t adapt to specific site requirements, aren’t aesthetically pleasing when deployed as a free-standing facility and can’t scale to meet the requirements of hyperscale and colo applications.

Companies that needed the benefits of modularity, most notably speed of deployment, but couldn’t tolerate the design constraints imposed by containers, began working with major infrastructure vendors to re-imagine the modular data center in a way that retained its best features while adding the desired design flexibility.

The result is a new class of freestanding modular data centers that have none of the cookie-cutter look and feel of a container — they are customized, aesthetically appealing facilities. And these modular data centers are being deployed in up 40% less time than using traditional construction.  Here are two examples:

  •  Facebook’s Luleå 2 data center in Luleå, Sweden, brings the principles of the company’s rapid deployment data center initiative to life in the form of a 125,000 square foot data center built from more than 250 shippable modules to create one of the world’s most efficient and sustainable data centers.
  • T-Systems 1.1 MW cloud data center in Iberia, Spain is a completely prefabricated facility supporting 38 modules comprising thermal management, power distribution, controls and management software, plus ancillary systems.

What these companies have discovered in developing modular data centers is that the changes in the development process required to support pre-fabrication have benefits that extend beyond speed of deployment.

Prefabricated data centers require a collaborative, holistic approach to design. Rather than the traditional serial approach in which the project is initiated by an architect, passed to a consulting engineer, then to a contractor, and finally bid to technology vendors, prefabrication brings together all of these parties at the front end of the project.

This process has allowed data center systems to be more precisely matched to site requirements, resulting in better system performance. The prefabrication process also provides greater control over integration and construction that have traditionally been done on site but can now be performed in a controlled environment by experienced craftsmen. And, the modular nature of the resulting data center simplifies capacity growth and expansion. It’s an approach that, when managed by an experienced partner, delivers multiple benefits without adding to costs.