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Green Grid: Modular data centres are more efficient

Prefabricated modules cost less to construct and use less energy

Modular and prefabricated data centres are significantly cheaper and more energy-efficient than traditional site-constructed facilities, according to a new report from The Green Grid.

The report, entitled "Deploying and Using Containerized/Modular Data Centre Facilities," states that the prefabricated approach to data centre construction is cheaper, because it eliminates the expense of custom engineering and architecture. Modular data centres also tend to use higher-density IT equipment that requires less space and consequently less construction.

Meanwhile, these pre-engineered structures can offer improved performance because structural defects are ironed out early in the design process. Most modular data centres are optimised for energy efficiency, with their heat loads located close to their cooling coils, meaning that less energy is required for cooling. Many are also designed to tolerate wider variation in temperature and humidity.

Lower energy costs and optimised maintenance procedures inevitably result in a lower overall operational cost per unit of IT, the report states.

"The assembly line revolutionised manufacturing and commoditised many goods, creating efficiencies in both cost and performance," said Tim Mohin, Green Grid board member and director of corporate responsibility at AMD. "The same revolution is now happening in data centre production and deployment, building greater potential for cost savings and increased energy efficiency."

The modular approach comes with a number of other benefits, such as reducing the time to market, simplifying the refresh process and reducing the risks associated with performing integration activities in an operational data centre.

The Green Grid acknowledges that there are a number of common concerns to do with the reliability of modular data centres. For example, the degree of resilience, redundancy, and uptime applied in the design and deployment of a given module varies greatly, and many data centre operators are concerned about the security of modular facilities.

However, the report states that modules can be made to be as secure as traditional brick-and-mortar facilities through the use of heavy locked doors, badge systems, and alarm systems, and in most cases it is easier and less expensive to construct a secure module than to design, build, and secure a large, fixed data centre facility.

"With the amount of data we create increasing exponentially each year, companies across the globe are looking for ways to maximise their resources as they are faced with more information to store and maintain," said Mark Monroe, executive director of The Green Grid. "The modular data centre is an increasingly popular alternative since it's more cost-effective and can be equipped with higher density, energy saving technologies that also reduce costs as well as space."

Last year Colt Technology Services Group unveiled a 500-square-meter modular data centre hall that can be built and deployed within four months. The units are made up of 12 modules that can be loaded onto a truck and assembled at a customer site or within one of Colt's own data centre sites.

Other companies building modular data centres include Dell, HP, SGI, Capgemini and Microsoft.


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