What is a Modular Data Center?

A data center is a purpose-built structure designed specifically to house multiple computer servers and data storage equipment, along with the requisite support systems for power distribution, cooling and critical backup power functions.

A modular data center is a construction approach whereby a data center is designed in prebuilt blocks or modules (IT racks, power, and cooling), which are easily deployable, so that capacity can be added commensurate with the compute requirements, thereby minimizing the initial capital investment and improving the power unit efficiency (PUE). A conventional or stick-built data center takes longer to build and results in higher initial capital investment, as well as increased operating costs (OPEX), because of costly stranded infrastructure capacity, which is never efficiently utilized until the data center reaches its full capacity.

For example, housing 200 data racks in a data center requires a specific amount of square footage inside that center. Additionally, the power and cooling infrastructure for the data center must be designed and built to support the entire load from the outset. But say that, initially, you only needed to house 20 racks. It would be impractical to build a structure designed to house only 20 racks; doing so would constrain future growth – both in terms of square footage and support systems. Likewise, constructing a data center capable of housing 200 racks would also be impractical, when only 20 racks would initially be deployed.

With a modular approach, you can implement a smaller system that houses those first 20 racks, and contains the necessary power and cooling infrastructure to support them, and nothing more. Then, when the data center’s compute requirements increase, additional modules for IT racks, power and cooling can easily be deployed in a more cost effective manner.

Modular data centers, therefore, offer tremendous flexibility, and make good business sense on many levels. However, it is critical at the outset of planning to account for multiple issues of structural integrity and security, as well as the laws and regulations that govern the construction, transportation, installation and operation of modular data centers.

In our next post, we’ll take a closer look at these issues, including the structural integrity of modular data centers and some things to keep in mind when transporting modular data centers.

For questions about modular data centers, PCX’s modular data center solutions, or all other PCX solutions and services, please call us at 919.550.2800.