When you’re buying a new car, having the pieces and parts shipped to your garage for assembly would never cross your mind. Yet building a car in your own garage is in many ways less complex than building a data center from scratch on site
Only recently has “buying the car instead of its parts” become broadly relevant in the data center world, as customization of “standard” elements has become a viable option. Today, prefabricated data centers are custom designed to a site and have no inherent limitations in terms of function, aesthetics, size or shape. With prefabrication, architectural requirements and preferences and custom industrial design can optimize the finished facility as your business prefers.
Companies like T Systems and Facebook have been in the news for their blockbuster custom prefabricated data centers, but the underlying concept of unified infrastructure—delivering IT or telecommunications in a single plug-and-play system or in modules—can also help companies deploying a single rack.
Benefits of Prefabrication
The major benefits of a prefabricated approach versus a traditional construction (stick-build) approach, as we see them, are speed of deployment coupled with significant cost savings. Prefabricated data centers use economies of scale and streamlined processes made possible by off-site assembly and integration. This approach can cut months off the time to deployment, allowing organizations to bring new capacity online up to 40% faster than traditional approaches. And, according to the 451 Group, prefabrication can reduce total cost of data center deployment by up to 20%.
A contributor to both deployment speed and cost savings is prefabrication’s innate scalability. Because prefabricated data centers use a modular approach to design and fabrication, they are inherently scalable and may create opportunities to delay some portion of the capital investment required for a new data center until additional capacity is required. When additional capacity is needed, new modules can be added with minimal engineering and without disrupting existing operations. This modular approach is a viable option for retrofits and expansions in addition to new builds.
On the other hand, the stick-build approach can’t meet the accelerated development requirements of dynamic organizations and often doesn’t factor future growth into the design. Relying on traditional processes, organizations have either had to deploy capacity before it is needed—creating risk and stranding capital—or consistently stay a step behind their own capacity requirements, limiting growth.
How are these benefits achieved, exactly? Prefabrication versus traditional construction is at its heart a matter of where construction takes place. Does it happen on the site where the data center will ultimately operate, or off site at a vendor location? Many factors, detailed below, contribute to the benefits of building the modules in the vendor facility.
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