The Buzz: 6 Reasons Why the Modular Data Center Market Is Growing So Fast, Part 1

Interest in modular data centers, in both “build” and colocation plays, is rising fast. New research from MarketsandMarkets forecasts the global modular data center market to grow from $6.52 billion in 2014 to $26.02 billion by 2019. That’s a compound annual growth rate of 31.9 percent.

Driving that increased interest in modular data centers is the fact that the size of the digital universe – the amount of data we produce, consume, process, and store – is increasing exponentially. Yet space to put the data center infrastructure necessary to accommodate that growing digital universe is increasingly constrained.

Data Center Journal articulates it well: “Last year, mobile-data traffic alone was nearly 18 times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000, according to Cisco’s Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast. Given this data boom, the need for standardization, predictability and scalability are now critical drivers for many growing companies, making modular data centers the go-to option to cope with rapidly expanding data needs.”

Modular is not always the right infrastructure model for every organization in every case. But in many cases, IT leaders see greater benefits in a modular data center deployment than a traditional raised-floor data center. In this and the blog post that follows, I’ve compiled six of the most commonly cited benefits of the modular data center. These are culled from third-party resources, including analyst research reports and firsthand accounts from IT leaders. Here are benefits 1-3.

1. Scalability

One of the most frequently cited benefits of the modular data center is the relative ease and speed with which it can be deployed for organizations that need to scale. In a January 2014 report, Adding Modular Capacity to an Existing Data Center, 451 Research told the story of a global investment bank (disclaimer: an IO customer) that resolved its data center capacity constraint by adding highly resilient 400kW increments of offsite, pre-manufactured data center capacity to several existing MW of capacity. These units were added within an existing data center that continued to be operational 24×7.

Adding Modular Capacity to an Existing Data Center: Results

modular data center benefits

What is it about the modular data center that enables greater scalability? In large part, it is the speed with which the modular data center can de deployed. Whereas it might take 12-24 months to deploy new raised-floor data center capacity, a modular data center can be deployed in as little as 4 months.

And time, of course, is money. According to research by DCD Intelligence, costs associated with the deployment phase are 13-14 percent lower for a modular data center compared to a traditional data center. This stems in large part  from the more complex installation processes in a traditional data center build, which require longer time frames and more resources (and thus cost more). Furthermore, faster time-to-market can itself yield substantial revenue gains through faster time-to-revenue and a competitive edge in the marketplace.

2. Reduced capital cost

Another frequently cited benefit of the modular data center compared to the traditional raised-floor data center is relatively lower capital expenses. Interviewed by Data Center Knowledge, 451 Research analyst John Stanley explains: “Based on our research, we think it’s reasonable that you could get 10 percent to 30 percent savings on CapEx (capital expenditures) from using a pre-fabricated, modular approach, compared to a good traditional build. The cost savings are worth looking into, and could be significant.”

When DCD Intelligence analyzed total cost of ownership of a 4 MW traditional raised-floor data center and a 4 MW modular data center, the research firm found that modular deployments can cost nearly 14 percent less than traditional facilities.

What is it about the modular data center that it can deliver 10-30 percent CapEx savings? Christian Belady, Principal Infrastructure Architect at Microsoft, says one of the advantages of modularization is that it “moves cost from upfront investment to server deployment: One of the big advantages for modular data centers is the fact that you pay as you go since with modules the power, cooling and IT scale together. This really delays capital costs but also eliminates the unused capacity as the data center is filling up. This has huge cost savings.”

3. Installation efficiency

In an article titled Modular data centers: Weighing the pros and cons, FCW makes the point that “Plug-in modularity could also alleviate some of the day-to-day installation and maintenance headaches IT departments face. Because the infrastructure components arrive as a prefabricated unit, the IT staff doesn’t spend time specifying and procuring individual components and then assembling them into a working unit. That could enable CIOs to dedicate their technical experts to improving the agencies’ operations rather than focusing on routine tasks, or they could even reduce their staffs.”

Stay tuned for The Buzz: 6 Reasons Why the Modular Data Center Market Is Growing So Fast, Part 2, where I’ll detail modular benefits 4-6: energy efficiency, DCIM integration, and continuous improvement.