The Buzz: 6 Reasons Why the Modular Data Center Market Is Growing So Fast, Part 2

The market for modular data centers is growing fast. And it’s easy to see why: IT leaders report significant benefits from modular data center deployments, including scalability, reduced capital cost, and installation efficiency (see The Buzz: Modular v. Raised Floor Data Centers – 6 Factors to Consider, Part 1). In that blog post and this one, I have 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 4-6.

4. Energy efficiency

Last year, Arizona Public Service (APS) – the power utility serving IO’s Phoenix data center – conducted a yearlong independent study of power usage efficiency (PUE) between our traditional raised-floor data center and our modular data center. The comparison was particularly useful because (possibly for the first time ever) both the traditional and modular data centers being compared shared the same building envelope, the same chiller plant, the same power sources, and the same climate.

Data Center Knowledge explains the outcome of what it dubbed the PUE faceoff: “APS found the modular design offered significant improvements in efficiency and economics. The utility said the raised-floor area within IO Phoenix had a PUE of 1.73 for 2012, while the modular data center environment had a PUE of 1.41. That difference translates into an annual savings of $200,000 per megawatt of average IT power for customers using the IO.Anywhere modular build-out instead of the raised floor space at IO.”

What is it about the modular data center that it can deliver such significant energy efficiencies? DCD Intelligence explains: “Modular solutions are designed to ensure a more efficient use of space and with features that promote greater energy efficiency. Specific features include sealed walls, floors, and doors, as well as under-floor or overhead cooling systems. The use of more precise airflow systems allows modular data centers to support 20 kWh or more per cabinet. This contrasts with traditional data centers which, because of their design, typically have an energy density of 0.1 kWh per square foot.”

5. DCIM integration

Naming IO a Visionary in the Magic Quadrant for Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) Tools, Gartner explained, “Data center infrastructure management tools optimize data centers by monitoring and managing IT and facilities resources and energy consumption. Data center and facilities managers can use this Magic Quadrant to identify DCIM technology providers and determine which meet their prioritized needs.”

DCD Intelligence explains the benefits of a modular data center pre-integrated with a data center infrastructure management tool: “The pre-integrated nature of DCIM in a modular scenario removes the risk of delay or difficulty integrating a new DCIM solution. The inclusion of DCIM technology within a modular facility has additional implications for operator budgets. Opting for a modular solution which comes with DCIM pre-integrated potentially eliminates the need for operators to purchase a separate DCIM package at a later date.”

6. Continuous improvement

IO VP of Engineering and Product Development Andreas Zoll explains the advantages of a standardized, factory manufactured production of the modular data center: “So we have this standardized platform that allows us to compare apples to apples – how the product runs and operates over time. With the help of IO Applied Intelligence we crunch those numbers and look for trends – for information within the data set that will help us drive the efficiency and effectiveness of the product over time.”

Microsoft’s Principal Infrastructure Architect explains his company’s perspective on the modular data center: “Vendors are constantly trying to sell their technology claiming they are more efficient or lower cost. Now the module is a data center in itself and when module vendors compete against each other, they will come up with the best possible solution and prices will decrease as supply and standardization increases. And from Microsoft’s perspective…All we care about is who can provide us the most compute most efficiently at lowest cost.”

As I wrote in The Buzz: Modular v. Raised Floor Data Centers – 6 Factors to Consider, Part 1, modular is not always the right infrastructure model for every organization in every case. (For that reason, IO continues to operate a raised-floor data center, to serve the needs of colocation customers for whom modular doesn’t make the most sense). But in many cases, IT leaders see greater benefits in a modular data center deployment than a traditional raised-floor data center. Including scalability, reduced capital cost, installation efficiency, energy efficiency, DCIM integration, and continuous improvement.