New Demand for the Modular Data Center

Data Center Maintenance


Chris Adams June 05, 2018

As IT seeks to shave milliseconds off latency and deliver services in more remote parts of the world, modular and micro-modular data centers have a lot to offer.

In the evolving world of data centers, one option getting more looks from IT organizations is modular. Prefabricated data centers can be an answer for those in need of an easy-to-launch computing facility, an upgrade or expansion within an existing building, or a remote IT post.

What is a Modular Data Center?

A modular, containerized, or prefabricated data center in many ways mirrors manufactured housing in the residential world. Construction and outfitting is handled at a facility designed and staffed to deliver a reliable and often more affordable end product, which is then delivered to the customer site.

Various vendors, such as HPE, Cisco, Huawei, and Schneider Electric, now offer pre-built data centers that arrive in a compact pod. The unit will include core infrastructure, such as power, cooling, and server racks. Many solutions also come pre-loaded with configured, tested hardware. You can check out IBM’s version here.

The concept was originally pitched for its ability to minimize the time and frustration associated with planning and overseeing a build-out. For example, in 2016, the Dubai Airport opened its Level III modular data center to host its private cloud. The entire data center was delivered in about 400 days, much quicker than on-site construction could have achieved in this case.

How Do Modular Data Centers Compare with Colocation?

Most IT pros are familiar with colocation as an option for siting IT hardware in leased, off-site data center space. Like with data center pods, colocation makes it easy to expand capacity. Additionally, the advantage of having cooling, internet bandwidth, and physical security handled by the vendor is attractive. Sharing with hundreds or thousands of other clients can deliver cost-savings on internet and electricity, and the facility’s features—such as physical security, power system backups, and mirrored data centers for emergency failover—may exceed what the enterprise could provide in house.

These are among the reasons colocation shot forward, with a market size of nearly $30 billion by 2016. The modular data center has so far paled in comparison at about $13 billion last year.

Which one to choose generally boils down to whether on-site or off-site is the right answer. Colocation can offer substantial advantages in terms of vendor management, heightened security and resilience, and cost-savings. When on-site is the best way to go—as for more remote areas where connectivity between facility and colocation may be slow—modular data centers can often hold their own against a traditional build.

The Edge Era

The balance is tipped toward colocation for many enterprises in or near well-connected urban environments, but the story isn’t yet finished on modular data centers. The emergence of IoT and the need for edge computing to reduce latency is driving increased interest in prefabricated solutions. Enterprises are assessing how they can place smaller data centers closer to where data is being generated, whether at the factory, at a hospital, or in a remote office anywhere in the world. Modular data centers offer a turn-key option, executable by local, non-specialist construction firms installing shipped-in, preconfigured systems.

Suddenly, modular is looking at a projected $38 billion market by 2021, $10 billion behind colocation’s expected value. And an interesting area just coming online is the micro-modular data center. Although spending was only about $18 million in 2017, the approach is expected to be used in some 2,000 installations this year representing significantly more in total outlay than the micro-modular component itself.

As IT seeks to shave milliseconds off latency and deliver services in more remote parts of the world, modular and micro-modular data centers have a lot to offer. Combining such a facility with high-quality, post-warranty support can further reduce costs over the long run, so organizations may want to investigate their maintenance options when considering modular capabilities and which vendor to select.

About the Author

Chris Adams, President and Chief Executive Officer
As President and CEO, he works side-by-side with other key leaders throughout the company managing day-to-day operations of Park Place. His key objectives include streamlining work processes and ensuring that all business initiatives and objectives are in sync. Chris focuses on key growth strategies and initiatives to improve profitability for Park Place, and is responsible for European and Asia-Pacific sales and service operations.