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Why modular data centres are the way forward

David Chee, Country Head, Managed Services & Cloud Computing, Fujitsu Singapore | Sept. 18, 2015
New systems must be agile and scalable to help ensure more work can be performed and new applications and services can be deployed with minimal business disruption.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

As the pace of business continues to accelerate, competitive pressures are pushing the boundaries of existing data centres. In an attempt to keep pace, many IT managers expand existing infrastructure and increase compute capacity by adding servers. Over time, this strategy results in sprawling and hard-to-manage infrastructure that consumes valuable data centre floor space and creates excessive power and cooling demands. While modernising and consolidating a data centre offers opportunities for increased efficiency, new systems must be agile and scalable to help ensure more work can be performed and new applications and services can be deployed with minimal business disruption.

A variety of solutions have surfaced to address the challenges of space, agility and scalability while addressing the need for efficient integration and deployment. One of which is the modular data centre — an approach to data centre design that implies either a prefabricated data centre module or a deployment method for delivering data centre infrastructure in a modular, quick and flexible method. This should not be confused with the containerised data centre, where all components of the data centre are scaled down so that each unit functions as a whole.

According to MarketsandMarkets, the global modular data centre market is forecasted to reach US$26.02 billion by 2019 at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 31.9 percent, with an expectation of increased market traction between 2014 and 2019 in the Asia Pacific region.

Today's data centre challenges:

  • Cost – Many CFOs focus on the upfront capital costs when looking at a new data centre proposal, not realising that the operating costs may amount to three to five times the capital costs over a 20-year period.
  • Age of the facility – Older data centres are cost demanding due to their power, cooling, spatial layout and operational requirements. According to Gartner, a new well-designed data centre can provide companies with a 400 percent capacity growth in 60 percent less space.
  • Floor space and density – Data centre managers are quickly confronted with the issue of finite floor space as data centres expand. Servers, racks and floor space are often not maximised to disperse the heat load.
  • Power and cooling – Data centres are known for its intense energy requirement, with electricity accounting for more than 50 percent of the operating expenditure in a typical data centre in Singapore, according to IDA.

The modular data centre solution/advantage
Traditional and modular data centres share a number of similarities, such as the need for security, cooling and support from staff and vendors. However, a modular framework offers additional advantages such as:

  • Resilience of support infrastructure – Each support infrastructure such as the uninterruptible power supply (UPS), batteries and transformers are housed within their own fire-rated room and located at different location. In the event of disaster, the event is contained within the room and will not affect the other components.
  • Increased security – With a modular design, the computer room air conditioner (CRAC) unit, UPS and other support infrastructure is physically separated from the data-hall. This limits maintenance staff from accessing the organisation's valuable data equipment.
  • Scalability – As technology improves and racks get denser each year to better leverage the floor space, each of the support infrastructure can be upgraded to meet the demand with little impact to the workload running in the data centre.
  • Efficiency – Space, power and equipment are better utilised in the modular data centre. The impact of maintenance can also be minimised as compared to a non-modular design.


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