Why Would Companies Buy A Modular Solution?

Posted by on November 29, 2012


CAPEX: Data center design and construction costs can vary widely, according to a large number of criteria. This makes cost comparisons of all kinds of construction difficult, contentious and sometimes misleading. A CAPEX cost of $15m per MW of IT load is a mid-level estimate for a traditional build that would be appropriate for enterprise use. That is the number used in a recent report by 451 Group (The Economics of Prefabricated Modular Data Centers)  for a traditional build, to which prefabricated modular CAPEX costs are compared. The middle 50% of CAPEX cost estimates for prefabricated modular designs are in the range of $8m-11m/MW. The median estimate is around $9m/MW. Prefabricated modular design and delivery of data centers can reduce CAPEX costs by 10-30%.

Deferred Capital Cost: As a large capital expense, building a data center is typically a large project that requires a lot of money upfront to anticipate forecasted IT needs for the next 10 to 15 years. Rapidly changing technology in the data center makes it difficult to justify such a large capital expense for a building that will only hopefully keep pace with technology demands. Modular solutions can be seen as a way to intelligently apply capital to the data center in line with changing technology and IT requirements.

Operating Expense: The engineering in modular solutions has proven, known efficiency throughout subsystems which allow regular operating expenses to be optimized. Optimized power and cooling built-in to modules equate to a lower overall operating expense. The fact that modules are engineered products means that internal subsystems are tightly integrated which results in efficiency gains in power and cooling in the module. First generation and pure IT modules will most likely not have efficiency gains other than those enjoyed from a similar containment solution inside of a traditional data center. Having a modular power plant in close proximity to the IT it serves will save money in costly distribution gear and power loss from being so close. There are opportunities to use energy management platforms within modules as well, with all subsystems being engineered as a whole.

Real Estate: Modules allow operators to build out in increments of power instead of space. Many second generation modular products feature evaporative cooling, taking advantage of outside air. A radical shift in data center design takes away the true brick and mortar of a data center, placing modules in an outdoor park, connected by supporting infrastructure and protected only by a perimeter fence. Some modular solutions offer stacking also — putting twice the capacity in the same footprint.


Rightsizing: Modular design ultimately enables an optimized delivery approach for matching IT needs. This ability to right-size infrastructure as IT needs grow enables enterprise alignment with IT and data center strategies. The module container can also provide capacity when needed quickly for projects or temporary capacity adjustments.

Supply Chain: Many of the attributes of a modular approach speak to the implementation of a supply chain process at the data center level. As a means of optimizing deployment, the IT manager directs vendors and controls costs throughout the supply chain.

Total Cost of Ownership:

  • Acquisition: Underutilized infrastructure due to over-building is eliminated by being deployed as needed.
  • Installation: Weeks and months instead of more than 12 months.
  • Operations: Standardized components to support and modules are engineered for extreme-efficiency.
  • Maintenance: Standardized components enable universal maintenance programs.



Speed of Deployment: Modular solutions have incredibly quick timeframes from order to deployment. As a standardized solution it is manufactured and able to be ordered, customized and delivered to the data center site in a matter of months (or less). Having a module manufactured also means that the site construction can progress in parallel, instead of a linear, dependent transition.

Standardization: Seen as a part of the industrialization of data centers the modular solution is a standardized approach to build a data center, much like Henry Ford took towards building cars. Manufactured data center modules are constructed against a set model of components at a different location instead of the data center site. Standardized infrastructure within the modules enable standard operating procedures to be used universally. Since the module is prefabricated, the operational procedures are identical and can be packaged together with the modular solution to provide standardized documentation for subsystems within the module.

Scalability: With a repeatable, standardized design, it is easy to match demand and scale infrastructure quickly. The only limitations on scale for a modular data center are the supporting infrastructure at the data center site and available land. Another characteristic of scalability is the flexibility it grants by having modules that can be easily replaced when obsolete or if updated technology is needed.

Mobility and Placement: A modular data center can be delivered where ever its desired by the end user. A modular solution is mobile in the sense that it can be transported in pieces and reassembled quickly on-site. Mobility is an attractive feature for those looking at modular for disaster recovery solutions.

Density and PUE: Density in a traditional data center is typically 100 watts per square foot. In a modular solution the space is used very efficiently and features densities as much as 20 kilowatts per cabinet. Because the module is pre-engineered and standardized densities are higher and the effective use of electrical power is improved.  (The Economics of Prefabricated Modular Datacenters; 451 Group, 2012).

Universal Networking Services is proud to be the North America Authorized Agent for Datapod™ .  Our partnership with Datapod™ allows us to deliver a unique alternative to the traditional bricks and mortar data center installation. We can provide the data center community an alternative solution that maximizes their investment and increases the reliability and availability of their mission-critical facility.  Datapod is an unique, modular data center system that incorporates innovative design and cutting edge mechanical and electrical engineering. Datapod has extended the concept of modular data center design to include critical site infrastructure such as modular generators, chillers, and deployment services thereby providing a complete infrastructure solution for data centers. By enabling data center users to deploy when they like, where they like and for how long they like, the Datapod system offers performance superior to that of  a “bricks and mortar” data center facility, deploys faster and at a more cost-effective price point.

Please feel free to email us at info@datapodnorthamerica.com or contact us to learn more.

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