Designing Scalable, Modular, Digital Data Centers

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Meeting the data growth demand

The data centre colocation market is growing exponentially, with research estimating that this sector alone was worth $51.8 billion at the close of 2020, registering a CAGR of 12.4% during the forecast period 2015-2020.

In addition to the growing requirement for data in all aspects of industry and society, enterprises large and small are waking up to the benefits of using colocation for their IT needs. Better interconnectivity, improved uptime and flexible resource allocation, as well as additional space on-site, reduced utility bills and a lesser need for IT expertise, are all appealing benefits for the end user and are further fuelling growth in the market.

For colocation providers, the key to sustainable and profitable growth is to open and lease each phase of the data centre as quickly as possible, to start leveraging their investment and generating revenue.

For that reason, many colocation providers are building their data centres in smaller blocks so they can open one section while they begin building the next. This limits the upfront investment and the time before revenue generation begins. It also allows providers to secure tenants earlier, which is important in such a competitive, fast-paced environment.

When using this ‘pay as you grow’ building strategy there are many design considerations and scalable technologies that can minimize the cost of subsequent builds and the disruption to operations.

This whitepaper will provide a holistic view of:

  • Data center electrification
  • Reproducible and standardized topologies
  • State-of-the-art scalable technologies

The advantages of designing scalable data centres

Building for tomorrow

Installing vast data centres from the ground up or adding large scale extensions to existing locations requires considerable upfront costs. Often, the space built is not leased straight away and this ‘building for tomorrow’ mentality can result in delayed revenues and ongoing running and maintenance costs for empty server rooms.

Pay as you grow

An alternative, and an increasingly popular method, is to ‘pay as you grow’ – a strategic growth path which requires less upfront cost and can generate faster revenues.

Using modular systems, replicatable and standardized topologies and scalable digital technologies, colocation providers can expand in smaller blocks, repeating the process many times as demand continues to grow.

There are four main benefits driving a growing preference for scalable data centers:

Increased speed to deployment

In a study conducted during the DCD>Building at Scale conference in June of 2020, 39 percent of professionals working in the data center industry said that projects are being deployed in under a year, and 66 percent in under 18 months. To keep up with this demand, data center designers will have to select more scalable solutions. These lead times are significantly shorter than a decade ago, where data center projects stretched well over 2 years, a build strategy that simply would not meet the data demand of today’s rapidly growing market.

Improved reliability

In such a fast pace build environment, using processes that are reliable and predictable delivers many benefits. The consistency and standardization of repeatable designs, reduces risk, maintains a tight build schedule and results in prefabricated systems which are reliable in both performance and in maintenance. Once scaled, modular designs are reliable having been successfully built, commissioned and used in previous stages. This build method takes the uncertainty out of a campus expansion plan, or the rapid addition of new build centers to an expanding data center campus.

Reduced capital costs and resources

Building for today’s requirement using modular build methods allows colocation providers to only invest an amount that will deliver a fast return via rapid uptake of server space and a timely generation of revenue. By breaking down the upfront investment into smaller chunks, revenues can be generated on each investment before the next modular expansion begins. This allows data centers to be more flexible in their response to market changes. Furthermore, the installation of a modular building block is faster and more efficient onsite, requiring less resources. In turn this translates into lower risk and further time and cost savings.

Energy efficiency

By building in modules, data centers can secure tenants for each phase before building the next. If a data center is built but not occupied, power losses and inefficiencies from equipment such as uninterruptable power supplies will have a negative impact on the site’s energy efficiency. Each modular building block should be around 80 percent capacity to optimize efficiencies. Once a module is around 80 percent utilized, and at this point planning for the next module can begin.

Introducing the key design considerations for scalability

The task of creating a fortress-like data center that safely and securely stores and manages business critical data and applications under every conceivable situation, while simultaneously accommodating both short-term and long-term growth, can be daunting.

Overall, this necessitates electrification designs that are more flexible and scalable. These designs should incorporate standard blocks of power, repeated throughout, to allow for future expansion. This approach offers significant improvements over traditional data center designs.

Standardization of design improves operational reliability, yet these designs must still be flexible enough to adapt to a myriad of site requirements.

Design experts recognize these challenges and consider site variables such as utility voltage, the total size of the data center, and the optimal design for cooling based on the local climate. Scalable and repeatable designs are based on a standard size IT load that is taken as a building block. Using this tried-and-proven process ensures reliability and maintainability.

Interested to find out more about Designing scalable, modular, digital data centers? Feel free to contact us!


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