Making sense of pre-fab data centre options

Schneider Electric pre-frabricated R10 data centre infrastructure module. (Source: Schneider Electric)

17 July 2015

The topic of pre-fabricated data centres is often beset by ambiguous, overlapping terminology that can lead to dysfunctional discussions. To try to clear up the confusion, Wendy Torell, senior research analyst, Data Centre Science Centre, Schneider Electric, has authored a white paper that not only nails down the terminology, but also evaluates the various options and how they meet business needs.

Torell contends that a prefabricated modular data centre is defined as a data centre that is made up of at least one pre-engineered, factory-integrated, and pre-tested assembly of subsystems that have traditionally been installed separately onsite, and/or mounted on a skid or in an enclosure.

From this standpoint, the author goes on to distinguish between pre-engineered and prefabricated data centres. Torell says that although the terms are often used interchangeably, there are important differences between the two.

“A data centre that is pre-engineered is designed to meet pre-determined performance specifications, and consists of, at minimum, a documented list of materials, system level specifications, and drawings of the integrated system,” writes Torell. However, the prefabricated data centre is a one which is “pre-engineered and has its systems (hardware and software) preassembled, integrated, and tested in a factory environment to shorten deployment timeframe and improve predictability of performance”.

A reference design, Torell states, is an example of a system that is pre-engineered but not necessarily prefabricated. A power or cooling facility module is an example of a prefabricated system.

Torell goes on to explore the three attributes that together define the majority of pre-fabricated modular data centres: the functional block, form factor and configuration, under various subheadings.

In conclusion, Torell says that the optimal configuration, including the right functional blocks and form factors, depends on the application and specific business requirements. In some cases, a fully pre-fabricated data centre is the best approach, and for others, a semi-prefabricated approach with a mix of prefabricated modules and traditional systems is best.

The white paper is free, and available for download here.


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