The Pros and Cons of Prefabricated Modular Data Centres



According to analyst firm 451 Research, prefabricated modular (PFM) data centres are rapidly evolving and starting to win mainstream support. In fact the firm states: “Prefabrication is ready to transform the data centre world.” I have no doubt that prefabricated modular data centres will positively impact the data centre industry as a whole; however, they are not the silver bullet when it comes to efficient data centre builds. As the old adage goes, there are two sides to every story and it’s important to understand both the advantages and drawbacks of adopting the PFM approach.


It’s best to understand the benefits of PFM data centres in the context of modularity in the data centre world. A modular data centre system is designed with predictable and cash management and energy efficiency in mind, as it allows for larger systems to be built from smaller standard sub-systems and deliver capacity closer to the end users. Interxion has pioneered the modular data centre approach – at our inception, we created the option for 33 smaller data centres straight away and continue to add capacity, without any customer interruption; and we add new, premium equipped space to these facilities when customer demand must be met. This enables us to maximise power, space and cooling systems and to improve our power usage effectiveness (PUE) through smart design and procurement measures.

A prefabricated data centre is one type of a modular facility and it means the parts are shipped to the customer site and then assembled when capacity is needed. Having prefabricated data centre modules allows the planning cycle to switch from an onsite construction focus to an onsite integration of prefabricated building blocks. Because these modules come pre-engineered and wired with integrated hardware and software, they are ready to be deployed quickly and easily when they arrive on-site. Additionally, by having the modules manufactured outside the build, it should lower the cost dramatically. Ultimately, prefabricated data centre modules enable a whole new-generation of data centres that have multiple levels of densities, criticalities and possible Tier levels, which gives the user a number of ways to utilize and optimize their data centre. This also means there are multiple form factors and power ranges, inside or outside deployment.


While there are many advantages to adopting the PFM data centre approach, it’s not for everybody. One hurdle to overcome is that PFM systems come in pre-determined sizes, so users might not be able to build a data centre to the exact size they’d like. Similarly, there might also be certain design preferences that users can’t meet, which alters the aesthetics of the facility, and certain physical constraints might deter users from using the PFM data centre approach. Last but not least; if the module is transported under some vibration and/ or G-force, re-torqueing is recommend for some of the Busbar joints – though this is currently being addressed by installing G-force metres on trucks.

Prefabricated data centres are the latest innovation in the perpetual corporate IT challenge to increase productivity while reducing costs. Though there are clear advantages of prefabricated data centres, there is no one-size-fits-all data centre design solution. The reality is that every company will have different needs in design specifications and it’s important to find a supplier who is willing to work to fulfill those requirements within your budget. In many instances, the benefits of prefabricated modular data centres will outweigh the disadvantages, but it’s important to conduct upfront analysis and construct a well-laid plan to ensure it’s a prudent business decision.