Things to consider when going Modular


24 July 2015
David Chee of Fujitsu Singapore

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.

Modernising and consolidating a data centre offers opportunities for increased efficiency. However, the 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 these 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.


The case for a modular data centre

While modular data centres and traditional data centres share a number of similarities, such as the need for security, cooling and support from staff and vendors, a modular framework offers benefits which include:

  • 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 organization’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 minimized as compared to a non-modular design.


Things to consider when going Modular

With data centres, it is important to consider not just the initial investment, but also the relevant cost across the entire lifecycle of the data centre. This includes planning, designing, operation and maintenance. There are also several other questions that organisations should think about before deciding whether or not to go modular, and how to go about it.

  • Do you need to own the hardware?

Deciding whether to own the hardware will greatly impact an organisation’s operating investments. By switching to a modular data centre model, organisations can reduce their IT costs and risks, and new technology can be deployed quickly according to business circumstances. IT manpower requirements can also be reduced, and with it the challenge of retaining staff with IT skills.

  • Do you require a say in what goes into the infrastructure?

A reliable modular data centre vendor will offer consulting services and devise a flexible and fit-for-purpose solution that meets the client’s needs. The design and planning of the solution should include various aspects of the modular data centre such as how air conditioning/ventilation, safety and security systems and energy efficiency, amongst others, are implemented.

  • Do you need to have control over the design and management of the workload?

Prefabricated modules allow for rapid time-to-productivity and are easily re-deployable, making them easier to design and manage. A modular data centre also allows for high redundancy and cuts down on the time required for site planning and preparation.  

  • Is risk management a concern?

Unforeseen events such as natural disasters like earthquakes and large-scale flooding can threaten economic and social continuity. The ability to house support infrastructures at different locations can help isolate the impact of these events to a single location and provide for fast failover when needed.

Think carefully about the questions above as you evaluate whether the modular data centre is your best option.

David Chee is the country head for Managed Services & Cloud Computing, Fujitsu Singapore