Towards the modular data centre
07-08-2012 - John Hatcher
The mismatch between IT support for the business and infrastructure support for the IT has never been more acute; new IT services can be provisioned in minutes in a highly virtualized environment, but significant infrastructure changes are measured in months. If the data centre is not to become a barrier for the technology which supports the business, then physical infrastructure and IT need to be more closely aligned.
Consequently, new modular options are starting to gain traction over traditional approaches for physical infrastructure in new build and retro-fit data centre development. A recent survey carried out by Tier 1 Research (Datacentre 2.0 September 2011) looking at the modular data centre (MDC) market provisionally estimated the existing market size at $240 million in revenue (12 months up to mid-2011). However this is anticipated to grow annually by an average of 25% to 55% over the next five years.
Why modular architecture?
In the sense of today’s MDC’s we really mean a method of total facility construction that is modular in approach from foundation to roof, including everything in between, all delivered on a JIT basis.
The crucial attribute of modularity is that it enables standardization. This reduces cycle times, and permits quality, reliability and efficiency to be driven up and cost driven down. Fully standardized modular data centre architecture allows the designer freedom to design a unique solution to meet unique business requirements using readily available, cost-effective building blocks.
Standardized modular design provides agility to respond to changing or unexpected business opportunities. It is a major contributor to higher availability and lowered TCO; scalable to current business needs, with the capability to add to or reduce capacity when required (and eliminate oversizing - the biggest cause of inefficiency in the data centre); adaptable, with flexibility to reconfigure physical infrastructure to meet changing IT requirements; portable, with self-contained components, standard interfaces, and a logical structure. Additionally modules that fail should be easily swappable for upgrades or repair, without system shutdown where possible.
They reduce site engineering requirement and the risk of what government reports have referred to as the “fuzzy-edge” disease –interface issues between the various component parts of infrastructure systems.
During the last 12 months, Schneider Electric has introduced new solutions to meet the growing interest in standardisation and modularity, including EcoBreeze, a 400kW modular indirect evaporative and air-to-air heat exchanger cooling solution; and power and cooling facility modules for the US market as well as EMEA versions.
Facility module enclosures are purpose-engineered structural frames combined with the useful elements ISO container design such as the corner block forgings, sling attachments; latching systems and scoots. The solutions have software pre-programmed and fully integrated management systems. The units provide reliable lead times, are tuned for maximum energy efficiency "out of the box" and are predictable in performance.
The EMEA power Facility Module incorporates APC Symmetra PX 500 high efficiency modular UPS, and batteries. These units are scalable and fault tolerant, featuring hot-swappable power modules to enable users to adopt a pay-as-you-grow approach to power protection, and minimise mean time to repair (MTTR). Since code requirements vary across EMEA, Schneider Electric has built the modules to meet the most exacting requirements.
Other features include critical and 1.1MW primary load switch panels, separate cable chambers to simplify hook-up (which means it is not necessary for field install engineers to enter factory certified electric panels), inert gas fire suppression and an aspirating detection system, and a fully integrated cooling system for the UPS and batteries with direct free-cooling capability.
The cooling facility modules feature high efficiency chillers with integrated free-cooling capability and a wide operating range to cover the varying environmental conditions across the region. The new units comprise 6 x 100kW nominal chiller units designed by Uniflair to provide 500kW redundant cooling on an N+1 basis. All facility modules are fitted with Schneider fully integrated management software including Infrastruxure Central, ION Enterprise, and Continuum to meet the need for manageability.