June 7, 2012

Dallas was abuzz with talk of data centers at the 21st Century Data Center Symposium (21CDCS), presented by Integrated Design Group. Trends covered in the full-day data center conference included: modular data center designs, leveraging intelligence from internet superstars, and energy efficient/green data center design. DPR's Advanced Technology Core Market Group Leader Mark Thompson teamed up with Digital Realty Vice President of Development Services Steve Kundich at 21CDCS to give a presentation called, "Scalable Containerized and Prefabricated: Modular Component Solutions."

In their presentation, they discussed what's involved in developing a modular strategy for data centers. Although modular is a tool, it is not magic. While owners are looking for ways to lower cost and increase efficiency by coming up with better ways to design and deploy data centers, teams still need to have core competencies to successfully deliver modular data centers. 

One consideration to keep in mind is that modular is sometimes cheaper but not always. Reports indicate that cost is the same to 20% lower (as compared to traditional). Opportunities to save include:

  • Subs completing the design early and making decisions early
  • Speculation, which involves performing the design and procurement of modular fabrication before customer commitment. Although the speculation trend stopped after 2005 and involves uncertainty, it is still an option.

Schedule performance can be achieved by: 

  • Getting the site secured/entitled
  • Having standardized/repeatable designs
  • Working with high performing vendors
  • Making decisions with no changes

Something to remember is that modular is evolving. It's a piece of the puzzle. Steve and Mark advise that if you are thinking about using it, ask yourself: how will modular help achieve goals? Will it? Can you get early procurement? Early procurement will help with schedule, as will a high performing team.

Steve and Mark suggest to use lean techniques and think of your team as a production system--with or without modular. Throw modular in and it gets even better.