I’ve written previously about how our analysis shows that containerized data center facility modules can save big money as compared to the traditional build-on-site approach – about 30% in terms of total cost of ownership over time. In this post we’re doing to delve into a bit more of where those savings come from.
Just so we’re on the same page, facility modules refer to pre-engineered, pre-assembled / integrated, and pre-tested data center physical infrastructure systems – such as for power and/or cooling – that are delivered as standardized “plug-in” modules to a data center site. They can take several forms, including self-contained 40 ft. by 8 ft. shipping containers, modular add-ons to existing buildings and systems delivered on skids that can be housed in a warehouse, for example.
Facility modules result in an initial cost savings of 13% or more after you tally up the tab for hardware and software, design and installation costs for a data center expansion of 500 kW power and cooling capacity.
Hardware and software costs include the mechanical and electrical room physical infrastructure hardware, including UPS, heat exchanger, air-cooled chiller, pumps, filters, lighting and more, along with management and controls system. These costs are about 40% higher for facility modules because they require some additional materials, such as the container shell. You’re also paying for the cost of pre-assembling and integrating the hardware, software and controls.
That pre-assembly and integration winds up saving you money in the design phase because facility modules are designed in a research and development area, tested, then released to manufacturing. Once in manufacturing, the design is “stamped out” and shipped to the end user.
Compare that to the traditional approach where multiple parties play a role in developing the design, which includes two types of costs: equipment selection & layout, and site plan design/engineering. It requires numerous meetings as electrical contractors, mechanical contractors, designers, end users, facilities folks, IT departments and executives all get their say. They argue design points back and forth, politics plays a significant role, and decisions often have to be made serially.
In the case of facility modules, the equipment selection and layout is already done in the factory and is rolled into system cost. Site plan design and engineering, which can be 5% of the total project cost in the traditional model, is reduced by more than 80% because site layout and planning becomes much simpler. It generally involves just four trades – structural engineer, civil engineer, electrical engineer, and an architectural review.
Installation costs include all work performed in the field to assemble, integrate, and commission the system for operation. This includes site prep (digging, grading, laying concrete and the like) and power and cooling installation, which involves unpacking components and making all the (many) proper connections among components and to existing facilities. Management software and controls must also be installed and tuned to the desired level of performance, which requires time and expertise. Finally, the finished product must be commissioned, which involves documenting and validating the result of the data center’s design and build process.
With facility modules much of the integration work is already done and the installation is generally much less invasive. As a result, costs are reduced in each of these areas, by as much as 60% for systems project management, 50% for power and cooling installation and 25% for commissioning, for example.
To learn more about the cost savings to be had with facility modules, as well as instances where they may not be your best choice, read Schneider Electric white paper number 163, “Containerized Power and Cooling Modules for Data Centers.”