The news that Baidu has chosen to take a prefab approach to extend the capability at its Beijing M1 data center park has hit the headlines in force. As the largest Chinese search engine and Chinese website worldwide, Baidu daily processes billions of search requests for its users. Unsurprisingly, its business model depends upon a network of “integrated, comprehensive data center to satisfy explosive demand and to ensure rapid response and efficient operation while reducing costs”.
What’s perhaps surprising to some traditionalists is that Baidu has decided to take a prefabricated, modular approach to developing the infrastructure resource at its M1 Data Center Park. Up until now there was legacy containerized infrastucture that tended to be associated with those hard to solve applications in difficult environments where on-site engineering can be a challenge. Not the sort of conditions that you’d expect to find in an existing data center park. But definitely the sort of use which we anticipated with the acquisition of AST Modular earlier this year.
Baidu has an established reputation for innovation. The company’s growth has been so rapid that it’s really not so many years since it was working with Intel to figure out which processors they should use to reduce the energy demand of their servers in co-located facilities. Since operational expenses are going to be a major cost on any data centric business, standardized, modular architecture is the ideal approach for ensuring that infrastructure is not only appropriate to the IT load, but agile enough to be scaled quickly as requirements change.
Baidu have been quick to realise that a “stick built” or traditional data center is unlikely to be able to meet the demands for rapid expansion with predictable performance. By moving away from a “craft” approach to building data centers, and turning it into an industrialized production process Schneider Electric has been able to bring customers some compelling advantages – in the first instance cost and quality can be far better controlled in a factory environment.
But prefabrication, pre-assembly and factory testing also gives the data center developer greater certainty about the performance of the infrastructure components to be delivered to the construction site, as well as when it’s going to arrive! It also provides a route to greater site productivity which has traditionally been extremely low on data center constructions. One of the challenges of traditional builds is that very often it’s the first time a team has worked together on a build or encountered some of the parts to be integrated.
At their M1 Data Center Park, Baidu has specified two prefabricated modules to be designed and built with energy saving, performance enhancing solutions including In-Row air conditioning and integrated DCIM software, as well as IT cabinets, UPS, cable management, and fire suppression and access security. Each unit is delivered as a complete solution, with the IT infrastructure preinstalled in the modules and ready for quick deployment. Since they are being installed outside, the modules are constructed with insulated wall panels that are weather proof, highly secure, and designed for any environment.
Like their earlier approach to server designs, Baidu has created a template for the extension of their data center infrastructure. This means that in the future, the company can predict exactly the timing and cost to enhance its data processing resources in order to meet the needs of a rapidly growing user community. And that, in turn, means that it can better control both its capital budgets and operational expenses to optimise its business model. Needless to say, Schneider Electric is proud to have a role in this.