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Modularity and its bright future


These days terms such as modularity, pay-as-you-go (or in this case "grow") and containerized Data Centers are widespread and are becoming a trend in the Data Center business. As a result, many research companies are measuring this trend and trying to use it for marketing purposes.

A press release from "MarketsandMarkets" states that the modular Data Center market is expected to reach $40.41 billion by 2018 at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 37.41% between 2013 and 2018. (1)

Due to this trend, numerous different products and solutions are entering the market. Many people are talking about containerized Data Centers when thinking modular. But the market and manufacturers make an important distinction between the different types of modular builds.

A source at IBM sees the whole modular market as shown in this diagram, which gives a good overview of this market and clearly distinguishes all the different kinds of Data Centers.

In the world of Data Centers there is a field that involves modular solutions in general. But modular – i.e. not defined – has many distinct vantage points. And this modular approach therefore gives rise to various categories (see chart). IBM has defined these categories as follows: 

“Prefabricated solutions” does not mean that a solution is transportable, but that it has the advantage of providing the customer with a ready integrated solution. If this prefabricated solution needs to be transportable, IBM refers to the PMDC (prefabricated modular Data Center), which could be in a shipping container or a purpose-built Data Center “skin”. This “skin” could even be a shipping container (non-ISO or ISO), if something entirely transportable and standardized is desired.

Amongst all the advantages of a modular approach over a bricks and mortar building, “day 1 CAPEX” is the most interesting from the customer's perspective . As well as a quicker deployment time and scalability, the day 1 CAPEX is especially appealing to new customers in this field. The “pay as you grow” mentality fits totally in the IT world of this decade. Nobody wants to invest more than is needed, but is willing to re-invest as soon as necessary.

As so often, the car industry has led the way. The JIT (just in time) principle and standardized manufacturing processes began in the car industry in the 1970’s. It may be rather abstract, but the delivery of prefabricated modules could be understood as just in time. In other words, as soon as the customer needs more computing power, the Data Center grows. On the other hand, standardized processes are helping to enhance the solution and provide other benefits, as described below.

Much of the investment in modular Data Centers is generated in developing countries, due to a lack of experience. As local expertise is highly likely to be in short supply, a modular solution could be the perfect response. Especially since almost every modular Data Center manufacturer offers factory tests at its manufacturing plant.

STULZ has a history of working closely together with modular Data Center manufacturers. This experience is now put to use to meet customers' demands, with the right solution for every kind of modular build Data Center. 

About the author

Johann Mater is a global Key Account Manager with an additional focus on the modular Data Center market. After graduating from an international study course in Industrial Engineering, Johann joined STULZ as a technical engineer in the Strategic Accounts Division, where he gained an insight into the dynamic global world of multinational customers. With this experience his responsibilities grew, and eventually he took over some global operating accounts.