The modular and scalable data center

As data center design has evolved, the need for modular scalable data center solutions has become obvious. With ultimate densities approaching 200 watts per square foot or more and construction costs pushing $2,000 per square foot, modularity and scalability have become a critical part of the design process. While many clients want the reliability inherent in a high density, Tier 4 data center, they simply can't afford to build to Tier 4 densities initially. What they need is a modular, scalable solution that gives them the flexibility to achieve these densities at a later date, without impacting the ultimate reliability of their facility.?

At CDCDG, we are currently working on a number of new data centers that incorporate these design principals. Modular in 10,000 to 15,000 square foot increments and scalable from 50 to 200 watts per square foot, these data centers allow users to live within their budgets, while still giving them the reliability inherent in 2N electrical designs. Our modular and scalable designs are capable of being increased in capacity, without impacting the operation of the existing infrastructure. As users grow into their ultimate loads, they can simply add a module to increase their capacity in an uninterrupted manner.

One of the best examples of this design concept is the KIO Networks Data Center in Queretaro, Mexico. KIO Networks is one of the leading collocation data centers in the Mexican market and as they filled up their data center in Mexico City, we began plans for an updated design for a new data center that we have come to call KIO-Q Designed in collaboration with EYP-MCF, our goals for the data center were very straight forward. The new data center had to be:

  • Designed in a modular fashion that allowed us to build out 10,000 square foot modules
  • The modules had to maximize the capacity of the support equipment
  • The design had to be scalable to allow for increases in capacity without impacting the users
  • The design had to allow for testing and commissioning activities to be done without putting the existing users at risk
  • Tier 4 reliability was the design goal, but without the high cost associated with certified Tier 4 data centers

While we can't reveal all of the design details that went into this design, we can share some of the design solutions that we came up with. Among the critical design decisions we made early on were:

  1. A 2N electrical design from the utility to the server
  2. Separate support modules for each 10,000 square foot phase
  3. A two story design with all of the support equipment on the first level
  4. A centrally located NOC that looks into each 10,000 square foot area.
  5. A design that is scalable in 60 watts per square foot increments to an ultimate capacity of 180 watts per square foot.

As you can see from this concept drawing, the support equipment is shown on the first floor, with a separation between busses consistent with a 2N design intent.

Since the square footage for support equipment increases as the capacity of the data center increases, we made a couple of decisions. We located the raised floor on the second level and decided to locate all of the support equipment including CRAC units and PDUs in the service corridors. This maximizes the amount of useable square footage available to the owner, while keeping the service technicians out of the data center as much as possible.

At CDCDG, we believe that modular and scalable data centers can solve some of the biggest design challenges that data center users face today. The high cost of construction, the need to build to Tier 4 reliability levels, without Tier 4 construction costs, the need to plan for high density loads that may not occur for a number of years and the need to consider energy efficiency are all issues that this concept addresses. Modularity and scalability have been a big part of data center hardware solutions for years. Applying this concept to the infrastructure should be part of best practice data center design.

Ron Hughes, President of California Data Center Design Group has been involved in the design, construction and operation of data centers for over 20 years. In the last 8 years alone, Ron Hughes has managed the design of over 2,000,000 square feet of data center space in the US, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Mexico.
Our Clients
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