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Five common myths about prefabricated modular DCs

In my blog post entitled, “Top Ten Data Center Predictions for 2016.” I predicted that 2016 would be The Year of Modular. This year we have seen an increasing number of companies in data-intensive industries such as healthcare, content delivery and financial services add prefabricated modular (PFM) data centers to their technology portfolios. Yet despite this surge in popularity, many organizations are still reticent to adopt them. I get it – there are a lot of mixed messages circulating in the marketplace. Read on as I debunk the five most common myths about PFM data centers.

Myth #1 – PFM data centers are an unproven, risky investment

This is a common misconception. According to 451 Research, there are at least 50 vendors that claim to provide PFM data center solutions. Since each of them has their own service offerings and construction methods, it pays to do your research. In the case of some select providers, the technology and methods used in their off-site constructed data centers is the same as can be found in traditionally constructed data centers.

Myth #2 – PFM data centers aren’t secure

Beginning in 2014 (aka – “The Year of the Breach”), industry stalwarts such as Target, Anthem and JPMorgan Chase all fell victim to expensive, high profile data breaches. Each of these cyber-attacks led to fines, executive departures, lost revenue – and a bunch of IT teams scrambling to figure out what went wrong. As a result of the subsequent paranoia, many mistakenly assume that PFM data centers are less secure than those that are traditionally constructed.

However, PFM data centers can offer even higher levels of security. For example, indoor data center units are designed for colocation providers and enterprises to leverage the mechanical and electrical infrastructure within their existing real estate asset, but also leverage the existing security system. Unlike building out existing space with the standard raised floors and cages, enclosed modular units offer another layer of security for customers that demand it – which is pretty much everyone these days.

Myth #3 – PFM data centers result in increased capital costs

With so many new vendors entering the market, it’s easy to get confused about what services and solutions they really offer. There are a number of “stock” PFM data center vendors that have difficulty deviating from their standard offerings. So any changes you request can lead to a bigger bill. However, there are a select few PFM data center providers that only offer custom-designed, purpose-built solutions that meet an enterprise’s current needs with the ability to scale easily. These solutions often result in less capital expense.

Myth #4 – PFM data centers are only good for certain workloads

People get thrown off by the term “modular.” They often envision small, enclosed spaces that are limited by their dimensions. Which is why some refer to their solutions as “off-site constructed data centers.” These solutions can be used to create larger contiguous spaces that have a similar look and feel as traditional data centers. They provide significant design flexibility, allowing enterprises to create structures that meet their exact requirements.

Myth #5 – PFM data centers force you into using their technology

People often confuse the term “pre-fabricated” with having limited vendor and technology choices within the data center. However, a few enlightened fabricators offer custom solutions that are vendor and technology-agnostic. This approach provides IT teams the freedom and flexibility to configure their environments using any technology and vendors they choose.

In the ever-evolving world of prefabricated modular data centers, it’s important to sort through the misinformation thrown out by those that stand to benefit from a low adoption rate.

There are no doubt other myths that I have missed. I am interested in hearing your thoughts on this list and prefabricated modular data centers in general, so please share your comments and let the debate begin.

Ron Vokoun is director of Mission Critical Design at RK Mission Critical.

Readers' comments (1)

  • This is a good commentary. At ICTroom we can tailor each module according to our clients needs. They are certainly no less secure especially if a client locates the module on their own site and adds in their own stringent security policies. There is no interference from colo customers. Capital costs are now being paid via Opex arrangements so costs are spread over time, and this is a great entry level product that can be added to quickly. The only limitation is the actual size of the container as what goes inside can be flexible according to the business need.

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