Incremental modular data center approach offers pay-as-you-grow advantage

The approach, with a track record for telecom operators, offers a way for data center owners and managers to expand space as well as electrical and cooling services only when they are needed.

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Cannon Technologies now offers what it dubs an "incremental modular" approach to data center construction, which the company says makes it possible for owners to build facilities to the actual capacity currently needed rather than for forecast capacity several years down the road.

The company comments, "Unlike other pay-as-you-grow approaches, this technique doesn't carry full-life cost penalties. Most suffer from higher total capex albeit that the outlay is phased and sometimes also higher opex too. Instead, incremental modular actually reduces both capex and opex compared to conventional bricks-and-mortar data centers and other modular approaches.

The firm's managing director, Matthew Goulding, emphasizes that Cannon Technologies has "no particular axe to grind ... as we actually build every form of data center," and therefore the company can offer data center owners and managers "impartial advice as to whether incremental modular or a variant of the existing methods would be most cost-efficient for your organization."

Concerning the incremental-modular approach, Goulding comments, "The majority of data centers are of the conventional 'bricks-and-mortar' construction in either owned or leased buildings. But because the building has to be provisioned to accommodate the ultimate size of the data center, in 10 or 20 years' time, the building will spend most of that time underutilized. Frequently, this means that thousands of square meters remain unused but being paid for and serviced. Often it's only for the final two or three years that a bricks-and-mortar data center operates optimally. And shortly after, the IT people run out of space and a new building is needed."

The incremental-modular approach overcomes this pitfall, Cannon notes, as not only the building(s) but also services like electrical distribution and cooling are added on an as-needed basis. Goulding says, "While incremental modular is new to the data center industry, it's not actually new at all. We developed the basic techniques for telecoms network operators 20 years ago and have been perfecting it ever since."

Because the approach has been developed specifically for racks of electronic equipment, it is highly energy-efficient, Cannon points out, therefore reducing energy and cooling requirements. And because of its international heritage in the telecom-operator space, it is "suitable for all climates from Arctic to Sahara and even for areas of seismic activity," Cannon says.

Goulding concludes, "This is a very new technique in the data center world and one that many data center engineers will not be aware of. CFOs, CEOs and CIOs with organizations planning new or upgraded data centers should ensure that the new incremental-modular technique is assessed before any commitments are entered into."

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