Make Mine Modular

Prefab data centers have many benefits, but beware of vendor lock-in.

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Bailey notes that while modular facilities are meeting the needs of a growing number of enterprises, they still aren't a good match for some organizations. "If you're a company that has a fairly predictable understanding of what your growth is going to be regarding IT technology, and if you can fairly well forecast the amount of power you'll need to service that IT load, perhaps you should go with a more traditional approach to building a data center," she says.

Bailey says that careful planning and smart utilization practices can allow organizations to reap long-term benefits from conventional data centers. An existing facility -- already bought and paid for -- may be able to accommodate more equipment, making it a better financial bet than adding a modular unit.

Paul Major, managing director of IT at Colorado ski resort operator Aspen Skiing, says prefab wasn't an option for his new data center because one of his goals was "getting all our IT people together in one place, for the first time."

Campbell says he "strongly encourages" IT managers who are considering modular data centers to visit such a facility before making a decision. "Take the time to visit," he says. "Walk into them to see how they're cabled up, and make sure it fits your environment."

O'Brien recommends keeping a close eye on the swiftly evolving modular market. "There's a lot of rapid innovation taking place," he says. "It's up to you to keep your antenna up and stay on top of all the latest developments."

Edwards is a technology writer in the Phoenix area. Contact him at jedwards@gojohnedwards.com. Additional reporting by Johanna Ambrosio.

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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