The Evolution of Modular Data Centers

By: RK Mission Critical


Since the late 1990s, when data centers became mainstream, to now, companies struggle with:

  1. Building their own data centers from the ground up
  2. Leasing space in an existing data center
  3. Buying or leasing an existing building and renovating it

Each of these options comes with some drawbacks. Companies that build their own data centers often experience sticker shock when they realize the hard costs involved, such as acquiring land in a suitable location, hiring an experienced construction team to build the facility and investing in the right mechanical, electrical and security systems. Weather and other construction-related delays often lead to budget overages and missed deadlines. In addition, executives have to make an educated guess as to how much capacity they will need over the next several years making growth or reduction difficult.

Organizations that outsource their data center needs don’t always fare better. Finding a data center provider in the right location is often a challenge. Some IT teams want their technology assets in close proximity to their organization’s headquarters. There are also concerns that moving to an outsourced data center means having to use pre-set technology and vendor services from the data center provider, making customization impossible.

Another challenge with outsourcing data center needs is that IT teams have very specific location requirements. For example, data centers should be located away from certain industrial operations or commercial flight patterns. Plus, not all data center providers are created equal, so finding an experienced partner with the right infrastructure and systems in place is also challenging.

Some enterprises lease or purchase existing buildings and perform tenant improvements to transform them into data centers. One benefit of this approach is that they don’t have to build the structure themselves, which saves money and shortens timelines. However, since these structures are not purpose-built to serve as data centers, there are often physical limitations that force the enterprise to compromise their standards. Finally, leasing a building exposes enterprises to rent increases as well as the possibility of being pushed out by their landlord.


Modular data centers, or what the industry often refers to as prefabricated modular (PFM) data centers, are the solution to traditional data center downfalls. Using the same technology and components found in traditional data centers, PFM data centers are constructed in a climate-controlled facility with mechanical and electrical systems integrated prior to shipment, as well as varying levels of the IT stack. The data center components are then transported to the customer site and assembled like building blocks that accelerate the construction schedule while providing potential cost savings. The resulting data centers are fully self-contained, weather-tight and only require utilities and network connections.

High costs, capacity and systems limitations found in traditional data centers have caused enterprises to turn to PFM data centers for their flexibility and scalability. Compute space, power and cooling are matched to current IT demands, so organizations only pay for the facilities they need at any time. And as IT demands change, modules can be added like building blocks. This keeps IT and facilities continually aligned without risk of over- or under-investing in data center resources. Finally, some PFM data centers are technology and vendor agnostic, so IT teams have the freedom to use any technology suppliers they choose without fear of vendor lock-in.

RK Mission Critical is an expert in prefabricating modular data centers. We construct the major components in our quality-controlled fabrication shop, then quickly assemble everything at the customer’s site. This not only accelerates the construction schedule but can also offer financial benefits over traditional construction. Contact us for a free consultation on the many benefits of prefabricated construction at