New Schneider Electric research analyses how IT Pod Frames reduce cost and increase speed of data centre deployments

Modularity is a key design approach for today's data centres, helping to drive trends such as edge computing and hyper-convergence, whilst reducing both deployment times and capital expenditure costs.

Although long familiar at component and rack level, modularity is increasingly being extended to include larger blocks of equipment or pods which comprise groups of IT racks sharing critical infrastructure components such as a PDU (power distribution unit), network router and cooling systems including containment and air handling.

More recently, modularity has been taken to an even higher level, the Pod Frame, which incorporates many elements typically associated with the building itself into a free-standing structure to allow faster deployment of IT equipment racks. A new White Paper from Schneider Electric, the global specialist in the digital transformation of energy management and automation, analyses the benefits of deploying Pod Frames compared with existing practices.

Entitled "Analysis of how Data Center Pod Frames Reduce Cost and Accelerate IT Rack Deployments", White Paper No 263 describes the key attributes of Pod Frames and how they can help data centre managers meet the typical challenges of adding capacity to their facilities. It also compares the roll out of IT equipment using traditional pods with a similar sized deployment using Pod Frames from the point of view of cost and time taken.

An IT Pod Frame is a free-standing support structure that acts as a mounting pod for data centre infrastructure and as a docking point for the IT racks that comprise it. Air containment systems are assembled on the free-standing frame rather than being attached directly to racks as in traditional pods. This makes moving racks into an Pod Frame far easier and faster.

IT Pod Frames also have built-in support structures for mounting of services, thereby eliminating much of the construction work needed for overhead ceiling support grids for network and power cabling and sometimes air ducts. As this support infrastructure is built into the Pod Frame, it can be deployed more quickly.

Furthermore, this enables large-scale equipment rollouts to be approached as assembly rather than construction operations, therefore requiring intervention and oversight from fewer external operators such as building inspectors and construction specialists.

A comparative analysis of a data centre deployment using an IT Pod Frame versus one using a traditional pod was conducted using a Schneider Electric Reference Design for a room with a 1.3MW lT load. The load consisted of nine pods, each having 24 racks.

The study showed that when utilising the IT Pod Frame CapEx savings of 15%[1] were achieved when compared to a traditional approach. Most of these were attributed to the reductions in labour cost thanks to the Pod Frames having structural mounting properties which reduces the need for building ceiling and floor structures.

In terms of speed of deployment, the Pod Frame approach produced a saving of 21%, or 66.5 days compared with 84 days using the traditional approach. Again, much of this was due to the reduced amount of ceiling and floor construction work that resulted from the Pod Frame approach.

In late 2017 Schneider Electric announced HyperPod™, a rack ready data centre system designed to deploy IT in increments of 8 to 12 racks. Part of Schneider Electric's EcoStruxure for Data Center architecture, HyperPod's innovative design supports all of today's rack types. Its pod style architecture, with integrated power, cooling, cabling, software management and containment, enables racks of IT equipment to roll into place, similar to a docking station, without the complexity and time associated with traditional IT deployments.

[1] Statistics from Schneider Electric White Paper #263, 'Analysis of How Data Center Pod Frames Reduce Cost and Accelerate IT Rack Deployments '.

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