HP Butterfly Prefab Data Center Could Slash Construction Costs

Hewlett-Packard says its prefabricated Flexible Data Center design will give businesses greater flexibility in building their IT infrastructure facilities and cut construction costs by more than half.

Hewlett-Packard is introducing a modular, prefabricated data center design that officials say will give businesses more options and significantly drive down the costs of building a new facility.

HP on July 27 unveiled its Flexible Data Center concept, which has what officials call a "butterfly" design. In the center is a rectangular central core building that houses administrative offices, staff meeting rooms, networking and security, and shipping and receiving.

The core can have up to four prefabricated quadrants, up to 6,000 square feet each, which house the servers. Cooling devices are attached to the rear of each quadrant, and generators are located to the side. The design offers up to four cooling technologies and five UPS configurations.

The goal of the design is not only to reduce the overall cost of building a new data center, but also to offer businesses a greater level of flexibility in how to build it, according to Ian Jagger, worldwide marketing manager for the HP Critical Facilities Services unit. Businesses can add the quadrants as needed, rather than having to build unneeded capacity into the initial facility design.

"You're really building this Lego piece by Lego piece," Jagger said in an interview with eWEEK.

The Flexible Data Center also reduces the amount of time needed to build a data center, cutting capital costs while increasing time to market. In addition, it's a much more energy-efficient design and is easier on the environment, he said.

HP's Flexible Data Center program is part of a growing trend of modular designs. For example, HP and other vendors, including IBM, Cisco Systems, Dell, SGI and Verari Systems, offer containerized data centers that house all the necessary systems and technologies and can be shipped on the back of a tractor-trailer.

Click here for a look at some containerized data centers.

With HP's new design strategy, businesses can cut the costs of new data centers by more than half, pare their ownership costs over 20 years by two-thirds and adopt a more measured approach to paying for capacity, Jagger said.

The demand for new data center space is only growing, he said, noting that more than 30 of the Fortune 100 companies are HP customers, and most are looking to build next-generation data centers.

"You can't be a Fortune 100 company without a next-generation data center," Jagger said. "The question then is, Where are we going next?"

With HP's Flexible Data Center approach, businesses install the prefab central core, and then add as many quadrants as needed to meet capacity demand. If demand grows later, they can add another quadrant.

Each quadrant can handle up to 800 kilowatts of equipment, creating a 3.2-megawatt data center that has a life span of 15 years or more.

Jagger said traditional 3.2-megawatt data centers cost about $18 million per megawatt to build. The Flexible Data Center design costs about $8 million per megawatt.

The air cooling also saves money over water cooling, both in terms of equipment and in power consumption. With the cooling, air enters the building through sidewalls, runs through the racks and is collected in hot aisle containment areas, where it then is exhausted through the roof. In addition, there are no raised floors, saving space and money, he said.

Jagger said many types of companies could benefit from this approach, such as data center colocation companies, Web-based companies, including search providers like Google, financial services firms and enterprises with highly virtualized server environments.