Schneider Electric & the Prefabricated Modular Data Centre

Schneider Electric’s Faith Waithaka Highlights How Prefabricated Modular Data Centres Can Offer Sustainable Solutions for Africa's Growing Digital Needs

Prefabricated modular data centres are nothing new, but hold great potential to offer new sustainable solutions for the industry worldwide.

Within recent years, this type of modular data centre has been adopted as a new way to deploy data centres - particularly across Africa, given the continent’s ever-increasing demand for data storage, processing and connectivity. Modular structures are able to be deployed rapidly and sustainably, given that they can be placed anywhere data capacity is needed.

Faith Waithaka, Cloud and Service Provider Segment Sales Lead: Anglophone Africa at Schneider Electric, weighs in on some of the sustainable benefits that prefabricated modular data centres can offer across Africa moving forward.

Sustainable growth across African nations

In line with new technologies and improved methods for connectivity, data centres are continuing to populate across Africa. A report conducted in partnership with the Africa Data Centres Association suggests that data centre workloads have increased by eight times during the last decade, in addition to highlighting that data centre energy efficiency is vital to digital growth.

An increasing number of companies are also continuing to invest in data centres across Africa, in order to cater to rising demands in an era of mass digital transformation influenced by AI and cloud technologies.

With this growth in mind, prefabricated data centres have emerged as a solution. These data centres consist of pre-built modules that house various components that are critical to data centre functionality. The modules fall into categories such as power, cooling, and IT.

“Due to its modular nature, organisations can then choose a combination of these modules to create a tailored solution that best meets their specific requirements,” says Waithaka.

She cites that one of the major advantages of prefabricated data centres is the efficiency and predictability it brings to the data centre construction process. Unlike more traditional data centres, prefabricated sites are produced in a controlled factory environment.

“This controlled setting ensures higher quality and consistency in construction, enabling precise timelines and outcomes,” Waithaka says. 

Data centre companies are already starting to move towards adopting prefabricated solutions. For instance, global data centre leader Vertiv has pioneered prefabricated mass timber solutions to create more sustainable data centres. The company’s goal is to reduce its carbon footprint, by using timber as opposed to steel, as part of working towards its sustainability initiatives. 

A solution for all: Schneider Electric continues sustainability commitments

It is expected that 2024 will see a larger move towards modular data centres, as the demand for AI and cloud-based technologies continues to challenge the industry. Modular data centre solutions are gaining popularity due to their ability to deliver high computing power at a low power usage effectiveness (PUE) level. 

These solutions can also work to improve operations and reduce expenses as a result.

In Africa, prefabricated modular solutions are able to offer standardisation, with organisations expecting the same level of quality and materials. As a result, project management can be simplified and allow engineers to work more efficiently, ensuring that expansions and upgrades are smoother than before.

Waithaka says: “Africa’s adoption of prefabricated modular data centres is also rooted in lessons learnt from our global peers. In fact, according to various research papers, data centres are becoming obsolete fast due to the incredibly fast paced advancements of technology.

“Prefabricated data centres offer a more flexible solution, allowing these facilities to be quickly disassembled and relocated to other regions which will have use for some of the modules, thereby preserving infrastructure integrity and extending its lifespan.”

Schneider Electric already offers a range of prefabricated data centre modules that are designed to be easy to deploy. In November 2023, the company announced a US$3bn multi-year agreement with Compass Datacenters to manufacture and deliver prefabricated modular data centre solutions at a larger scale.

The company believes that modular solutions can offer streamlined manufacturing and the ability to be deployed across many environments. Solutions like these benefit countries in Africa that may have a hot climate, whilst keeping sustainability central to their operation.

Withaka adds: “At Schneider Electric, our prefabricated data centres are built sustainably; we fabricate 90% of the parts to mitigate waste, optimise efficiency, and reduce the footprint of the data centre. We drive sustainable practices throughout our supply chain to ensure that products are produced and transported in a responsible manner.”

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