Modular Matters

So I’ll tell you now that the second post isn’t any easier than the first. Diversions left and right: Web browsing – check, fantasy roster adjustments – check, cyber Monday damage evaluation – check. All good things.

If you’ve chatted with me a little bit you’ll know that I’m an avid sports fan as well as collector of basketball sneakers. During my browsing session, I saw an old article on a sneaker blog talking about the re-release of the famous Bo Jackson “Bo Knows” cross trainers from 1990: Bo Knows. And, just as all serendipitous moments happen, I figured out what I need to write about.

Bo Knows can be taken as a preface like Bo Knows Baseball or Bo Knows Football, but I prefer it more as a standalone. Bo simply Knows.

Here’s my analog. Modular Matters. Cheesy, eh? These next series of posts will dig into exactly why it is that building data centers modularly matter.

Issue 1 – Schedule Matters

When you’ve completed a data center program to figure out the why’s, where’s, what’s, and how’s of your new facility, you’ve gone through an extensive process and are ready for it all to be over and built already. Now granted, there are more drivers than wanting to get in bed before ten but the reality is that “get it built already” isn’t too farfetched of an idea.

On the provider side of things, you’re looking to convert the facility into a cash-flow generator. Paying construction invoices for 14 months without seeing a return is a painful process. Schedule Matters.

If you’re an enterprise planner, more than likely you’re evaluating next year’s IT budget allocation. That budget ultimately manifests in equipment purchases that each have a space, power, and cooling footprint, which you may or may not have. If avoiding a temporary outsourcing contract is out of the question then you guessed it…Schedule Matters.

As a design/build contractor, you’re often saddled with the challenge of delivering a project under budget and ahead of schedule. When that challenge includes building a physical facility, installing the various disciplines infrastructure, and commissioning the product in a linear program you’ll run into trouble. Parallel workflows are the name of the game because Schedule Matters.

Whether you fall into category 1, 2 or 3, it may be worth your while to investigate modular construction. The execution of modular construction happens outside of the construction site in a controlled factory environment. There, schedule is accelerated through factory workflows and purposed tooling. Not to mention, it’s happening in the factory and not at the job site. So, when you’re trying to figure out how to get the ducts installed, finishes complete, and interconnects terminated in time to meet substantial completion, you’ll be thrilled to know that all of that modular work is being completed in a factory 1,000 miles away arriving just when you need it.

Schedule Matters.

Modular, meet Webster

I’ve now gone back and forth to this intimidating blogger interface about six times writing a sentence or two, deleting it, then quickly checking espn.com on impulse.  It’s a vicious cycle.  What do you write as a first post to best represent Modular Power Solutions?  What is preventing me from turning this into the seventh iteration of the cycle, is the realization that we need to start at square one.

What is a Modular Power Solution in the first place?  ”Power” and “Solution” are pretty self-explanatory but what exactly is a Modular Power Solution?  Webster defines Modular as, “constructed with standardized units or dimensions for flexibility and variety in use.”  In that definition, we have a couple of elements:

(1) “Constructed with standardized units or dimensions”
(2) “for flexibility”
(3) “and variety in use”

A Modular Power Solution as we see it is a user-defined electrical room that fits on a pre-fabricated platform.  We create discrete power units in conjunction with a user, that are defined by their capacity in either kiloWatts or MegaWatts (kW/MW).  These power units are then placed atop a standardized steel platform or skid that has constant spatial dimensions.  That fits fairly well with part (1), right?

A Modular Power Solution is fabricated and assembled in our plant in Denison, TX.  Where it goes from there is entirely at the discretion of the user.  This is partially facilitated by the fact that our steel platforms or skids are designed to fit on the bed of an 18-wheeler.  When it arrives at the site, the user can decide exactly where they want to put it.  Outside? No problem.  This is facilitated by the fact our units can be fitted with an outdoor rated enclosure.  (2), flexibility, check.

Users who have engaged Modular Power Solutions tend to come from the mission critical space.  It’s just a matter of familiarity.  They’re looking for a power supply and conditioning solution that yields uptime while having the capacity to grow incrementally with their service catalog.  As that service catalog has evolved and grown from dedicated compute down the continuum of resource computing, so have the needs of the supply and conditioning solution.  As a result, a Modular Power Solution has been used for trading platforms and retail computing services alike.  Additionally, Modular Power Solutions have been repurposed from supplying Tier IV resilient production compute to Tier I HPC clusters.  Let’s award 1/2 point for (3).

So that’s it for Webster’s definition.  There are some things, though, between the lines of the definition that Webster doesn’t explicitly come out and say.  For example, if you plan on defining or discretizing a solution or component, (1), you are going to develop a process around assembling that component.  As that codified process is repeated iteratively, you’re theoretically going to do it better and faster than if those metrics are undefined or assembled ad hoc.  I conclude that if you plan on being good at doing something modularly, you by definition will have quality control.  In order to track how good you are at doing something modularly, you’re probably going to track the metrics of that codified process.  One of those metrics is going to be time spent on each stage of that codified process, which when tallied up yields modular project duration.  So, as a corollary to having quality control, someone who is good at doing things modularly should have schedule control.

Now that I’ve formed those philosophical conclusions independent of my position, I can say that a Modular Power Solution retains the additional definitions tacked on to “Modular”.  With 2 1/2 definition points and extra credit for the definition subtext, it is safe to say that our company is appropriately named, unless of course you have a better suggestion.

Espn.com says that the Lakers are 0-2