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Modular or Traditional Data Center Builds – Which is Better?

Modular or Traditional Data Center Build - Which is Better? Cable Management Blog

“The future of data centers is modular,” one popular website states. “The traditional data center is not dead,” says another. Who is right? What is the future of data centers? Is one better than the other, and if so, why?

Here are some pros and cons, and some potential answers data center managers might want to consider. 

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Modular and Traditional Data Center

Modular vs. Traditional Data Center PUE

One of the first things we talk about with modular or traditional data centers is PUE, or Power Usage Efficiency. Most of the time, modular data centers have a lower PUE. However, there is a cost associated with that number.

Traditional data center builds often have a higher PUE initially because there is space for expansion and adding additional equipment. This can sometimes come with higher HVAC and other costs until the data center is at capacity and running at maximum efficiency. We’ll talk about that factor more in a moment. 

For modular data centers, because they are constructed with tight specifications and already at an efficient capacity per module, the PUE is lower from the start. All components are easily matched, and compact spaces are easier to control when it comes to cooling, humidity, and other factors.

What is the downside? When a brick and mortar data center is up and running at capacity and the design has been well executed, PUE levels can be similar, and it can be much simpler to make moves and changes without additional modules and construction. 


As with PUE, there are two sides to this coin. The modular data center can be easier to secure, as they are more compact and self-contained. When installed behind a secure barrier with video and other surveillance measures, the physical security of a modular data center can be assured.

The flip side? Modular data centers may evolve and require additions over time, meaning the physical space will also have to be modified. Proper planning can mitigate this issue, but a traditional data center build can be easier to manage from this perspective, with security built into the construction itself, along with remote monitoring and other security features that must be handled differently with modular data centers. 

The argument over which is better can go either way, but the permanence of a traditional data center build often wins out when it comes to security discussions.

Modular vs. Traditional Real Estate

When locating a data center, we have talked about things like accessibility to a green power grid, the ability to construct your own green energy backups, and more. Real Estate that satisfies all of those requirements can be hard to find, and prices reflect that premium. 

So in this case, the more compact modular data center build has some distinct advantages. The less real estate you need, the less initial costs will be to purchase (or lease) space for the data center. This also has an impact on another factor: the cost of the build. 

Building Costs

Constructing a modular data center is much cheaper than constructing a traditional one, effectively 30% less. That is a huge number when you talk about initial costs. Combined with the lower cost of real estate, deploying a modular data center is much more efficient for those looking towards hyperscaling and co-location. 

This has been shown to be especially true as more “work from anywhere” options become available, and the need for high-speed data center capacity shifts from city centers and similar areas to residential and suburban ones.  

This leads us to our next advantage:

Deployment Speed

The time needed to construct a traditional data center is much greater than that needed to deploy a modular data center. The average data center takes 18-24 months from start to finish, but you can save around 30% of that time by going the modular data center route.

In part, this is because you avoid traditional construction delays due to bad weather, seasonal construction, and more.  

This is not to say modular deployment is better – it is simply faster. It could be argued that a traditional build will last longer and the overall construction will be of higher quality, but that is not always the case. Many modular data centers are created with a similar lifespan in mind and can last just as long as a traditional build.

So which one is better?

The bottom line when it comes to which one is better, a modular or traditional data center build, the answer is, it depends. Ask these questions:

  • How urgent is the need for this data center? 
  • Where will the data center be located? What is the costs associated with a greater holding of real estate?
  • What is the purpose of this data center? Is the need for moves and changes anticipated?
  • What kind of security is needed, and what is possible in the data center location?
  • What is the long-term plan for this data center?

The answers in your situation may vary, but as much as the traditional data center is not dead, the modular data center is on the rise, and for many situations, it’s the best option. 

No matter whether you are creating a modular data center or doing a traditional build, your rack and cable management matter, as does your labeling system and your physical layer security. At AnD Cable Products, we can help with all of these things. Give us a call today, tell us about your situation, and we’d be happy to have a conversation about how we can help

We’re here for all of your data center needs. 

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About the Author

Louis Chompff - Founder, AnD Cable Products, Rack and Cable ManagementLouis Chompff, Founder & Managing Director, AnD Cable Products
Louis established AnD Cable Products – Intelligently Designed Cable Management in 1989. Prior to this he enjoyed a 20+ year career with a leading global telecommunications company in a variety of senior data management positions. Louis is an enthusiastic inventor who designed, patented and brought to market his innovative Zero U cable management racks and Unitag cabel labels, both of which have become industry-leading network cable management products. AnD Cable Products only offer products that are intelligently designed, increase efficiency, are durable and reliable, re-usable, easy to use or reduce equipment costs. He is the principal author of the Cable Management Blog, where you can find network cable management ideas, server rack cabling techniques and space saving tips, data center trends, latest innovations and more.
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1 thought on “Modular or Traditional Data Center Builds – Which is Better?

  1. Louis, this was a worthwhile read! Although traditional data centers have a higher capacity, modular data centers, in my opinion, are much more compact and energy-efficient. They are simple to secure and effective to operate. Modular facilities use less real estate and start-up costs are lower. Modular centers provide significant cost savings to businesses in terms of operation and post-installation maintenance.

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