Over recent years the number of new build data centres in the UK has increased at an exceptional pace and this is only set to continue as it is predicted the data centre sector will experience 28% growth over the next five years. David Naylor, PLX brand manager at Durapipe UK, discusses the changing face of data centres.

Modern companies, across all industries, run on data and businesses are under more pressure to provide detailed analysis and reports. This is while consumers are demanding real time online information, complex online banking transactions and efficient purchasing experiences. The result is an increasing demand for data storage and networking capabilities causing the surge in data centres emerging across the country.

With companies under increasing pressure to reduce capital expenditure and operating costs, while improving data centre capacity, the last 12 months has seen data centre providers looking for innovative solutions to offer more cost effective data centre packages.

One such approach gaining popularity is the adoption of a modular method to data centre build. The concept sees it build modules off-site using standardised components that can be joined together with adjacent modules to create the correct size data centre to meet the client’s requirements.

A traditional data centre would typically take two years to design, build and commission, whereas a modular data centre can be complete and ready to install equipment within four months, significantly reducing time and costs. The concept looks appealing and the time benefits are clear to see, but there have been lots of questions asked about the practicalities and how it works in reality.

The power supply and management is one such question mark that hangs over modular data centres. While each data centre is delivered with generators, UPS systems and transformers, this equipment still needs connecting on-site.

A major requirement that needs addressing is the delivery of fuel for the power supply. Fuel is used to operate a variety of systems and can be used for heating and power, uninterrupted power supply and emergency power supply. In order to operate these systems, a reliable pipework system is necessary to transport fuel safely from the storage tank, above ground into the plant room for connection to storage tanks, generator day tanks and oil fired equipment.

The pipework system that is selected can impact on the time and cost of this installation process. With modular data centres specifically designed to reduce time and costs, carefully consideration needs to be given to other products that are used within the data centre build to ensure they all offer the same benefits.

Traditionally, steel pipework has been used for fuel conveyance within data centres, although acceptance of modern solutions, such as plastic pipework systems, is growing rapidly. The traditional below ground solution of Denzo wrapped steel can be costly and also very messy, and the welding process more time consuming than fusion welded plastics. Fuel pipework systems are generally secondary contained for added safety – the time and costs of welding such a steel system is high and requires skilled welders and also incurs the hassle of obtaining ‘hot works permits’.

Purpose designed plastic pipework systems can significantly reduce labour time and costs during fitting of both below ground and above ground pipework installations. At approximately one sixth the weight of steel, plastic pipework systems are easier to handle on-site and with the simple fusion welding jointing technique, installation costs can be reduced by up to 50%.

There is often a grey area regarding connecting plastic pipework to metal system apparatus so all too frequently contractors and specifiers select metal pipework systems as it is perceived as the easier option. However, plastic pipework manufacturers understand that reliable connections to steel components are vital in many applications and particularly when it comes to fuel conveyance.

As a result, purpose-designed fuel conveyance systems, such as PLX, include a wide range of transition fittings to ensure the safe continuous flow of fuel when connecting to metal threaded and flanged apparatus. Available in spigot or electrofusion format, each transition fitting is innovatively designed and developed with ease of installation in mind to offer customers significant time and cost savings.

In addition to their installation benefits, plastic pipework systems can also offer excellent performance properties to ensure a reliable and durable system is in place during the lifetime of the product. The Durapipe PLX system is an example of a specialist pipework solution that is designed to cater for a variety of fuel blends, which work with the array of power systems within data centres. It is manufactured in a robust polyethylene material that provides excellent resistance to long term stress cracking. Additionally, its impressive durability makes it ideal for use in emergency power applications, where it is imperative to install a system that does not have to be regularly maintained or replaced.

Modular concepts are emerging as the new generation of data centres, selling their proposition on its time and cost savings. It is therefore imperative that the providers of these new style data centres work with other suppliers and manufacturers that have the same philosophy and can offer products that offer similar time and cost saving benefits. Purpose-designed plastic pipework systems have a proven track record in safely transporting fuel for power supply systems within data centres and should be more readily considered at the outset of projects to enhance the modular data centre offering.