What To Consider For Your Data Center Design


Current trends in data center design now rightly integrate IT systems and network management principles with that of facilities management, known as DCIM, or data center infrastructure management.  In other words: not only do you need to know the capacity and efficient-functioning of your business computing or information storage equipment, but you also need to properly manage the facility it is housed in.  Both are important not only for efficient data processing, power usage, and cost containment, but also for business continuity assurance.

Components of Your Design
All good data center design plans should include some element of each of the following components (each of which should be reviewed on a regular pre-determined time interval):

  • consulting / planning
  • design and engineering
  • project management
  • facility construction
  • equipment
  • monitoring and control
  • operations and maintenance
  • disaster recovery planning

The Facility Size and Location
The size of your data center facility will vary depending on the size of your business.  If you are nearly the size of the big players like:  Microsoft, IBM, Sun Microsystems, HP, Iron Mountain, or Yahoo, each known for having quite unique data centers, you will need a lot more space and elaborate planning than if you are a start-up or regional player.  How big a building you need depends on a variety of factors, one being: does your company headquarters need to be at the same site as the data center or can it be at a different location?  Are you a huge Internet Service Provider or a data center with web servers that needs to be able to withstand natural disasters and acts of war? Or, are more modest accommodations adequate?

The Facility Layout
In its simplest form, your data center design should account for a room, area, or space, depending on your size for:  (1) the computing equipment; (2) the mechanical and electrical equipment needed to power and cool the computing equipment; and (3) security personnel.   How many servers and racks are needed, currently,  or in the next 5 or 10 years?  How many workers are needed to monitor and manage the equipment? Or, will that can be outsourced or managed remotely?

Build For Growth
Is your facility is a building that is old or new?  Are you designing a new data center or upgrading an existing center?  How easily can you upgrade or redesign your facility to take advantage of newer cost saving or energy-efficient solutions?  Either way, just like the big players, you need to plan for growth early on.  The most important thing you want to avoid is unnecessary downtime caused by needing to do a renovation only 5 years out simply because you didn’t plan for your own growth, not to mention accounting for technological advancements that have not even happened yet. Early on determine how easily you can expand if and when needed.

Air Flow and Energy Management
It is also vitally important to account for proper air flow between the heat-producing computing equipment and their respective cooling systems, whether cooling is achieved by air conditioning, a refrigeration system, or outside air being pumped in.  You will need to have an air handling system in place that can regulate consistent temperature levels without allowing extreme fluctuations.  Also consider if energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly options are available and worth considering.  Can the energy generated be stored and reused?  Is solar, wind, or biomass a viable energy option as a power source?

Wiring, Flooring, Equipment Enclosures
Don’t forget the smaller details.  How will the facility be wired? Efficient cable management is important to allow easy repair and minimize downtime due to cords and wires that can’t easily be identified, or are inadvertently incorrectly routed or inaccessible. Be sure that your data center design covers not just the obvious elements but also the less obvious features like cable management and data-center specifics like raised flooring and proper equipment enclosures, too.

  • Photo Credit: title=”Something Set Up” by bandarji, on Flickr
  • Photo Credit: title=”IMG_9370″ by NeoSpire, on Flickr
Attached Images:
  •  License: Creative Commons image source
  •  License: Creative Commons image source

Helen Hoefele is a part of an elite team of writers who have contributed to hundreds of blogs and news sites. Follow her at: @For_You_To_Know.

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