2 Key Power Considerations to Make When Building a Colocation Facility


2 Key Power Considerations to Make When Building a Colocation Facility

It’s no secret that space in colocation data centers is in high demand. This is due to a global pivot to remote and hybrid workplaces, budget and staffing constraints, as well as an increased interest in both the IoT and edge computing

A recent study by technology research group Omdia quantifies just how high demand for data center capacity is and how much higher it is likely to go. 

Key findings from the study show that data center capacity increased by 10 million square feet in just the second half of 2020, and capacity is predicted to grow by 20 million square feet by the end of 2021. 

Also notable is that 51 percent of that new capacity is in colocation facilities, which is likely due to almost half (49 percent) of the colocation tenants surveyed reporting that the pandemic accelerated their move to a colocation data center.

The Power Behind Your New Colocation Data Center

This demand for capacity is driving a boom in new data center construction, as well as the expansion of existing facilities. But before diving into the fray, it’s important to consider the project from all angles.

When building or expanding a new colocation facility, owners tend to focus on three main factors: security, scalability and capacity. Powering the facility is sometimes a secondary consideration, which is problematic for a number of reasons. 

Power is the nervous system of a data center. A data center simply cannot function without a reliable power source. And, even beyond where the power comes from, if the facility isn’t powered properly (i.e., with the correct wiring, cabling, cooling and essential infrastructure in place), tenants may experience latency, availability and performance issues, which is bad for their business and yours.

[E-Book] The data center industry is constantly changing. Here’s our take on  CBRE’s data center predictions and what implications these trends have for  colocation providers.

Two Factors to Consider When Powering a New Colocation Facility

Power systems typically consist of five main components: utility service, a power distribution system, an emergency generator, an automatic transfer switch and an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). How efficiently these components work together will determine the quality of service you are able to provide your tenants.

When designing your new colocation facility, there are two key areas to focus on when deciding how to power the facility: 

1. Reliability of the normal power source

The success of your data center hinges on its reliability. If you can’t keep your tenants’ systems online, they won’t be your tenants for long. Reliability doesn’t stem from a single source. It’s a product of several factors working in tandem to provide a high-availability system your clients can trust.

Utility Power

The most fundamental factor in a facility’s reliability is the quality of the utility power. If the power coming in is unstable, all of the downstream dependencies will be affected. Location plays a critical role in the quality of the utility power available to the facility, so due diligence is a must.

Human Error

The Uptime Institute released its 2021 data center resiliency survey, which found that 42 percent of respondents have experienced an outage in the past three years that was caused by human error. In 2020, Uptime found an overwhelming number of respondents (75 percent) believe that many downtime incidents are preventable with better management and processes in place.


A failure in just one part of the power system can impact uptime and performance for your tenants. It’s essential to have one or more redundancies in place for key components of the system, including power distribution and all parts of the emergency power systems.

2. Availability of emergency power sources

Risk is an inevitable part of doing business. But, when your business is ensuring other businesses can function, a rock-solid risk mitigation strategy and disaster recovery plan are essential.

For example, in many regions, natural disasters, such as wildfires, hurricanes and tornadoes, are simply a fact of life. Building a colocation facility in one of these regions requires careful attention to how the data center will be powered during and after a potentially destructive event.

Your tenants and their organizations are depending on the facility having sufficient backup power available to maintain their services until normal power function is restored. 

Emergency power systems are made up of three key components, each of which has its own dependencies that must be monitored and maintained to ensure an emergency power source is available when it’s needed:


Generators work with the UPS to provide temporary power to the facility when the normal power source is unavailable. Generators run on either natural gas or diesel, both of which may be hard to find after a natural disaster. 

A minimum of 12 hours worth of fuel in storage is a commonly accepted level, but it's important to factor in redundancy and double the amount of fuel stored on-site.

Automatic Transfer Switches 

Automatic Transfer Switches (ATSs) transfer power from the normal power source to the emergency source when an outage is detected. There are two main types of ATSs: 

  • Open transition (break-before-make): These transfer switches are the most common. During the transition between power sources, each source is isolated, which can cause a seconds-long outage until the emergency source switches on. 
  • Closed transition (make-before-break): Closed transition switches are considered more reliable than open transition switches because the power sources momentarily overlap during the transition, ensuring there is no loss of power. 

Uninterruptible Power Supply

UPSs protect workloads and prevent equipment damage during power surges and outages. A UPS can provide short-term power until either normal power is restored or the long-term emergency power supply is engaged.

UPSs can be powered either by battery or by flywheel technology, so there is some level of maintenance required, which increases the possibility that the system will fail.

Plan for the Future of Colocation Capacity

Creating a plan for reliable power is an essential step in designing a new colocation data center. As demand for capacity grows, competition in the market will also increase, making your facility’s reputation for exceptional service a key differentiator.

Download Key Takeaways from CBRE's 2021 Data Center Predictions and the Impact on Colocation to learn more about what’s in store for the colocation industry and how to plan for future growth.

Understand the key takeaways from CBRE’s 2021 data center predictions and their impact on colocation


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