Construction of any new data center is a race against time and money. The goal is to complete the new data center as quickly as possible and within budget. However, when data center design focuses on short-term goals, later failures will cost an even larger investment in time and money down the road. The long-term objective is to establish an extensible data center designed to deliver reliable service for years to come, especially as data processing demand continues to grow.
By following clearly defined steps and guidelines in data center design, you can eliminate future problems, while still optimizing construction time and costs. As a best practice, you don’t want to rush to completion before you have assessed all the requirements and identified problem areas that can lead to major upgrade costs or system failures later. Careful planning is the best strategy to eliminate future problems.
The Most Common Data Center Design Missteps
In developing your data center design and construction plan, be sure to avoid these mistakes:
- Failing to perform a complete infrastructure assessment. That includes understanding where the data center is going to be housed, such as in an existing data center facility, a new colocation center or as a modular unit installed in the parking lot. You also need to assess potential applications for the completed data center and what types of connectivity requirements they will need. You should have a rack-by-rack blueprint that defines network connections, power requirements, system topography and more. A data center is a significant investment, and you want to have a comprehensive idea of the required capabilities before you start designing the data center.
- Having unclear project leadership. Every construction project needs to have a chain of command, with clearly defined areas of responsibility. This can be more complicated with data center construction because there are multiple stakeholders, such as the data center owner, IT staff, contractors, a colocation facility and others involved in the project. It is critical to determine which party has responsibility for each aspect of data center design, including objectives and requirements, and who has the final authority before you begin.
- Miscalculating the total cost of ownership (TCO). Every design decision ultimately impacts the bottom line, but you need to consider TCO as well as immediate construction costs. You need to consider capital costs, operating expenses, energy consumption and more. For example, can you determine power usage efficiency (PUE) as part of TCO? A miscalculation can mean the difference between profit and loss for data center operations.
- Choosing a data center site before the design is complete. Your data center design has to accommodate the spatial parameters and characteristics of the site location. If you miscalculate and the design doesn’t fit the space, it means you have to stop and start over. It may also mean you have to reorder prefabricated components.
- Failure to recognize dependencies. As part of data center design, you have to take into consideration equipment interoperability and compatibility. How will a system upgrade affect the rest of the data center infrastructure? What about extensibility? Can you expand the existing systems without compatibility problems?
- Improper choice of data center power equipment. The objective of data center design is to maximize uptime while minimizing power consumption, so you need to choose the right power equipment based on projected capacity. To ensure adequate power, you may use redundancy calculations that project demand for three times the power the servers actually use, which is wasteful. You need to consider long-term power consumption trends, including automatically switching on generators and backup power, and choose equipment that will deliver enough power to support the data center without waste.
- Underestimating the data center timeline. Inaccurate or unclear timelines lead to cost overruns. Be sure to lock down each phase of the construction schedule to avoid confusion, conflicts and excessively long construction times. Every party involved should be able to commit to the schedule.
- Mismatching business objectives. The company that is commissioning the data center needs to have a clear understanding of its own business objectives before you can complete the data center design. What specific applications will the data center support? How much additional computing capacity will you need to add over time? Is the company looking to scale? The business objectives need to be clearly communicated to the data center architects, engineers, and builders to ensure an optimized design.
- Not looking beyond the completed buildout. Even once the data center is complete, it is not the end of the job. Someone needs to manage the data center and monitor the infrastructure. Data center optimization is an ongoing job, and there needs to be a team ready to step in once construction is complete.
These are just some of the common mistakes made during data center design and planning. However, working with the right experts and the right construction partners can help minimize these errors and ensure the data center meets your company’s specification.
PCX, for example, is an expert at data center prefabrication and modular power distribution systems. We work with data center architects and contractors to ensure that the data center design is accurate and extensible. As part of data center prefabrication, we spend time understanding our customers’ business, as well as their design objectives, and we custom-design modular units that are right-sized for both computing capacity and the physical space. Furthermore, by using modular systems, we can guarantee delivery times from the factory, while reducing assembly time and costs.
If you want to avoid costly mistakes in your next data center project, we have the critical expertise you need. To learn more about modular data center design and construction, be sure to download our e-book, Selecting the Right Partner’ for Your Modular Data Center.