Tom Deloye with Technology Management, Inc (, says:

What constitutes a good data center design?

These days good data center DESIGN includes attention, as a corporate priority, to efficiency of space, critical support systems and IT equipment as well as the monitoring and data collection of the operations. Then together with consideration of design best practices, traditionally including provisioning a scalable and secure facility envelope (e.g. raised floor area, support areas, clear height, floor load and secure access),a floor plan configuration with proper room adjacencies, hot and cold aisle layout preferably with aisle containment and ducted returns for higher density environments, raised floor, without obstructions below, to achieve optimum air-flow and maximum delivery of cool air from the plenum to the inlet destination as well as well segregated overhead distribution of power and cabling. The enterprise class or corporate data center(s) enjoys high visibility within the organization for reasons including the delivery of and reliance upon corporate information services including at-risk applications, ecommerce platforms, storage, networking as well as the associated annual IT spend. Good DESIGN will directly assist the corporation to maximize its return on investment in the data center and to realize efficiencies in its use.

Why is a data center’s design important for an enterprise’s success?

DESIGN is the key ingredient and driver of everything connected to your data center project including timely and within budget completion, day one and future capacity (e.g. 5 and 10 years forward), integrated and sustainable operations, scalability, reliability and resiliency. Good DESIGN simply cannot be underestimated and should be prepared at the hands of licensed and certified professionals (e.g. architects and engineers) at the project onset. DESIGN simply provides you with the reliability, scalability and efficiency your business requires with your primary IT asset, the data center. DESIGN is more than the production of construction plans and documents; a lot more. As with all DESIGN, it must first be responsive to the client’s business model and its criteria, then must address the specific requirements of the client’s location, physical space and budget constraints.

Our experience shows us that those with poor DESIGN pay the price and will typically experience an unfair share of damaging ills. It’s just a matter of time. The most visible being the unplanned outage to their data center. It’s tough to pencil the total cost of poor DESIGN yet we know at $2,000 per square foot to build a Tier 3 data center, excellence in DESIGN is an absolute necessity and which shall pay dividends throughout the life cycle of the data center.

What key considerations go into designing a data center?

For the enterprise class data center several keys to the data center DESIGN include collection of raw data from the client or end-user including anticipated day one load, load density, space envelope, growth factor in server deployment, IT hardware, electrical consumption and trend data, and the approved budget. Good DESIGN will include scalability of the facility and it’s systems to allow growth and enhancements to achieve the DESIGN tier rating if not accomplished initially.

What pitfalls can designers and builders typically fall into?

The most obvious pitfall is when the DESIGNER or BUILDER take shortcuts with expertise, scope, design, budget, materials, construction execution, procurement of the critical support systems and delivery of equipment. The project lead must have an awareness of what is documented on the construction drawings, the schematics, the shop drawings, the milestone schedule and that which is not documented or illustrated but should have been together with alternatives at the ready in case of unplanned obstructions. There is zero tolerance for error in planning, design, build and commissioning of systems execution. Facility solutions after the fact are often costly and introduce risks to the operation.

What advice can you give to a company that is looking at several different design/building companies?

It is wise to look at several factors prior to making the decision. The company’s due diligence of the candidate design/build companies, we recommend, should include investigations of relevant projects for scope, complexity and results, as well as the candidate firm’s PM process, management, business practices, assigned project leadership, in-house resource qualifications to support the project and their pricing.

The good news is that facility solutions are available and can solve many of the acute and/or chronic issues/challenges in your existing facility. Careful though, as some solutions will only extend the useful life of the existing facility and they may be costly. The significant problems may be best solved, strategically, in the alternative with relocation to or building a new facility. We advise our clients to take a holistic approach with their data center and through our data center optimization assessment we can provide the information you need to set course with recommendations, risks, pricing and timeline. The assessment, prepared by licensed professionals, is a very cost effective tool to gain an objective and independent report of your critical environment.