February 23, 2010 | bfeldman | Data Centers

Green Data Center Design Series

This blog article will be the first in a series on Green Data Center Planning.

Many data centers suffer from poor initial planning that causes problems later in the lifespan of the facility. Improvements in server design, increased electrical and cooling needs, growth due to mergers and acquisitions or changes in IT personnel can all drive significant change in the data center environment. Inadequate initial planning will be compounded when these changes occur, while smart planning from the outset will pay dividends.

IT and Facility Managers should understand what to look for beyond the purchase of new hardware and software when involved with a Data Center planning project. Understanding the due diligence required to make good decisions is critical to your project’s success.

Fox’s first rule – “ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS AT THE RIGHT TIME”

One of the most critical aspects of good data center planning involves knowing what questions to ask at the beginning of the project. These questions involve personnel considerations, equipment/operational decisions and architectural/engineering infrastructure.

First and foremost, your organization’s business objectives and the various ways they impact your project must be understood. This requires an appropriate amount of investigation from the project team before putting pen to paper (or electrons to the cad software package). Data center projects begin by creating an estimate of IT needs – specifically power requirements and future expansion. These estimates drive spacial/mechanical and electrical needs.  Architects refer to these metrics as your program.  At this point in the process, growth is estimated.  If you can’t see very far in the future (who can?), growth must be assumed and the scenario for adding power and cooling must be understood – all driving spatial needs and additional investment. Assumptions should be written down and clearly expressed in your program.  Making informed decisions about growth and documenting them is where most projects fall down.  The best planning in the world won’t be of much use if the initial assumptions about equipment and power needs are incorrect.

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Your ability to add value to a project is easier the earlier it occurs in your project.   Gathering information out of sequence can greatly affect cost/value.

After determining equipment needs, it’s time to move on to other less tangible goals. For instance, is this facility seen as part of a larger corporate mission, like sustainability? How will first costs be balanced versus future costs? How much infrastructure can the organization afford to put in place now vs. how much change can be expected in the future?

Planning can not adequately be accomplished by IT, Facilities, your architect or engineers alone – it requires the entire team to create. The planning process is fluid – new information will come along that will change your project.   A good plan has the flexibility to change to meet your needs.

Next up – Separation of IT and Facilities Personnel

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