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On day one for a new data center, everything typically works fine and looks great. There is plenty of room, the cables are orderly and out of sight, and walls and ceilings are spotless.
The same can’t always be said about day two, week two, or much less a couple of years down the road. That’s when the human factor and operational complexities start to have a negative impact on data centers.
The problem is that many data center projects still take a narrower design/build approach that
doesn’t consider factors like comprehensive site selection, contractor standards, proper attention to commissioning and testing, or practical issues around construction and maintenance. As a result, a whole host of problems start to crop up.
As a former chief information officer who has lived through many data center projects, one interest of mine is communicating these “lessons learned” with data center design. In a new webcast, “Data Center Design: Lessons Learned,” you can get a fuller run down on these lessons, but here’s a few factors to consider:
- Proper site selection is crucial, taking a broad view of everything that might impact data center operation. I know of one project where the data center was flooded by a burst water pipe from an adjacent bathroom. Are factors like the location of water pipes, or local zoning ordinances that might impact after hours deliveries, or the possibility that nearby construction might tear up a power line, being considered as part of your data center design? They should be.
- Testing and commissioning can’t be rushed. Potential problems I’ve seen avoided by testing include one case where there was some faulty control programming for an automated shut down procedure in case of fires. The issue was that the logic shut engaged the fire suppression system and shut down the air conditioning just fine, but mistakenly kept the doors locked. The testing revealed the flaw, but in a real-life, untested situation, the people in the data center would not have been able to exit.
- Design with operations in mind. In one facility I’m familiar with, the lighting grid was placed right over the racks, making it necessary for maintenance people to actually climb onto the racks to service the lighting.
- Problems like cabling clogging the air flow underneath raised floors, or cable tray designs that don’t factor in future useable space, snowball over a period of years, but they really start during design when not enough attention gets paid to practical constraints five to 10 years down the
Check out the webcast for more of these tips. With data center design/build projects, it’s important to at least have an appreciation for this range of best practices. Don’t assume every commercial builder or architect has this knowledge. Ultimately, it’s important for operators to have a trusted advisor for data center projects, while having more understanding for the range of factors that should be considered.