Data Center

Energy University Tackles Data Center Reference Designs

We’ve covered the topic of data center reference designs previously on this blog, notably in this post and video from Neil Rasmussen, where he talks about the key elements and benefits of a reference design.  We’ve also got a white paper on the topic, number 147, “Data Center Projects: Advantages of Using a Reference Design.”

But it’s such an important topic that we’ve also decided to cover it in a Schneider Electric Energy University course titled, “Better Data Centers through Reference Designs.”  In this free online course you’ll learn about the benefits of using a data center reference design when building a new or refurbished data center, how to identify the key elements of a data center reference design, and get insight into how reference designs evolve.

Reference designs are important because they can help you plan, build and commission data centers faster. What’s more, they can help you avoid costly mistakes and ultimately wind up with a more reliable data center.

As the course explains, a reference design is essentially a system blueprint. It lays out all the attributes of the data center, including performance specifications and, typically, a list of materials or components. And they’re not just for complete new data centers. Reference designs can also be used when you’re installing an IT pod, or when adding power or cooling plant and the like.

The course goes through the various elements of a reference design, which include both graphical descriptions of the design and written support documents. The graphical descriptions include “one-line” or “single-line” diagrams for the electrical, mechanical and IT rooms. These are valuable, detailed drawings that largely enable the data center to eventually be built, much like a construction team follows an architect’s drawings.

That’s just one of the benefits that reference designs bring. In general, the benefits fall into three categories:

  • Facilitating and simplifying the planning phase
  • Reducing time to create buildable designs
  • Reducing risk, offering predictable performance and improved reliability of the data center

You’ll learn how and why reference design deliver each of these benefits while also getting some guidance in how to select a design that is likely to work well for you. For example, the design should be easily adaptable to different IT loads and configurations, while allowing for future expansion.

The course also describes the various sources of reference designs and the pros and cons of each. Physical infrastructure vendors such as Schneider Electric have deep experience in reference designs from the many data centers they’ve built. Large companies with experience building lots of their own data centers, such as Facebook, are also now offering up their designs.

Using a reference design essentially gives you a head start with your data center project, rather than starting from scratch.  As the course details, the designs can even help various stakeholders in the project align goals while encouraging cooperation among multiple functional groups and helping each to evaluate inevitable design tradeoffs.

If all that sounds like it might be worth an investment of a few minutes of your time, check out the free course “Better Data Centers through Reference Designs.” You’ll find it in the College of Data Centers at Energy University.


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