Making Data Center Design More People-Friendly

One of the conference rooms at the Vantage Data Centers facility in Santa Clara.

Data centers are different from houses and offices – they are designed for servers, not people. This has often meant trade offs for data center staffers, who brave 100-degree hot aisles and perform their work at laptop carts, instead of air-conditioned offices. Not to mention traversing man-traps and biometric security just to get to the restroom.

But some data center developers are rethinking the “machines first” approach and designing data centers to be more comfortable environments for staff and visitors. This is a particular focus for Vantage Data Centers, where office space and other customer amenities account for about about 20 percent of the space in its new 60,000 square-foot facility in Santa Clara. In addition to two 20,000 square foot (3 Megawatt) data halls, the building includes 12,000 square feet of conference rooms, kitchenettes, locker rooms with showers and office space that Vantage says will be equivalent to Class A space.

“Customers know they can have an office setting and a quiet place to work,” said Tony Giampaolo, Director of Operations at Vantage.

Vantage isn’t the only company seeking to provide a more comfortable environment for customers. i/o Data Centers has nearly 80,000 square feet of office space at its huge i/o Phoenix data center, which also includes meeting rooms and several amphitheaters. The SuperNAP in Las Vegas also features many visual flourishes usually seen in enterprise office space and includes a plush theater that is available for customer events.

Is the Data Center Market Changing?

These people-friendly touches reflect the dual nature of these facilities, which also function as corporate headquarters. But they also reflect the broadening of the target audience for custom data center space. By some estimates, nearly 80 percent of the data center space in the U.S. is housed on corporate campuses rather than dedicated third-party facilities. Convincing these companies to outsource their equipment means addressing the “server hugger” phenomenon and meeting the needs of executives and sysadmins who are used to working in an office environment and being able to quickly access their gear.

Having more people moving through a facility also means additional considerations regarding access and security. Vantage is securing its office areas and data center access with the PalmSecure biometric system from Fujitsu (seen at left), and like many data centers, features a man-trap – a corridor with secure doors at each end.

Vantage has also hired its own security team, rather than using a contractor to provide security. Giampaolo says in-house security can surface excellent candidates, whose goals are tightly aligned with the company’s mission. Switch also has custom security team at the SuperNAP, where the black-clad, super-sized security officers are a regular presence on facility tours.

While offices at the data center will appeal to decision-makers, they’re a benefit for staff who work in the data center – even though it’s not likely to make the hot aisle any more comfortable.

Do you think this is the wave of the future? Use the comments to weigh in.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

Add Your Comments

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  1. Rob

    CastleAccess, recently changed to RedIT in San Diego California has been offering people friendly datacenters in the Area for quite a few years now. This includes conference rooms, KVM's to take the work off the crash cart and to a temperature controlled room with desks, open kitchenettes with free soft drinks, snacks and other food items. I do hope this trend is the direction data centers are going. I have spent too much time crammed into a hot row with a crash cart already!

  2. Jason

    Nothing new. SuperNAP just outside Las Vegas even has a movie theater in it.

  3. Jason: If you read carefully, you'll notice that the SuperNAP's theater is already mentioned in the story.

  4. Rob

    I guess I don't get it: there are people out there that need this sort of datacenter, and they're not using equipment that supports lights-out management? With technologies like HP iLO and Oracle/Sun ILOM, the only time I have to go into my datacenter is for physical repairs and reconfigurations. The crash cart is a last resort; console access and power cycles can be done from my desk, even if I'm working from home.

  5. Jeff

    I think that the guy we watched fall off a rolling chair while deracking a server will be quite pleased with this news... Honestly, KVM technology has been around for a very long time and (to me at least) the thought of needing to actually do anything time consuming inside the data center besides install/replace hardware is quite bizarre. Its good to see data center operators putting the emphasis on working smarter and not harder!

  6. Greg Zeng

    Retired (medical) IT Consultant, Australian Capital Territory - so I read DILBERT comic strips to get a more general view of what is really happening. Other non-mentions: high staff turnover, outsourcing, often to third-world countries, poor quality work products, with costly corporate errors. Who cares though. Britain used to be the planet's biggest Imperialist. Will China ever learn to be the next? Being fifth generation Australian Born Chinese, the research universities of Hong Kong think that their anti-ergonomic hieroglyphic writing system will stunt all original thinking & innovation. Hopefully the USA can use the savings of these many East Asian third worlders to dig itself away from multi-billion payoff to its idiot CEOs.

  7. Equinix has arcade rooms in some of their data centers.

  8. Love the look and layout of this Data Center. Thanks for sharing.

  9. If you look at the growth of a company like Equinix, then you see why there is a push to make "pretty" data centers. There is nothing that is extraordinary about an Equinix IBX infrastructure, but the executive conference rooms, showers, and all of the other amenities certainly bring a much higher margin because people pay for eye candy and comfort. It's no secret that many executives like to overpay for comfort.

  10. It generally includes redundant or backup power supplies, redundant data communications connections, environmental controls (e.g., air conditioning, fire suppression) and security devices while he building envelope is the physical separator between the interior and the exterior environments of a building.