Evaluating a Colocation Facility

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In last week’s article series on Data Center Colocation Selection, I provided an understanding on evaluating the actual location of the data center, this article looks at evaluating the facility itself. The following are few highlights from the Data Center Knowledge Guide to Colocation Selection.

There are several decision points which must be made when examining the right colocation datacenter for your organization. In selecting the right facility, the decision-making process should revolve around the following:

High-Density Metered Power
In data center colocation, power density and availability have emerged as critical requirements. Power densities found in data centers five years ago can no longer meet the needs of high capacity servers and storage devices. In addition, the availability architecture has changed dramatically. Traditionally, many data centers focused on the number of backup or spare devices in the power delivery architecture. You would see N designs where N is the number of devices needed. Today there are 2N designs which provide two active devices, N+1 with one spare and N+2 with two spares. The state of the art combines 2N feeds and N+2 infrastructure into a design known as 2N+2 wich is described below. When working with a dta center colocation, it’s important to understand that today’s demands have outgrown many existing data centers. Metered power allows you to pay for what you use today and grow your power draw incrementally over time. When making a data center decision, consider the following decision points:

  • Look for providers who are capable of scaling beyond 8 kW per rack or 200 watts per square foot.
  • Access to a dedicated substation.
  • Look for 2N+2 electrical infrastructure redundancies.
  • Usage based pricing with visibility.

Cooling
The goal of any efficient data center colocation provider is to meet the cooling needs of the computing equipment and facility and drive down cooling costs and the power usage effectiveness rating or PUE. PUE shows how much overhead is associated with delivery of power to the rack. A measurement of 1 says there is no overhead. 1.2 would represent 20% overhead. In the most efficient scenario, customers would pay for the power they use (metered) multiplied by a PUE factor to account for additional power needed to cool the facility and keep the lights and other devices running. Look for a colocation provider who is thinking ahead and utilizing natural resources, such as free outside air, and managing to a low PUE.

  • Hybrid cooling technologies.
  • Look for 100% availability.
  • Many data centers.
  • Expect thorough cooling redundancy.

Physical Security
For organizations looking for truly secure facilities, insist on in-house security teams. In analyzing a good security model, consider the following:

  • In-house security staff.
  • Layered security zones.
  • Camera and security systems monitor the 360-degree data center picture.
  • Advanced security certifications, look for these certifications: PCI DSS 2.0 provider;  SSAE 16 audited; ISO 27002.

Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM)
Don’t be left in the dark, DCIM is much more than the latest buzz acronym to hit the data center industry. Data centers have always been purpose built facilities with lots of complex technology. Managing those technologies has been problematic. At best, devices would have management software but individual software systems could not work together. At worst, blinking lights needed to be monitored in person. The result was a highly tuned system that when it breaks, breaks ugly. DCIM changes that. Look for a data center colocation provider with DCIM built into their infrastructure.

  • Everything is connected.
  • Sense and respond software.
  • Innovation through integration.
  • Secured portal and reporting.

Amenities
Many times, IT professionals may spend days at a data center colocation working on racks, servers, applications or tuning the infrastructure. Good accommodations and a comfortable environment are very important decision points when considering a colocation data center.

  • Look for comfortable working areas.
  • Relaxation rooms.
  • Available workstations and conference rooms.
  • Fresh coffee and drinks.

Green Technology
According to a recent Pike Research report, power and cooling infrastructure solutions will be the largest portion of the green data center market opportunity, representing 46% of revenue over the next five years. This means that data centers are focusing on green technologies — more specifically, efficiencies built around those green technologies.

  • Look for the EPA Energy Star certification.
  • Opportunity for airside economization.
  • Cooling and power efficiencies.
  • Look for water conservation efforts.
  • Utility power.

In selecting the right facility and location, working with the above considerations will help with data center efficiency for the current organizational demand — and the future requirements as well.

The next article in the Colocation Selection series will be next week will help you in evaluating the colocation facility. If you prefer, you can download the entire Data Center Knowledge Guide to Colocation Selection, compliments of RagingWire.

About the Author

Bill Kleyman is a veteran, enthusiastic technologist with experience in data center design, management and deployment. His architecture work includes virtualization and cloud deployments as well as business network design and implementation. Currently, Bill works as the National Director of Strategy and Innovation at MTM Technologies, a Stamford, CT based consulting firm.

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