Q&A: SunGard’s Zandi on Data Center Retrofits

Questions and answers with Dr. Mickey Zandi, Managing Principal at SunGard Availability Services, on the challenges of data center retrofits and the cost of building new facilities.

Rich Miller

October 5, 2010

3 Min Read
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With more than 5 million square feet of colocation space, SunGard Availability Services is best known as a leading player in the market for disaster recovery and business continuity services. But SunGard also offers a full suite of managed services as well as consulting services that help companies modernize their data center infrastructure. Dr. Mickey Zandi, Managing Principal at SunGard Availability, is responsible for the company's data center and IT consulting practices. Zandi has more than 14 years experience in data center design and infrastructure optimization. Zandi agreed to an email question-and-answer session to share some of his experiences with data center design and the cost of building new facilities.

DCK: What are the most common data center design challenges you see confronting the companies you consult with at SunGard?

Zandi: Being on the front-lines, some of the most common data center design challenges I see include the lack of understanding for resiliency needs and tier classification, and the lack of design flexibility for current and future needs. Companies also often overlook scalability as the building blocks of data center design as well as limited space, power and cooling design considerations.

DCK: Is retrofitting a viable option for most companies with legacy data centers?

Zandi: Retrofitting a legacy data center can be a tricky proposition. You have to consider the scalability and limitation of your current facility. Think about, are you going to have enough capacity to prevent another expansion as your business and its IT needs grow? You also need to validate availablity of additional power from utility and buildings. The outlook for running 200-300 watts per square foot, with forecast for 500 watts per square foot, is just around the corner.

DCK: What are the criteria that guide you on when a retrofit is possible, and when a move to newer space is the better option?

Zandi: You can prolong the life of an existing data center by implementing smart retro projects. Such projects include a review and re-architecture of data center floor design to minimize overall space requirements, or an evaluation and alignment of hot/cold aisles, to help reduce the power consumption of each cabinet. You can enhance your smart retro projects by properly adjusting cooling and power distribution, along with implementing a plan for server consolidation. Or you can look to virtualize existing hardware and software to reduce the overall data center footprint.”

Designing a new data center can be costly endeavor. Total raised-floor data center costs (excluding building shell and land acquisition but including construction for walls, ceilings, office areas, etc.) range from $930 per square foot for a Tier 2 center (lower level of redundancy) to $1,389 per square foot for a Tier 4 data center (highest level of redundancy). An organization needs to conduct an in-depth comparison of the costs and benefits associated with a new build and the evaluation of risk to see if this approach makes sense.”

DCK: As data centers become more complex, what are the keys to a data center design that will be flexible and expandable and provide longevity for that facility?

Zandi: Understand your application, system, storage and network requirements. It is also important to perform a complete discovery and needs analysis that directly maps business needs to IT capability. A company also needs to validate its data center tier/resiliency requirements. The first step for any organization in designing a data center is to determine the level of redundancy, resiliency and criticality it needs.

DCK: What do you see as the key emerging trends in data center design?

Zandi: One of the key trends I’m seeing includes utility design and architecture—the use of modular design concepts for space and critical equipment so that only what is needed is energized and utilized.

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