Insight and analysis on the data center space from industry thought leaders.

Requirements for Building Today’s Data Centers

In order for a data center investment to last the 10 to 15 years for which they are designed, the designs need to either be specifically tailored to a business’ current and future needs or they need to have the inherent flexibility to adapt as their needs change.

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Jeff Rose, Technology Strategist at Vantage Data Centers, architects and engineers all infrastructure and controls solutions for Vantage. Jeff is also on a “Maximizing Data Center Efficiency” panel at Interop in May.

Jeff Rose

Jeff Rose


The data center industry is dominated by two very distinct product models: enterprise class, which tend to focus on reliability and extended life cycle (usually at the expense of efficiency); and inexpensive and quick-to-build commodity facilities, which are built primarily to meet immediate needs with little understanding or consideration for full life cycle utilization. Taking this into account, it is no surprise that Data Center Knowledge has recently reported that seven year old data centers are obsolete. In fact, some user’s needs can grow beyond their data center’s capabilities in as little as two to three years causing premature relocation or expansion, which perpetuates the cycle of commoditized purchase and premature expansion.

In order for a data center investment to last the 10 to 15 years for which they are designed, the designs need to either be specifically tailored to a business’ current and future needs or they need to have the inherent flexibility to adapt as their needs change.

Designing with the Future in Mind

While enterprise data center users make large capital and innovation investments in each of their facilities, the time lag between each build can be substantial, thus not allowing for continued and aggressive innovation in efficiency and design methods.

Wholesale data center providers (built to lease to enterprises and service providers) generally build many facilities each year, typically without prior knowledge of the customers current and future IT needs. This creates an environment with stricter requirements/greater opportunities to invest, evaluate and support innovation and flexibility to sustain a competitive edge. The industry as a whole could be helped by these increasing investments in innovation, especially related to scalability, efficiency and flexibility.

Maximizing Flexibility Through Vertical Scalability

One key to maximized flexibility and realized design life cycle is vertical scalability. Vertical scalability allows businesses to grow within the walls, thereby reducing operating expenses and risks and increasing efficiencies as power densities increase. Wholesale providers pre-provision buildings for more power and cooling capacity, without saddling the tenant with upfront costs or reduced efficiencies. Vertical scalability can also double the lifespan of a data center, while also enabling very competitive lease rates as the building maintains its value for a much longer period.

For example, at Vantage Data Centers’ Santa Clara campus, building V2 (now under construction) has the ability to grow from 9MW to 18MWs of power at half the capital expense of the typical build. This is done with no risk of disruption to the operating facility all while maintaining the highest operation efficiency throughout the process. As densities grow, operating efficiencies improve and capital spent per server/application decreases.

Data center power and cooling efficiency innovations can translate into millions of dollars in annual cost savings as compared to the average data centers. A PUE of 1.20 for a 20k SF suite can save more than a million dollars a year over the standard and less efficient designs common today.

Flexibility Can Allow for Wider Portfolio

Many wholesale developers, in their desire to maximize margins and sell more space, force customers into a very limited variety of choices. Businesses may have unique requirements for capacity and power or need feasible options for growth. This model works very well in the short term, yet creates asset fatigue risks as innovations take hold and render entire portfolios of buildings obsolete for growing numbers of data center prospects.

To balance risk and allow for more choice, data center builders need to embrace more flexibility. Having some flexibility allows for a more diverse portfolio that can support a greater variety of projects and potentials. It also gives tenants more options as demands change.

Industry at a Critical Juncture

Today, the wholesale data center industry is at a crossroads. It can either continue to produce quite unremarkable “accelerated obsolescence-inspired” designs that box in customers or they can give the enterprise what it wants: Industrial-strength innovation around scalability, efficiency and flexibility. Embracing innovation would attract more enterprises into the compelling wholesale model, which would be a win for all of us.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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