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

Data Center Design Best Practices:  Efficiencies Beyond Power and Cooling

A good power and cooling strategy is no longer enough to maximize efficiency in today’s modern data center. A future in which all devices and networks are connected requires data center design elements that can evolve with the Internet of Everything and the related demands of hyper-connectivity.

Industry Perspectives

October 15, 2015

6 Min Read
Data Center Design Best Practices: Efficiencies Beyond Power and Cooling

Cindy Montstream is the Director of Standards for Legrand North America.

A good power and cooling strategy is no longer enough to maximize efficiency in today’s modern data center. Indeed, a future in which all devices and networks are connected requires data center design elements that can evolve with the Internet of Everything and the related demands of hyper-connectivity. Maximum efficiency can be achieved by considering the following key elements when designing a data center: performance, time, space, experience and sustainability.


When companies began adopting high density configurations, virtualization and other methods to boost the capacity of existing IT equipment, they disregarded the need for a robust data center infrastructure to ensure uninterrupted business-critical applications. Infrastructure can have a direct impact on network performance. To maximize network performance three parts of the infrastructure must be considered: the structured cabling, racks and cabinets, and cable management.

Select a cabling solution with co-engineered cable and connectivity to maximize channel performance. Look for flexible and scalable rack and cabinet solutions that can accommodate higher weight thresholds, and have adjustable rails and wider vertical managers, along with integrated cable and airflow management options for better cable support, protection and airflow. The physical solution should support both copper and fiber media. Also, work with a manufacturer that is current with standards. They usually take two to three years to develop, so these manufacturers will be aware of the upcoming requirements of new technology long before a standard is published.


Data centers are growing in size and complexity but require fast deployment times. They must be able to adapt quickly and easily to support changing business requirements. Select infrastructure solutions that optimize time, result in faster deployments, reduced cost, and allow for easier moves, adds and changes.

Ninety percent of active equipment will be replaced in five years or less. The infrastructure must be able to support heavier equipment, increasing port and cable densities, and cable media changes (i.e. replacing copper with fiber). At the same time, the infrastructure must be able to support common topologies like ToR (top of rack), MoR (middle of row) and EoR (end of row) along with new architectures like leaf-spine and other mesh configurations. A modular solution provides the foundation for a flexible and scalable building infrastructure. It combines the advantages of standardization with those of customization.

Modular solutions should offer the following time-savings attributes:

  • Modular racks and cabinets that assemble quickly, have adjustable rails, higher weight thresholds, and taller heights to easily accommodate new equipment.

  • Modular options for optimizing airflow management in a rack or cabinet and efficient cooling solutions (>5kW density).

  • Cable management that is easy to install, change and available where needed; in the front or back of the rack/cabine.t

  • Wide vertical cable managers that support changing cabling needs, minimizing obstruction from the cables to support better airflow and can be installed at the end when dressing cable making equipment and cable installation easier.

  • Integrated pathways with rack/cabinet.

  • Pre-terminated solutions that allow for quick installation, easy moves, adds and changes, and easier migration to newer technologies.

A modular solution designed so that all components work together optimizes installation and deployment time and will support future network changes, computing power and technology upgrades in order to facilitate growth without major disruptions.


In the past, the ability to adapt to future demands was accomplished by oversizing the infrastructure system and letting the data center grow into its infrastructure over time. This is neither capital or energy efficient. Infrastructure systems must be designed for greater flexibility and scalability allowing for the right-sizing of a data center.

Because space is a premium in the data center, the infrastructure system should be built for optimization. One best practices suggests adopting the rack as the basic building block for data center density.

To optimize space in the data center consider the following:

  • Use the rack or cabinet as your basic building block.

  • Select racks and cabinets with higher weight limits, sufficient depth and heights that support growing vertically.

  • Select cable management that can support existing cable density, provide ample room to grow, mitigates airflow restriction caused by cable; and is designed to support both copper and fiber.

  • Select connectivity that supports high density and mixed media.

  • Use cable with smaller OD.

  • Consider patching outside the rack and cabinet (e.g. overhead) to conserve space for equipment.

  • Select a rack or cabinet solution that easily integrates with overhead pathways.


The quality of the data center build experience can be enhanced by selecting the right partner. The growing trend in data centers today is to outsource more. During the design phase, the designer must provide guaranteed performance while providing flexibility and scalability for tomorrow’s needs. In general, their solutions should be modular to meet specific needs or special requirements for additional customization. It is critical that the product and the solution work together seamlessly. During the installation phase, the solution must be easy to install, quick to deploy and easy to manage. It is also important to have a contractor with a history of quality installations. Logistics must be coordinated to guarantee delivery of what is needed when it is needed. Projects may also be global, which is another reason why it is important to consider with whom you will work.

You should consider manufacturers that can provide resources to help coordinate the project through the entire design phase. The solution may become the standard for other locations creating additional coordination with local support. The manufacturer should have expertise with all components of the solution - new cooling technologies like close-coupled cooling, power, connectivity, cabling, physical infrastructure, cable management, and pathways – to guarantee that all pieces work seamlessly together. This expertise should be utilized to extend the equipment life, reduce cost and address the unique challenges in data centers, accomplished through one point of contact from the manufacturer.


Sustainability can mean many different things. Often it is associated with improving processes to avoid using up or totally destroying natural resources. The perceived importance of sustainability varies, but it is growing. Even if it is not a high priority for an organization today, working with a sustainable manufacturer doesn’t cost more; and there are many benefits.

Sustainable manufacturers develop solutions that reduce the impact on the environment. This translates into designs that offer choice and flexibility in space design, reduce installation time, and reduce material waste on site, etc. They should ensure optimal energy efficiency and performance.

Not all sustainability claims are equal. Look for products that are RoHS compliant and solutions that minimize the impact on the environment through efficiencies, energy, packaging, etc. A manufacturer that has ISO 14001 certification means that it is actively working to reduce the environmental impact of their processes, products and services.


Data centers deliver critical services for business. Trying to maximize efficiency in a data center design focused only on power and cooling strategies is short-sighted. There are other efficiencies that will enhance the data center’s ability to cost effectively adapt to business strategy changes and increased computing demand. A data center solution should be designed with five key goals: guaranteed performance, time efficiency, space optimization, resource utilization and sustainability. This will help attain complete efficiency in the data center design.

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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