Phil Rafferty is President and Co-Founder of Data Specialties Inc.
Ninety percent of the world’s data was created in the last two years, and more than 2.5 exabytes of new data are created every day. This rapid growth underscores the need for more and more data centers to house and manage all this information. Yet, choosing to build a data center is not a simple task for an organization – these are long-term and costly projects. When an enterprise begins to think about the need for a new data center facility, much of the work takes place before ever breaking ground for construction. Without the proper planning, organizations risk creating a new data center that is too big, not optimized for efficiency, incurs higher capital costs than necessary, or is not adequate to meet both existing and future needs.
There are three key items to consider when planning to build a new data center to ensure the project meets the needs of the organization and constituencies it’s designed to serve: existing facilities, the organization’s business needs, and the data center and technology environment. Having answers to specific questions in these three areas will put your organization in a position to make the best choice for design, build, installation, and start-up of your new data center.
Key to understanding how to plan and build a new data center is knowing the details of your existing data center setup and capacity, whether that is your own facility, a colocation provider, or a cloud service. Getting a clear picture of what already exists helps determine if building a new data center is indeed the right option. It’s possible that colocation, outsourcing, or a cloud or hybrid model could best meet your organization’s data center needs.
Questions to ask at this stage:
- How old is the current data center?
- Does the current data center support our current needs and forecasted future needs?
- Is it possible to expand the existing facilities?
- What is the risk of expanding our existing data center and will outages be required?
- Would outsourcing, colocation, or a cloud/hybrid model give us the capacity we need now and in the foreseeable future?
- What are the costs of these alternative solutions?
As part of this evaluation process, it’s also critical to understand the goals of the business, and how the data center meets the needs of the company. A key part of this is understanding the role of IT in the organization, as well as how the data center and its operations align with the business. That requires looking closely at how much data the business deals with, how it is gathered, stored, and accessed, who uses the data and how, and the relevant industry standards the data center must comply with.
Questions to ask while evaluating business needs:
- What are our corporate goals, and how does our IT infrastructure and data center support those goals?
- How have our IT or data center needs changed in the past three to five years?
- How do we anticipate our business to change in the next five to ten years, and what impact will that have on our IT and data center needs?
- Are we, or clients who will be using the data center, subject to regulatory compliance such as PCI data security standard to protect information of credit card owners or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to safeguard personal medical information?
Data Center and Technology Environment
After getting a good sense of organizational goals and how the existing facilities are serving the business, it’s also critical to understand the company’s technology and data center physical environments.
Questions to ask about the physical environments:
- What computing, networking, and storage equipment do we currently have and what do we anticipate needing? A forecast of the future will provide physical space for future equipment and hardware refresh.
- How do we cool our existing data center, how do we plan to cool the new data center, and what equipment and utility access does that require?
- What are our existing power requirements for the computing and storage technology, as well as the cooling solution?
- What are our current fire suppression and security systems, and how will that need to change for the future?
- What is the physical size of our current data center facilities, and how do we anticipate that changing for future facilities?
- Do we have adequate data center monitoring that allows us to properly manage the infrastructure and plan for IT hardware installation in the future?
Data center projects are complex undertakings. When it’s done right, a brand new data center will support your business objectives and meet current and anticipated future needs. The way to set up your organization for success with this project is to understand existing data center facilities, know the business needs of the organization, and have knowledge of the necessary data center and technology environment.
The information gained from this assessment and evaluation process helps you determine the specific requirements for your new data center, get a clear understanding of total costs for the project and time it will take to complete, evaluate appropriate sites, and execute a construction plan. With this information, your organization will be able to create a data-driven and efficient plan to meet your data center needs today and tomorrow.
Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.
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.