Bricks, Mortar & Beyond 10 Steps to Developing Your Next-Generation Data Center

If the headline grabbed your attention, you are most likely charged with achieving some or all of these goals: integrating consolidation, green initiatives, and aligning cost efficiencies with recovery time objectives (RTO s) and recovery point objectives (RPOs). You are also likely accountable for your firm’s compliance with regulatory requirements (such as the Sarbanes Oxley Act and HIPAA Disclosure requirements), including their parameters for the RTO s and RPOs of your business.

Building or retrofitting a data center that facilitates operational resilience and optimal business performance requires thorough experience. It also requires in-depth knowledge of information and network technology, including long-term post-build operations management expertise. And what does this all mean in dollar signs? In a volatile economy, the task of gaining capital approval by identifying and outlining exact operational expense reductions, immediate corporate return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership (TCO) is not for the faint-hearted. This article outlines the ten steps to building your next-generation primary environment.

Step 1 Choosing the Correct Partner – Real Answers in a Virtual World

The current ‘cookie cutter’ consultant data center model is broken! The IT environment has changed dramatically in the last few years, but many design and engineering firms have not significantly changed their approach to data center development. By far, the three biggest drivers changing the current data center landscape are:

  • Economy – Cost reduction is KING
  • Technological Advancements – Virtualization, cloud computing
  • Business – The model continues to shift, cost vs. losing control through outsourcing and consolidation

These drivers, which mandate immediate change, may have you experiencing that you are a ‘First Time Buyer’. Current data center consultation imparts questions that produce presentation decks and worthless metrics that only create more questions, not answers. Also, this model may have you feeling that you are stuck in the middle with no ideal solution available because of:

  • Multiple experts with biased information/ knowledge
  • Static planning
  • Biased product/manufacturing consultancies
  • Cost prohibitive advice

Given the complexities of developing and thoroughly integrating a data center, you need to assess whether your company has the internal expertise, manpower, time and most important the ‘Right Partner’. While you might know exactly what you want and how things generally work, there is a great expanse between this knowledge and the fine detail required to build your next-generation, mission-critical center and keep it to the assigned budget.

Step 2 The Keystone – A Threshold Analysis

Long before the first blueprint is sketched, stakeholders have a lot to discuss. What they talk about will underpin every element of a data center’s design and build. Your data center investment must align with your organization’s current and future requirements and mandates. So stakeholders from finance, human resources, facilities, real estate and technology need to sit down and address these issues:

  • What are the needs of our business in the unfortunate event of an interruption?
  • How quickly must we recover critical applications and information?
  • What is the financial impact to the business? What is our future BIA?
  • What stage/phase of IT evolution are we in (virtualizing, offsite cloud computing)?
  • How much are we paying a Colo provider for our IT overload?
  • What are our future growth expectations or are we static?
  • What are the current and future demographics of our workforce?
  • What are the yearly costs for our third-party disaster recovery provider (network, consulting, etc.)?
  • Can we develop a virtualized DR facility in a privatized cloud environment?
  • Are we sustainable? Can we be sustainable? Can we provide an ROI?

Step 3 Facility Analysis and Design

This is the phase where you map out business processes to determine if the data center will meet the needs of building occupants and mission-critical operations. This integration includes organizing the threshold analysis into program matrices which streamline the critical decisions and components and forming the starting point for the schematic design. This is accomplished by examining the schedule analysis, power requirements, proximity and availability, flexibility constraints, equipment lists, and lead times. Also, identifying your firm’s personnel needs: Who will operate the infrastructure systems? Will trained personnel have to be onsite 24/7? While these details may seem obvious, addressing them in advance can prevent extremely expensive and often insurmountable mistakes.

Step 4 Essential Infrastructure

Look beyond the floors, ceilings and four walls with a comprehensive evaluation of the engineering required to power, protect, and monitor the data center’s infrastructure. Specifying the essential infrastructure is a cornerstone to matching hardware to application needs and carefully measuring performance to cost. It can ensure maximum protection of your firm’s mission-critical operations. You will need the complete design specifications and drawings of all mission- critical systems, which may include:

  • Sustainable IT
  • Heating, ventilation and cooling systems
  • Electrical UPS complexes
  • Network and communications systems
  • Security systems
  • Fire detection/suppression systems
  • Diesel generation
  • Systems monitoring

Step 5 Power – The Essential but Expensive Ingredient

With the cost of energy skyrocketing and photovoltaic’s, wind turbines and geothermal energy alternatives finding their place, businesses need to carefully calculate just how much power they will need – and can afford. Two metrics are currently helping companies with their datacenter energy measurements: Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and Data Center Efficiency (DCE). These metrics can measure energy usage in a consistent way, across various datacenter configurations and product mixes. They tell you where energy is consumed, and whether energy-reduction efforts are actually working as stated by the Green Grid Advisory Council. IT organizations along with facility departments need to adopt a green tech mindset for their electrical power initiatives. Governmental bodies are already paying special attention to the technology industry, specifically data centers.

Step 6 Location, Location, Location

In real estate, location is everything, and this rule applies equally to your data center. Once you have determined your space requirements, geographical preferences, workforce accessibility, technology, sustainability alternatives, infrastructure requirements, future growth needs and, of course, price, it is time to identify and assess multiple site location options. Develop a comprehensive site report for each possible location, taking into account all of these factors. Then you’ll be ready for price and contract negotiations.

Step 7 Manage the Finances

Create an all-inclusive forecast that takes into account space costs, equipment costs, installation lead times, and the construction budget. We suggest budgeting in three phases: schematic design, design development, and final design.

The schematic design phase includes the initial construction budget, and all of those wish-list items that can represent a large portion of the dollars allocated. After review, you can pare down your budget in the design development stage. The final design stage will prepare you for the “for bid” issue of documents. Once the budget is approved, you will need rigorous fiscal controls throughout the construction process.

Step 8 Scrutinize

Whether your data center will be located in a new or existing building or is a retrofit/expansion of an existing data center, the facility must be precisely constructed according to the architectural plan and the engineering design of each aspect of the data center’s features and functions. This includes site construction evaluation and building code permits, bid process and vendor selection, construction, and certificate of occupancy. Vigilant construction and project management will help ensure a responsible building process.

Step 9 Risk Management – Equipment Testing and Maintenance

As the facility’s equipment kicks into motion, it must be maintained in good working order. A commissioning, validation and maintenance program for all equipment is essential to the operating efficiency of the facility. Start by discussing and arranging maintenance with the equipment suppliers at the time of purchase. You will also need a regular testing schedule so that the data center is consistently attuned to business functions, dependencies, workflows, and recovery periods. This integration will allow you to smoothly incorporate and avoid costly, abrupt modifications.

Step 10 Target your objective through Integration not Consultation

Let us help! Incessant Data Center Development (IDCD) understands that knowledge is not power. We operate on the basis that power is knowledge expressed through intelligent effort! IDCD offers intelligent effort by providing ‘real world’ and time-proven answers through our “Advanced Synergistic Engineering Technical Services” (ASETS). ASETS is the result of our experience building and operating over 75 high tech facilities worldwide, with multiple platforms. We have developed the mission critical infrastructure for over three million square feet of DR/BC & collocation/managed services facilities. Our expertise includes all steps, from site selection through operation. ASETS is integration with accountability and a thorough knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses associated with different techniques, means, methods and procedures. This allows us to recommend creative, realistic solutions – efficiently and economically. IDCD delivers a dynamic ‘end to end’ solution that will meet or exceed fiscal requirements at a minimum of 20% lower than industry standards and indexes…guaranteed!

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Think Integration / Think Incessant!