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Characteristics of an outstanding data center design

The process of building a data-center facility appears to be simple on the inception but has several aspects that must be done correctly. In this book excerpt, find out how to get it done right the first time.

The following tip was excerpted from Chapter 4, 'Data Center Design,' of the book  Administering Data Centers: Servers, Storage, and Voice over IP by Kailash Jayaswal, courtesy of Wiley Publishing. Click here for the complete collection of book excerpts.

Characteristics of an Outstanding Design

The following are some features for an outstanding data center design (although they would serve well for any other building): 

  • Design must be simple— Simplicity makes it difficult to err. To make the work simpler for those using the facility, all cables, circuit breakers, servers, storage devices, network ports, and power outlets must be labeled. The grid location of the tile (where the equipment is located) must be kept online so it can be readily accessed by others. No one should have to guess. In today's data centers, guesswork on the part of humans is the leading cause of network and system outages. When tiles, ports, and outlets are all labeled, it is easy to install new equipment. It is also simple to service or replace existing hardware. 
  • Design must be scalable— The design, once finalized, must work for any size of data center— 50,000, 5,000, or even 500 square feet.
  • Design must be modular— Ancient Greeks, Romans, and Zoroastrians built large complex structures using small, manageable units that could be designed and manufactured easily. Data centers must also be constructed with small building blocks that can further be divided into smaller blocks for higher granularity.
  • Design must be flexible— It is impossible to predict the technical requirements for the data center 10 (or even more) years out. To build a successful data center for long-term use, it must be easy to upgrade and to change layout or components. Adata center design that has these four characteristics will be less expensive and far easier to use, maintain, and expand.

Guidelines for Planning a Data Center

Following is a list of the key guidelines for design, construction, and deployment of a data center:

  • Plan in advance— The sooner you start planning, the quicker you will discover potential problems and have time to think of and implement solutions. It removes the "Oops, I didn't see this coming!" factor. A man in my neighborhood once told me, "I am not afraid of getting hit by the truck racing toward my face. I am afraid of ones racing toward my back." 
  • Plan for the worst— At least you will have thought of solutions to any impending problems. 
  • Plan for growth— The data center most probably will be in use longer than originally planned. Relocation is cumbersome and companies do not relocate unless absolutely necessary.
  • Simplify your design— If it is complicated, changes will take more time and money and cause financial losses and emotional upheaval. 
  • Plan for changes— Design must be modular and flexible to accommodate changes and growth.
  • Label all equipment, especially cables and ports— Maintenance and adding servers or devices will take less time. More importantly, they will be less likely to create unwarranted problems.

The previous tip was excerpted from Chapter 4, 'Data Center Design,' from the book  Administering Data Centers: Servers, Storage, and Voice over IP by Kailash Jayaswal, courtesy of Wiley Publishing. Click here for the complete collection of book excerpts.

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