Data centers are specialized environments with safety and security precautions in place to protect the most important assets – your customers’ data and your equipment. Designing such a facility can be daunting, costly, and taxing on all resources if none done properly and could result in costly failures – no two data centers are alike. Here’s how to get your new data center construction right.
Planning, Expertise Keys to New Builds
New data center construction is expected to continue growing and one forecast from Sandler Research estimates a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.18 percent for the period of 2015 to 2019. A new design should be based on customer needs, business requirements, be scalable, manageable, optimized spaces, standardized (i.e., TIA, BICSI, Uptime Institute, EN 50600, CISCA, LEED, ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 90.4-2016), secure, modular, flexible and efficient.
The initial decision to build a data center must begin with sound requirements and total cost of ownership; estimates which include consideration for identifying risks, mitigation, and impact. Pre-planning pays dividends before embarking on building or soliciting bids to contractors. This will include identifying roles and responsibilities, experts, and the containment technologies and methods to mitigate heat including electrical power. The Uptime Institute has created a Tier Certification of a Constructed Facility (TCCF) standard used to evaluate data center facilities regarding infrastructure performance and it may be helpful in identifying additional requirements.
If time allows, an investment in learning about lessons learned, available cost analysis tools, studies, and the like are available. Gartner has two reports that are worth considering – Estimating Requirements and Costs of Data Build Projectsand Take Four Critical Steps Before Building a Data Center.
The first step requires scouting around geographically for a location. However, this is not a simple task without first considering other factors – natural disasters, fires, earthquakes, tornados, floods, hurricanes, and man-made incidents. Not all disasters require a presidential declaration, but it is prudent to research the costs associated with insurance given a specific location.
Here are some important natural and man-made sources:
- S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) site of historical disasters – https://www.fema.gov/disasters.
- S. Department of the Interior (DoI), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Earthquake Hazards Program includes a near real-time map – https://earthquake.usgs.gov/.
- Statista is a statistics site that includes visual analytics of historical natural disasters – https://www.statista.com/statistics/236504/number-of-natural-disasters-in-the-us-by-type/.
- The Global Incident Map displays recent terrorist and other suspicious events from open source, public websites – http://www.globalincidentmap.com/.
For a more comprehensive approach to data center site selection, it may be best to consult with the local real estate investment trust (REIT) company – they can assist with identifying infrastructure, electrical power, and the best location.
Data Center Design
The design phase is an initial step towards new data center construction that typically involves a team composed of designers, trade subcontractors and general contractors, and the data center staff including the data center manager and engineers. Additionally, the use of tools and apps such as modeling and simulation software – for building construction, the defacto standard for creating a digital three dimensional (3D) graphic representation – Building Information Modeling (BIM). The National BIM Standard-United States® (NBIMS-US™) is used throughout the construction, facilities, and property management industries to provide actionable intelligence in the decision making process regarding architecture, placement, routing, location, space and building optimization through geometries.
Here is a comparison of do it yourself (DIY) and outsourcing new data center construction:
DIY – building a data center
- Planning and space has been thoroughly vetted
- Design customization and technologies identified
- Estimates are conservative
- Complete control over design, build, and commissioning processes
- A CAPEX budget is available
- Supply chain cost savings potential
- Facility management is established
- Qualified technical and operations staff
- Over estimating costs could impact CAPEX budgets
- Efficiencies may not have been fully realized
- All risks are on the owner
- Lack of construction knowledge and experience
- Total costs may be prohibited compared to outsourcing packages
- Follow-on support is not available once the data center has been built
- Initial estimates may have been skewed and discounted the cost associated with maintenance, taxes, permits, insurance, real estate, infrastructure, extended warranties, and more
Outsourcing – design engineering and contracting or design-bid-build
- Expertise and experience
- Maintenance costs savings using internal staff
- Construction Manager (CM) assumes most of the risk
- Construction costs are phased and include fee rate and overhead costs, no lump sum
- Value Engineering can yield savings without affecting service
- Schedule adequate time for commissioning so that CMs meet or exceed construction deadlines
- Owner maintains project control
- Relationships with subcontractors, experts, and suppliers
- Requires a larger CAPEX than DIY
- Subcontractors may be required and add greater costs
- Supply chain may not be the most cost affective
- Requires careful scrutiny and delineation of deliverables and contract language
- Contingencies or ‘insurance’ is at additional costs when something goes wrong
- Construction team and vendors interests are not aligned with owner
The decision to DIY or outsource the new data center construction will depend on the CAPEX, risks, time, expertise, and control of project completion. There are many potential failures that may occur regardless of choice – the Uptime Institute has outlined some pitfalls.