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Data Storage

Get help planning a data center

Data center projects require extraordinary foresight and technical expertise. Get a few steps ahead of the game by following these recommendations.

By Fred Jaeckle and Brian Nuehring T

he idea of creating a new data center or expanding an existing one brings to mind futuristic images of computer experts working with dazzling high-tech equipment to feed their ever-increasing need for data-processing capabilities. While the end result for many organizations is a sleek new facility humming with machines and activity, none of it would be possible without an extraor- dinary level of upfront planning and teamwork involving many technical experts and a knowledgeable construction manager/ general contractor (CM/GC) to lead the process. Most data centers today are designed and built to address

tomorrow’s information-processing needs. Given the com- plexities and new technologies impacting most industries, an- ticipating the future needs of a new data center is no easy task. The healthcare industry provides an excellent example. Healthcare systems are among the fastest-growing users of data centers. Automated medical records keeping, electronic imaging, surgical robotics, advanced telecommunications, increasingly sophisticated medical procedures and multi- location facilities are just some of the recent developments that directly impact the IT support requirements of nearly every hospital and hospital system. No matter the industry involved, the fi rst and most im- portant step in building a new or expanded data center is a commitment to careful planning and collaboration among its many stakeholders. At the very least, this should involve the organization’s IT department leadership, its facilities manage- ment department and the project’s CM/GC, architect and data center planning consultants. The fi rst step is to determine and clearly defi ne the needs and goals of the data center, in both the short term and the longer term. There are many important and intertwining considerations to be determined in the pre-construction phase of a data center project, including: • Physical site selection (available site, affordability, conve- nience, access to power sources and landlines);

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• Anticipated computing load, data storage requirements and related equipment needs;

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• Security requirements and tier ratings (vulnerability to natural disaster, terrorism acts, regulatory and legal re- quirements);

• Number of years the data center will fulfi ll the organiza- tion’s planned needs;

• Migration plan from current data facilities to the new/ expanded facilities;

An experienced general contractor can help create the project’s parameters, help each planning team member understand and connect with the needs of the other team members and lead the client through all necessary and relevant issues and decisions.

• Capability for future equipment and operational upgrades within the planned facility; and

• Mechanical systems and physical plant requirements to support the planned facility.

The planning team must make these and other important decisions and resolve the competing (and often confl icting) situations that accompany them. Once this is accomplished, the team’s attention shifts to operational planning. As data centers become bigger and more sophisticated, they require more power and generate much more heat per square foot than today’s facilities. There are “green” equip- ment choices now available to help mitigate the operating costs of data centers, such as higher-voltage European-style equipment that operates on less amperage and requires less electricity than traditional American-made equipment.


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