7 Key Considerations for Building Your Next Data Center, Driven by Data Center Industry Growth

With tremendous gains in the deployment of Internet of Things, data analytics, cloud storage, and e-commerce, the data center industry is growing exponentially—not even the COVID-19 pandemic has been able to slow it down over the past two years. In the U.S. alone, the data center market is expected to reach revenues of more than $69 billion by 2024.

Data center companies are highly sophisticated and on the cutting edge of IT/computer technology. Data center projects are getting larger and more complex, especially from an electrical load/complexity and redundancy standpoint. Yet, as complexity increases, timelines and schedules continue to be more compressed. “Speed to market is a top demand by data center customers,” says Ben Burgett, director of operations with Gray’s, mission critical market. “Although there are many repeatable systems in data centers, which do create construction efficiencies once the learning curve for installation has been mastered, it is still imperative to have robust mechanisms in place to thoroughly plan, monitor, and control all the various construction factors required to sequence and schedule the project correctly.”

 

Below are seven key considerations when building a new data center:

 

1. Layout.

 

Although it seems basic, it is not always easy to determine the right amount of square footage, for both current and future needs. Is expansion likely in the future? Modular designs enhance simplicity and flexibility, especially for staying compatible with new framework advances every year. Also, plan enough room for pathways and spaces, especially for cable management.

 

2. Data room design.

 

Having enough flexibility and extra space are important considerations when considering data center design and the possibility of future expansion. Planning for this possibility impacts the layout of the electrical and cooling systems, along with the arrangement of server racks to optimize accessibility, workflow, and efficiency.

 

3. Power requirements.

 

Be certain local utilities have enough modern infrastructure to support the power needs of data systems in the data center, especially during times of peak operation. There must also be enough capacity to power the back-up and redundancy systems, meet heating and cooling demands, and handle any new power loads from additional equipment installed during upgrades/expansions.

"Although there are many repeatable systems in data centers... it is still imperative to have robust mechanisms in place to thoroughly plan, monitor, and control all the various construction factors required to sequence and schedule the project correctly."
Ben Burgett, Director of Operations, Mission Critical

Gray

4. Cooling requirements.

 

Maintaining the proper temperature is critical for efficient operation, especially as more heat is produced as more servers are added in the future. Data centers are constantly looking for new ways to cool their operations. Although traditional air-handlers and room air conditioners are still common, other options include liquid cooling, hydrogen fuel cells, solar panels, use of gray water, and implementation of automation and artificial intelligence.

 

5. Airflow management.

 

It is impossible to maintain efficient heating and cooling without proper airflow management to remove heat and distribute cool air. These systems can be complex and require precise vent placement to maximize efficient operation. Cool air intakes and hot air exhaust vents should be separated to reduce mixing. Server racks and filler panels can also be arranged to optimize airflow.

 

6. Reliability.

 

Reliable back-up power is critical for a data center. A data center’s tier level determines the number of redundancy systems and power distribution paths required for the facility. Data centers typically rely on a centralized uninterruptible power system (UPS) for emergency power. Mesh power configurations can eliminate single-point fiber failures to ensure the flow of data and reduce risk of shutdown.

 

7. Physical security.

 

Because data centers are mission critical facilities, physical security is a key part of their design. Plans should limit the number of access points (doors and windows) into the building. Other security measures include high fencing around the facility, motion-activated lights and cameras, and biometric scanners.

 

High Demand Continues

 

Over the last five years, research shows that demand has grown steadily for colocation data centers in primary markets such as northern Virginia; Dallas, Texas; Phoenix, Arizona; and all across the Silicon Valley. To keep up with demand, new data centers are being constructed across the U.S., with nearly half of them already fully leased before construction is completed.

 

Choice locations for the construction of new data centers are limited in number and often purchased or leased quickly, sometimes forcing developers in these markets to consider vertical construction, which takes longer and is more expensive. “Other construction factors are the still-present supply chain issues, especially long lead times and specialized procurements,” says Burgett. “If so, are there any constraints or options available in securing the required building components, or alternative materials? This is where it is vital to be working with an organization that is deeply experienced in the mission-critical market, who also has valued trade partners that can join the construction team if needed to keep the project on schedule.”

 

Even with these challenges, data center growth is expected to be robust in 2022, especially as cloud service providers and social media companies race to build out their digital infrastructures.

"Other construction factors are the still-present supply chain issues, especially long lead times and specialized procurements... This is where it is vital to be working with an organization that is deeply experienced in the mission-critical market..."
Ben Burgett, Director of Operations, Mission Critical

Gray

    Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.

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