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Why standard data centre designs don’t work

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Fast deployment time compared to traditional brick and mortar facilities is one of the biggest advantages of prefabricated data centres. Time can be saved in many areas of a project. However, when it comes to the actual initial design phase of a data centre, it simply does not pay to take shortcuts. By Srikanth Murugan, global director: sales engineering at Flexenclosure

One such shortcut used by many containerised data centre manufacturers is trying to shoehorn every new data centre request they receive into one of a limited number of “standard” configurations. The problem is that data centres are rarely standard from their owners’ perspectives, so the customer faces having to compromise on their requirements and they end up with a facility that cannot deliver for their exact needs.

This issue is especially prevalent with ISO container data centre solutions, as the physical dimensions of ISO containers severely limit the potential design options. I have often seen manufacturers of such products develop a couple of designs which best fit their inherently inflexible containers and they push these options at the customer. A case in point was a customer request I saw for a facility with a power density of 3kW per rack. The response from one of the vendors they went to was a 2kW per rack solution and when the customer asked them to increase it as per the original brief, the vendor came back with a 3.5kW per rack offer.

The bottom line is that predetermined “standard” designs like these will rarely work for any given customer because data centres are simply too complicated to boil down to a one-size-fits-all approach.

 

Fully-customised design

A bespoke supplier of prefabricated data centre buildings will not limit itself to simple containerised products, but rather custom design each and every data centre solution and create modular facilities with fully configurable open white space. Initially, five fundamental design questions must be answered:

* How many racks do you need and what are their dimensions?

* What Tier rating do you need?

* What is the average power density per rack?

* Will you have AC or DC racks and what level of battery backup do you need? Where will the data centre be located?

Using this key information, an entirely new design can then be created from scratch. New designs are often shaped by the physical site layout and the customer’s expansion plans, which help the supplier to determine whether to plan for horizontal or vertical expansion, or sometimes for both. Do you simply need an IT room and a power room?  Will you be offering colocation services? How about a network monitoring room? Office space… a staging area… a washroom…? A bespoke supplier can custom build all these and more into its prefabricated modules and provide a complete solution. A standard design?  Definitely not. A design that precisely meets customer needs? Absolutely.

Further, data centre operators often have preferences for particular vendors for cooling or power systems due to the presence of local support, existing support contracts or the availability of spares. A vendor-agnostic supplier is able to further custom design its facilities using the customers preferred products.

And it is important to note that when designing a data centre you also need to look at its future growth projection. For example, the initial requirements of two different customers might be more or less the same, but if their expansion plans differ the initial designs will also likely be different. Another reason why it is critical to custom design each and every data centre project and to go modular to ensure maximised data centre agility.

So the next time someone tries to convince you of the benefits of a “standard” solution, ask yourself whether you would you rather work with a vendor who is trying to sell what they have or one who is trying to give you want you want?