Thursday, June 2, 2016

Data Center Design Consideration: Meet Me Rooms (MMR)

A co-location facility / carrier-neutral data center hosts services from multiple carriers (telecommunication companies) or organizations. Meet-me rooms (MMR) are important physical spaces (2 or more for redundancy) located in the building of a co-location data center or carrier-neutral data center. Data center clients use this space to interconnect or cross-connect to a single or multiple carriers (for redundancy) and to exchange information, which can be transmitted to individual computers via the Internet, without incurring local-loop fees.




Although the concept and practice of using an MMR are not new, the initial creation and management of these spaces over time has become a serious challenge for operators. Owing to some poor practices and lack of building standards, there have been occasions where new clients' preferred carrier could not be accommodated as a result of physical / location challenges. We are going to outline some design best practices.



CABINETS AND SPACE


A carrier generally asks for at least 2 four-post, 84" (45U) high cabinets in each MMR. If the operator is providing only AC power, the carrier may request additional rack space for rectifiers and batteries, should they be using DC equipment.

The best practice is to meet with the intended carriers all at once to create a rack and space solution that they can all agree on. Although this may be a difficult task to schedule, it will be worthwhile to reach an agreement on one typical rack type and one layout look and feel.

Clients who inspect your facilities before signing a contract will appreciate a consistent look to this space. Permitting odd-size cabinets combined with open-frame racks of all colors and widths will detract from a professional look and limit the usefulness of space for new or different functions.

Meet-Me Rooms tend to be smaller because fibers would be run from a user suite to patch panels in an MMR to be interconnected, which requires little space. With time, these rooms have grown in size and are starting to resemble data centers, including features such as cages.



LOCATION


The location of the MMRs would be outside the computer rooms, in the secure data center space. When determining location for one or redundant rooms, consider the industry standards for distance, which will vary according to service type and media (fiber/copper/coax). Placing the MMR on an outside wall is ideal if the space will double as the point of entry so that equipment and workers can go in and out using external doors without disrupting data hall's operations.

Depending on the expected user population, locating the MMR on an exterior wall and even near a loading dock could be a deal breaker for security reasons. If your clients require significantly more security than normal commercial businesses, the MMR should not act a main point of entry but should instead be placed within the data center, away from external walls.



CONNECTIONS


The connection to the data center clients and carriers / MMRs have many methods. Some standards exist. Each method has challenges in co-location facilities, and each challenge can be met so long as they are identified early and planned for.


Direct Connect —

Each carrier connects directly with the client from the carrier-equipment rack to the client-side demarcation point or equipment rack which is also located in a secure half of the MMR (see figure below). The client then extends to the floor space.

The MMR is split for security reasons between clients and carriers. Clients are permitted in their side of the MMR, and carriers in theirs. This approach could increase the amount of conduit in the ceiling space and limit future installations.

Using a private cage for client-side equipment or third-party cross-connect provider as the only staff permitted in the client side of the MMR could limit a security concern.




Direct Connect (Extended Demarcation Point) —

It means each carrier connects directly with the client from the carrier-equipment rack in the MMR to the client-side demarcation point located in the client space (see figure below). Multiple conduits demanded by clients can quickly fill any available space above the ceiling.




Cross Connect in the MMR —

Each client space has pre-installed patch panels located in a secure side of the MMR whereby multiple carriers cross-connect (see figure below). The pre-installed facility is then patched to the client's equipment in the floor space.

Similar to the "Direct Connect" method, some clients may express security concerns with this topology and carriers may not like the potential that a competitor could accidentally unplug their patch. If the MMR is professionally managed (which is highly recommended), the carrier would not have access to this side of the MMR.





Cross Connect in Client's Floor Space —

Patch panels are placed in each carrier’s secure equipment rack and pre-connected to each client's space (see figure below). Drawbacks include higher upfront costs to carriers and operators, who may never connect to every client, and loss of operator cross-connect fees.





MANAGING  MMR


Try to create in-building standards and include them in every lease agreement. In addition, carrier agreements should include adherence to your standards. These standards need to outline access-control, cross-connect, interconnect, and direct-connection means and methods, as well as installation and pathway standards, cable count and color standards, and labeling criteria.




Access Control —

Control access to carrier sides and, if designed, client sides of the MMRs. Only permit third-party MMR management companies to have access to both rooms. Make sure this access is authorized, authenticated and audited. Ensure the design disables any opportunity for a carrier or tenant to literally “throw a cable over the wall” to make a connection.


Connection Methods —

A good cable installer can be assigned to the task of managing the MMR as long as the standards are well documented and SLAs between that company and the operator exist.


Pathway Standards —

The MMR space above the ceiling is not limitless; as such, controls must be put in place to ensure large (and typically unused) conduits are not positioned between data connection points. Traditional cable tray is a sure means of transporting media; most clients will claim that cable trays are an inherent security risk, however. The use of flexible armored cable is something all operators should consider. It is lightweight, able to bend and ultra-thin compared with conduit.


Color Codes —

Color coding the media is a best practice for many reasons. Colors can designate fiber-types, counts, installation dates and specific client connections. Mining out the infrastructure of past clients is easy once the cables are identified, and identification by color is a quick means of disposal.



For details of the MMR and structured cabling system design (copper and fiber cables), please consider to attend a credential program and further learning for telecommunications spaces, horizontal and backbone distribution systems.



About SMA

Strategic Media Asia (SMA) is one of the approved CPD course providers of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) UK.

The team exits provide an interactive environment and opportunities for members of ICT industry and facilities' engineers to exchange professional views and experience.

SMA connects IT, Facilities and Design. For accreditation details and background, please visit www.stmedia-asia.com/about.html.