Friday, July 3, 2015

Data Center Design Consideration: Site Selection

So far we explored three criteria when constructing a data center: Redundancy, Cooling and Space Planning. However, the location where you build your mission critical facilities is also an important design decision. Locations that incurs high costs with significant threats to availability or limits the functions of a data center should not be good choices.

So, please review the following criteria when choosing the best location. We understand that not all of these criteria will be relevant but some may be even more critical in certain industries compared with others. And, of course, your final decision should take a balance of various considerations.

How far to access by your employees

The first issue is the distance between your data center and main office. Unlike Hong Kong, one of the small cities in the world, can you access your data center within 1 - 2 hours by driving or other transportation? Renovated industrial buildings or even an existing structure in a city / next to a transportation network that are already owned offers plenty of space. In such cases, network latency is seldom a concern (it is especially important for Carrier Neutral Data Centers). The longer distance incurs higher latencies and it is inconvenient if employees must work in both locations.

How far to access by your customers

It depends on a data center use and targets. Most colocation sites can be reached by their customers within a short period of time. Financial companies, for example, often build the facilities that are physically close to trading markets (the “customer”). This selection enables faster trades owing to lower latencies between the data center and the market, potentially increasing the company’s profits. In other cases, a company targeting, say, a foreign market might consider building a data center in another nation to best serve patrons there.

Operations and Maintenance

Choosing a data center's location where your services providers, contractors and stakeholders are available is important. Apart from construction, your data center genset, for example, should be supplied and refilled by a diesel provider. Your site selection affects your choice of who can and will be involved with your data center.

Physical Risk

Earthquakes can cause structural damage to buildings, topple server racks and destroy infrastructure like power and networking lines. A good data center design in such a location implements safeguards against such events, but these additional features increase the construction cost—maybe dramatically. Vibrations from public transport and nearby airports can affect equipment, as can electromagnetic interference from antennas and other sources. Beyond such incidental conditions are issues like political instability and crime.

Other threats like flooding, fires and volcanoes can pose a particular danger in some locations.


Cooling is a major operating expense, but the colder the local climate, the greater the potential for using free cooling and for greater cooling efficiency (even with mechanical cooling).

Physical Infrastructure

A good site will offer enough power and water and sufficient networking bandwidth to support the data center. The cost of these resources is as important as their availability.

Real Estate

The cost of land or an existing building matters. If the property / building is not owned by the data center owner, the leasing terms, periods and responsibilities must be carefully considered and negotiated with the landlord.

Building Structure

A data center houses mission critical facilities, servers, cabinet and racks. Though an existing building may be the best option for your new data center, this approach raises a number of unique challenges. You should evaluate the building structure relative to the weight of racks and other equipment, as well as determining if the power and other infrastructure are sufficient or can be reasonably improved to meet your needs. A poorly chosen building can necessitate numerous retrofits, such as freight elevators, raised ceilings and so on.

Local Law and Taxes

Property and taxes can be a serious downside to a given location which may seriously affect the operations and capital costs of your data center. In addition, the data ownership and privacy law are different in cities / countries. China, for example, requests special licenses and permission to run a data center and host sensitive information.

About the Blogger

Strategic Media Asia Ltd (SMA) is one of the Approved CPD Course Providers of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE). SMA exists to provide an interactive environment and opportunities for members of IDC industry and engineers to exchange professional views and experience on data center design, critical infrastructure system, electrical and mechanical facilities, etc.

SMA connects IT, Facilities and Design. For details, please visit our website at

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