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STEPS TO LOCATING AND DESIGNING A LARGE DATA CENTER

As a disclaimer to the information below, ABR Consulting Group, Inc. is not in the Real Estate business.  We are independent experts in the planning and relocation of major data centers.  We do participate in due diligence studies on potential sites and we do prepare program requirements for customers to turn a a selected site into a failsafe data center.  We have extraordinary experience in preparing construction and relocation budgets for these types of project.  We offer the following for your consideration when looking for a large, and possibly 5-nines, data center.  

I.          BUSINESS REASONS FOR MOVE

There are numerous reasons why enterprises choose to move their data center.  The more common reasons are:

1.         Outgrown the existing data center
2.         Infrastructure is too old or too expensive to upgrade
3.         Too expensive to maintain
4.         State or local regulatory and/or tax issues
5.         Lease is up and a new site makes better business sense
6.         Environmental circumstances
7.         Suitable area with qualified labor

8.         Facility can no longer meet facility downtime requirements.  The existing facility has too   
            many single points of failure and is not reliable.  Too expensive to upgrade.  Even after
            expense, facility has too many other problems
9.        
Opportunity to reduce labor costs 

Most often, any or all of the business reasons above will drive the selection of a new location for a data center.  For this exercise, the business reasons are unknown. 

 II.       DATA CENTER ASSUMPTIONS

  We offer the following assumptions that describe what features that an enterprise would    
  be looking for in a large data center:

1.         A building that can house a raised floor of no less that 60,000 80,000 sq.ft. plus all supporting operations.  Ideally, the raised floor and 24/7 operating staff are to be on one level.   

2.         A site with an equipment yard that can support a 5-nines data center (99.99999% uptime) with the raised floor in item #1 and all supporting operations.  This translates into .8-1.0 sq.ft. of equipment yard for every sq.ft. of raised floor. 

3.         A site that has the power source to supply 4,500-5,000 amps @ 480 VAC for the data center and its operations.  Expect a design of 65-70 watts/sq.ft. for the raised floor area.  Ideally near a second power sub-station. 

4.         A site that is very near major routes for fiber optics suppliers.  Dual fiber entrances onto the property from two diverse directions is required.  Very large enterprises may want to bring in more than one fiber supplier. 

5.         Floor loading in the building housing the data center of no less than 125 lbs/sq.ft.  150 lbs./sq.ft. is preferable.  A building with a 100 lb/sq.ft. floor may need to be braced in several locations.

6          Adequate ceiling height for the computer room.  Suggest no less than 10 feet clear between the top of the raised floor and the false ceiling.  10.5-11.0 feet is preferable.   

III.       TYPE OF CONSTRUCTION

            1.         New construction is preferred.  May not always be possible or practical. 

IV        ESTIMATED COSTS

            1.         Expect a cost of $800-$1,200 sq.ft. to build the raised floor and supporting complete
                        equipment yard for a 5-nines data center.  This does not include the general office 
                        area.   

V.        WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN SELECTING A SITE

            1.         Location

             In general, the site under consideration must take the following under consideration:

             A.        Geographic Location

                        1)        Not under an airport landing or takeoff pattern
           
2)         Not in the pathway of a dam should there be a loss of integrity
            3)         Not near regularly-used railroad tracks or spur tracks into industrial or 
                        chemical sites.  
            4)         Not near areas with industrial pollution
            5)         Not near areas with surrounding facilities that are sources for
                        EMI           
           
6)         Not near major sources of constant vibration

             B.         Natural Hazards

                        1)         Avoid

                        a)         Flood plains or any area that can flood
                        b)         Land depressions near rivers or lakes
                        c)         Areas with large forests nearby  

2)         Build Accordingly in Areas with the Following Natural Hazards

                                    a)         Seismic activity
                       
b)         Tornados and hurricanes
                       
c)         High winds or temperature extremes                                           
                       
d)         High incidences of lightening
                        e)         Extremely cold winters

 2.        Labor Resources

            The metropolitan area surrounding the new data center complex should be known to have a robust source of qualified data center staff resources. 

VI.       STEP-BY-STEP APPROACH TO BEGINNING DESIGN

1.         Step One Prepare Draft Program Requirements

            A.        Must have a 90% understanding of sq.ft. needs and general environmental 
            requirement for the data center. 

2.         Step Two - Prepare Budgets

             A.        Property

                         1)         Site selection
             2)         Acquisition/Leasing
             3)         Other

             B.         Construction

             C.        IT

                        1)         Replace or upgrade equipment
           
2)         Add equipment
           
3)         Fit-Up equipment and materials for new data center
           
4)         Consultant costs
                       
a)         Project management
                       
b)         Vendors (planning)
            5)         Equipment relocation

            D.        Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment (FF&E)

            E.         Staff Relocation

            F.         Other

            NOTE:  Preparing the draft program requirements and the budget can begin 
            
together but the 90% requirements must be completed before the budget
             can be completed.  

3.         Step Three Identify Potential Geographic Areas

4.         Step Four Select Possible Sites or Buildings

             NOTE:  The availability and attractiveness of certain sites or buildings may dictate
               the geographic area. 

 NOTE:  Site selection and building evaluation can begin before budget is complete. 

5.         Step Five Retaining Architect

            A.       Consider retaining primary architect when site or building selection is down
           to the short list.  They are very valuable at this point. 

B.        If you are considering an existing property, consider retaining an electrical and mechanical engineering firm to evaluate the environmental systems.  This firm must be highly experienced in evaluating sites or buildings that will house a large data center.  We can recommend some top notch firms. 

6.         Step Six Select Site or Building

7.         Step Seven Begin Schematic Design

            A.        Begin serious finalization of IT program requirements

VII.      HOW LONG WILL THESE STEPS TAKE?

           The project can move from budgeting and programming in 90-120 days or less by themselves.  However, the most important critical-path item is site selection and this will stretch out the elapsed time for the entire set of above-described steps.   

VIII.    ABR CONSULTING GROUP, INC. CAN HELP

            1.        Our associate electrical engineering firm, EYP Mission Critical Facilities   
                        (www.eypmcf.com) is highly experienced in the evaluation of potential sites or buildings 
                        that will house mission-critical data centers.  We have teamed on several projects for 
                        precisely this activity.  If the customer is interested, we could offer to make a one-week 
                        swing (or longer) to look at their potential sites.  We could also do the necessary ground 
                        work to identify the telecom suppliers and fiber routes in the areas of the potential site.  
                        We can possibly shorten the search and save the customer money in the process. 

2.         EYPMCF has a nationwide presence with several offices in the U.S.  Interestingly, EYP maintains a good list of data centers that are available around the U.S.  They also have some information on the specifications and features of these data centers. 

3.         As mentioned above, a 5-nines data center will cost about $800-$1,200 sq.ft. to build.  For an 80,000 sq.ft. floor, this can be $96,000,000.  And, this is just for the raised floor and supporting environmental equipment.  An important part of that cost is the acquisition of the generators, UPS, switchgear, HVAC equipment and other large environmental systems.  It should be noted that there is a large inventory of brand new systems that were installed in large web-hosting sites and never used beyond testing.  These systems are the best of the best and can be purchased for about 15%-20% of their original value plus de-installation and shipping.  We know where a lot of this equipment is because we designed many of these sites.  Use of these systems could reduce the overall costs for the project.      

4.         ABR has a 42-page program requirements template for a large data center that we use to begin projects.  With a few interviews and tweaking to the document and you have a program requirements document for the architect, engineers and general contractor.  This advantage, plus 30-years experience in large data centers, allows to proceed quickly in finalizing the program requirements.

5.         EYP is equipped with a very large checklist that they use when evaluating sites or buildings that will house mission-critical data centers. 

 

Contact us at www.abrconsulting.com  Phone:  925.872.5523