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Rules for designing the urban data center

Design considerations for an older building are much different than starting from scratch. The top ten things you need to know—before it's too late.

A data center design problem that often gets overlooked is building or renovating in an existing building in an...

urban area. There are specific and unique physical requirements, as well as obstacles, that people planning data centers need to address. While building a data center in an already heavily populated area creates a slew of problems, it's not impossible to overcome. There are a few basic guidelines to consider before you start, however.

1. Be aware that according to TIA-942, cabling must be run accommodating growth so that you don't have to revisit your horizontal. This means that you have to cable for today's needs and what you anticipate in the upcoming future. This means that you want to cable for application speeds that you will use within the next 10 years - so 10Gig system will certainly come into play in that period of time.

2. Be sure that you are compliant with local codes and have all abandoned cable removed prior to starting. Abandoned cable is any cable that is not terminated at both ends or not marked for future use. It is in your best interest to have all of this out of your way before you start adding your own cable. Excess abandoned cable will restrict air flow, can cause additional fuel loads of there is a fire, etc.

3. Check with your carriers to determine if the conduits running to the building will accommodate whatever circuits you will need. This can be a VERY expensive gotcha if you don't check and have to pay for directional core bores or drilling under existing roadways.

4. Check for local ordinances and codes for fire suppression and cable coating requirements (for instance does it have to be limited combustible, run in conduit, etc.)

5. Heating and cooling will be particularly important. If you will be incorporating blade servers into your data center the HVAC requirements will increase.

6. Check for seismic requirements, floor loading, etc.

7. Check with the power companies for redundancy options. This could be a problem if you are not able to get redundant circuits, it may change your generator capabilities.

8. Make sure that fire hydrants are close and the fire department does not have to cross railroad tracks to get to you as it will affect your insurance rates.

9. Look for physical barrier security - for instance, will you need to add barriers to keep people from accidentally driving through the building. What are your security options?

10. Beware of floor loading as well. Some high rise buildings can not support data center equipment without very expensive structural fortifications and modifications.

About the author. Carrie Higbie is the global network applications market manager for The Siemon Company and has been involved in the computing and networking industries for nearly 20 years. She has worked with manufacturing firms, medical institutions, casinos, healthcare providers, cable and wireless providers and a wide variety of other industries in both networking design/implementation, project management and software development for privately held consulting firms and most recently Network and Software Solutions.

This was last published in April 2005

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