Building out a data center is one of most expensive, high-risk projects your enterprise can undertake.
So you better have your game plan locked down before you order that first server rack.
Our partners at Info~Tech Research Group spell out a comprehensive strategic approach to data center planning in the research note Data Center Facility Requirements Estimations At-a-Glance. The 14-page PDF is available free to IT Business Edge members here in the IT Downloads library. The report approaches the requirements process in a five-phase approach, which you can see depicted in the image below.
The first step of the process, discovering business needs, may in some ways be the most difficult, at least from IT's perspective. A meaningful business needs assessment requires buy-in and active engagement from the executive team and every department in the business. It's much bigger than just IT, but you must have a complete picture of what the business wants to accomplish before an intelligent build/buy decision can be made.
After setting long-range goals, IT must take a full inventory of current applications and anticipate requirements for future business processes and software. This boils down to three key factors: criticality, capacity and growth.
Criticality determines if an application can be housed elsewhere, or on the other end of the spectrum needs additional hardware and backup power to ensure it is always on. Capacity boils down to how many servers are actually needed to support the business's compute needs, and growth speaks not only to the hope-for future of the business, but also any unforeseen changes. You might actually need to consolidate or shut down a business line or application one of these days, and you need to build that into your planning.
After the application review is complete, you can estimate the actual hardware and facilities requirements. We've posted several from Info~Tech recently that support this process. Be sure to check out the report Planning for Data Center Physical Layout and Support Center Space and the Data Center Power and Cooling Requirements Calculator, an extremely detailed tool to help quantify this key expense.
Lastly, you must develop a projected budget for running a data center to use in a build-vs.-buy decision. With the emergence of the cloud, simply renting your computing resources certainly seems more fashionable, but there are times when doing it yourself is the way to go. You'll be able to develop a clear plan for making this decision with the help of these tools.