Step-by-Step: Build a Data Center

Build a Data Center

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Our partners at Info~Tech Research Group have provided this
overview of the key issues facing IT leaders as they consider build-outs
or upgrades of their data centers. As you read through this report, you will
also find links to free downloads of numerous Info~Tech tools and
research notes to support you in your decision-making process.

Executive Summary
  • 42% of IT leaders will face a data center build or upgrade in 2010 - one of the most expensive and complex IT projects, it can cost up to $1.6 M for a 1000 square foot data center.
  • Each data center project is unique and should have its own detailed budget. Planning up front and establishing a clear project scope will minimize expensive changes in later project stages.
  • Industry benchmarks are not always accurate – the absence of a budget risks cost overruns by 22%. Hidden costs for landscaping, permits, and security can increase capital investments. Ongoing operating expenses must also be budgeted, as they represent 65% of the total costs associated with building a data center.
  • Accurate estimates of facility requirements are a critical input to the project’s budget.
  • Power and cooling supply requires careful estimation to accommodate future growth yet avoid unwarranted costs.
  • Fire protection is mandated by law and comes with real consequences as it can impact life safety.
  • Site selection should identify any potential issues that may lead to additional construction costs, especially in an existing building.
  • Hire a specialized general contractor and avoid those who build office spaces only. Data centers have more stringent, unique code requirements. Use specialized talent to avoid costly retrofit later.
Many IT organizations face a
data center build but fail to recognize the
design and engineering complexities.
Data Center facilities require industrial design and engineering
  • Data centers are getting bigger and more complex.
  • Despite the availability of consolidation technologies, organizations Info-Tech surveyed were two times more likely to increase the size of their data center than decrease it.
  • Internal expertise is most often lacking to undertake the build.
  • Data center facilities require specific industrial design and engineering requirements to meet the needs for fire-protection, power provisioning, stand-by power, cooling, physical security, and layout.
Almost half of IT leaders will face a data center build or upgrade in 2010
Careful analysis of five key design
elements done internally now will yield better
cost and build outcomes later.
Analyze These 5 Now

Power - Stand by Power - Cooling - Fire-Protection - Site Selection

To Yield Better Cost & Outcomes Later
  • Analyze these five factors before engaging outside consultants and contractors to correctly align the facility costs and capacity with enterprise needs.
  • Data Center construction projects executed without these five design activities, before awarding contracts, demonstrate a higher likelihood of cost overruns, overcapacity, and problems.
Establish clear project scope to minimize
expensive changes in later project stages.

Complete this project charter before the project commences to identify a clear and defined scope, decision rights, potential risks, and receive executive sponsorship.

The “Data Center Build Project Charter Template” will help you:

  • Understand just how big a project you are building.
  • Provide input into a build vs. buy decision.
  • Provide a project approval for business leaders to sign off on.
  • Reduce external costs of the project overall.
Data Center Build Project Charter
65% of costs occur after the data center is
built — get a handle on all costs before the build.
  • On average, a 1000 square foot data center costs $1.6 M.
  • Each project is unique and should have its own detailed budget; create a detailed list of expected expenses for an accurate budget.
  • Consider ongoing costs in your initial budget calculations, as they make up the bulk of the total costs associated with building a data center.
  • Some major ongoing operating expenses include:
  • Building leases
  • Fire suppression systems
  • Mechanical systems for electrical distribution, and in-room cooling
t portion of a data center build
Info-Tech research shows that data centers
cost between $400 and $700 per square foot.
Lower than industry conventions.
  • Using conventional industry standards can lead to over-estimating the build budget; Info-Tech's research shows actual costs are 22% less.
  • Organizations that rely on the industry standard of $600 to $900 per square foot when creating their budgets run the risk of over budgeting and over spending.
  • As a result, general benchmarks should not be used for a data center build.
  • Organizations should complete their own detailed investment and expenses to accurately budget for their builds.

For a more accurate and inclusive cost estimate
use Info-Tech’s budgeting tool.
  • The ITA Premium, Data Center Facility Budget Tool” enables the organization to account for all costs in order to arrive at an accurate estimate.
  • Accounts for hidden costs, such as janitorial expenses, landscaping, permits, and physical security.
  • Provides a complete example for a 1000 sq ft facility that you can tailor to suit your situation.
  • Factors all necessary renovations, repairs, and upgrades related to purchasing an existing data center into the final cost.
  • Even if you are planning on renovating an existing data center, you can still use the tool to determine ongoing operational costs.
Data Center Facility Budget Tool
Power estimates should accommodate
facility and equipment requirements.
Do not focus solely on the IT equipment housed in the data center.
Typical Data Center Energy Consumption
Leverage the "Data Center Power
and Cooling Requirements Calculator"
to ensure budget accuracy.
  • Use the “Data Center Power and Cooling Requirements Calculator” to estimate the facility requirements for power, standby power, and cooling for your facility.
  • Accurate estimates of facility requirements are a critical input to the project’s budget.
  • Use this tool to estimate existing & future:
  • IT equipment power load requirements.
  • Cooling load requirements.
  • Standby power load requirements.
  • For more detailed guidance on requirements gathering, refer to the research note, “Data Center Facility Requirements Estimations At-a-Glance.”
Server Roome Power and Load Requirement Estimates
Fire protection is not solely about IT assets;
additional protection must be evaluated
to avoid unnecessary costs.
  • The number one consideration when evaluating fire protection options is life safety in the data center. It is mandated by law and non-negotiable.
  • While clean agents can be very effective in suppressing fire and protecting property, they are also expensive to install and maintain and, may be toxic.
  • Refer to the ITA Premium research note, “Fire Protection: Only YOU Can Prevent Data Center Fires” for more detailed guidance.
  • Under NFPA 75 a data center must have a sprinkler system, detection and alarm systems, emergency power-off, and portable fire extinguishers.
Non-Mandatory Solutions: Risk and Cost of Downtime
Existing building sites often lead to
additional construction costs. Site evaluation
should identify any potential issues.
The selected site must be evaluated before the data center budget can be finalized.
  • Use the free “Data Center Site Selection Checklist” to target issues that will lead to cost overruns of safety/security concerns.
  • External environment, including physical hazards.
  • Internal checkpoints (power, cooling, etc.) in existing facilities.
  • Physical building attributes such as loading docks and water lines.
  • Security checkpoints for the protection of systems and staff.
  • Access control systems to prevent intruders.
  • RFacility layout must be planned before construction starts.
  • Data centers house more than just servers. Provide space for all equipment and to serve all functions.
  • Refer to the research note, “Planning for Data Center Physical Layout and Support Center Space” for more detailed guidance.
Data Center Site Selection Checklist
A common scorecard makes the contractor
selection process transparent.
  • Each contractor should be evaluated based on a standard scoring method to ensure accuracy and fairness.
  • Use the “Data Center Contractor Scripted Interview Scorecard” to show senior management why a particular contractor is the best fit and ensure you account for the following important aspects:
  • Data center build experience of similar size and scale
  • Project management practices
  • Site selection processes
  • End user requirements processes
  • System execution and management practices
  • Support during and after the build
Data Center Contractor Scripted Interview Scorecard