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What are the Basic Considerations of Building a Data Center?

August 04, 2009

Data CenterWe often receive questions concerning data centers and CPI data center solutions. Bill Watts, CPI Sr. Data Center Architect, responds to a customer who has a question about the basics of building a data center.

Question: I'm an application, systems management, and middleware admin if you will, so when it comes to an actual data center from the computer decking up, I have little experience, so with that, I was not sure of how to ask the question, but I was hoping for a list of document names I should expect from someone building a data center or if I built a data center. My client is very small and this is almost pro bono (small startup city).  Your background and company probably has the real answers ...

Answer: I will approach the answer from the requirements that need to be assembled. These will lead to the documentation that will address those requirements your engineer should be responding to or asking for. It should not be surprising that as the owner, you should be in the driver’s seat and control how your data center is configured and will ultimately function.

The key issues for any data center begin with the available power to the site. This is followed by what is going to be supported within the data center and of course must fit within the available power envelope.

There are several things that need to be considered in assembling what will be supported in the data center.


  • Determine day one requirements for compute (Blade, 1U, traditional), Spinning Storage, Tape Storage.
  • Establish a road map for growth in your data center.
  • Establish the data network structure needed to support the long range plan.
  • Calculate the critical IT load from your day one needs and 10 year milestone.
  • Calculate your cooling requirements day one and at 10 year milestone (your engineer can help calculate this value if you are not comfortable doing this yourself).


  • Evaluate your proposed site and determine if it will support your day one and 10 year minimum needs.
  • Review locations for the necessary utilities to support the 10 year minimum requirements (electrical, mechanical, and network space will grow proportionally to the planned data center requirements).
  • At this point in the planning process you have the necessary material to evaluate if the proposed site will meet your needs or another site should be considered.


  • The data that has been collected at this point will allow you to determine the quantity of cabinets and cooling units needed to service the equipment that will be stored in your facility.
  • You can now begin to plan your data center layout. Determine if you want to use a traditional data center approach or possibly CPI Passive Cooling, in-row cooling, water-based cooling cabinets, air or water economization, etc.  CPI’s PUE Calculator can help you forecast possible expenses.
  • Those calculations will also lead you to the electrical and mechanical plant requirements.

A good consultant should be able to assist you in reviewing this data and definition of your true base requirements. The consultant can then prepare recommendations of at least three possible solutions. From those three you should together select which one best aligns to your business need and available budget. The consultant can then develop a layout utilizing the approach agreed upon and provide CFD modeling showing anticipated performance. They should also be able to estimate utility cost of operation. This will help you in getting budgeted funds to proceed on your project.

As you may guess CPI offers this service. To get our help on your project call us at 800-834-4969 or email us at techsupport@chatsworth.comBill Watts, CPI Sr. Data Center Architect

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