Designing a Cost-Effective Data Center

by Christopher Johnston, PE

There’s no way to avoid it - the cost of data centers gives every client sticker shock. Not only is the cost to design, build, test and commission increasing, but the inevitable utility cost increases on the near horizon are daunting. Knowledgeable users are forecasting that the cost of operation will exceed the cost of designing, building, testing and commissioning.

Syska is very aware of these issues and is focused on providing our clients cost-effective design. We think that these are the basic principles:

  1. Consider whether the facility reliability required can be reduced by upgrading the IT network. For example, can three less-costly Tier 2 facilities serve instead of two more-costly Tier 4 facilities?

  2. Consider the present and estimated future costs of utilities in site selection.

  3. Focus on long term operating costs in addition to initial costs. For example, consider a site that has, at present, low electric utility costs and medium water utility costs. Providing air-cooled water chillers will provide the lowest initial cost, but rapidly escalating electric utility costs may prove that water-cooled water chillers are the better choice. Energy and financial modeling based on estimates of future utility costs will reveal the best decision.

  4. Focus on scalability and modularity. If the initial UPS need is 50 watts/square foot and the ultimate is 150 watts, design for 75 watts initial that can be later upgraded to 150 watts. If the initial raised floor need is 20,000 square feet and the ultimate is 40,000, design for 30,000 initial with an additional 10,000 shelled in for future fit out. When faced with a choice between quality and quantity, opt for quality that can be upgraded in the future to provide added quantity.

  5. Keep the design as simple as possible. Simplicity eliminates unnecessary components and cost, increases reliability and increases maintainability. For example, if all of the computer equipment is dual-cord, then static transfer switches downstream of the UPS systems are not cost-effective.

  6. Use standard components and ratings wherever possible. Serial number 1 always has a high initial and a high replacement cost. As an example, 4000 ampere switchgear bus is more cost effective than 5000 ampere bus.

  7. Automate normal and emergency facility operations as much as possible. Utilize technology instead of people wherever practical.

These basic principles must be considered in every Data Center project.