In this edition of Voices of the Industry, Chris Kincaid, Senior Vice President of Design & Construction at Stream Data Centers, explores some of the biggest design and construction challenges for today’s data center developers, and how to tackle them.
In the wake of our growing digital economy and a data center industry that’s continually challenged with staying ahead of the customers’ IT roadmaps, different end-users have emerged to distinguish themselves with varying data center requirements. The evolving challenge, however, is how to efficiently build data centers for various types of users.
So, What’s the Problem?
How do data center developers and operators design and build for a varying array of different users and insure they are deploying the right product type to maximize their success? In short, what we at Stream have found success in solving data center design and build challenges by following these simple parameters:
Keys to Success
- Capacity – maintain ample availability of land, space and power, to balance supply and demand.
- Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) – never lose sight of KPIs such as health and safety,
efficiency or quality metrics.
- Speed to market – partner with a loyal and dependable supply chain to easily meet timing and delivery expectations.
- Stay ahead of market needs – keep construction-ready sites available for immediate build-to-suit or modification, so customer operators do not have to start their data center projects from scratch.
- Listening and responding to every customer’s specific concerns – to furnish the right product at the right time, and ensure alignment across all design and construction channels.
Let’s consider the differences between enterprise users and cloud providers as two examples of data center users who present contrasting challenges in design and construction requirements for data center developers.
What Enterprise Users Expect
Fortune 1000 companies and many more, are looking for master-planned risk-averse sites – outside of flight paths, away from rail lines and industrial uses, and outside the FEMA 500-year flood plain. Most are also looking for a higher level of site and building security, independent infrastructure – all located in a hardened purpose-built facility. Deploying a multi-level security protocol that starts with a secured site entrance, and continues throughout the building with increasing security stop-gaps, all the way to the cage level.
Today, traditional enterprise users prefer a handful of specific fiber providers that are led by their corporate WAN provider – which can be delivered by the carriers utilizing a minimal footprint inside the data center. We are starting to see a trend of these users increase their bandwidth, and expand to other solutions such as dark fiber and interconnection to control costs.
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The enterprise user’s footprint is typically less dense, deploying less power throughout their data center, resulting in a lower kilowatts-per-cabinet ratio (typically ~ 4kW.) They also often require diversity in their utility power feeds from either two separate transformers within the same substation, or preferably, two separate substations with diverse transmission feeds.
Enterprise customers typically have a moderate line of site into their long-term deployment strategy, as their needs is tied to specific business requirements. Enterprise users generally scale into these deployments at a slower rate than cloud providers. The solution is to deploy a product that is scalable over a long period of time, in order to meet the challenges of today, and tomorrow.
The Hyperscale Cloud Provider
Unprecedented growth and scalability needs are outpacing what typical cloud providers can produce in their existing data centers. Hyperscale data center requirements of cloud providers are an output of the volume at which their businesses are exploding.
Hyperscale cloud customers are usually more risk-tolerant as they have built-in redundancy through their multi-data center locations. Proximity to abundant power is critical for them, and it often drives site selection. They are also more open to new technologies and leading-edge design options for speed to market and to lower initial capital and future operating costs. For instance, many utilize containerized, or modular, designs for their electrical and mechanical systems versus the conventional stick-built design. In contrast, the enterprise user may associate the containerized approach with unacceptable risk exposure.
Hyperscale cloud users may have little to no need for multiple network service providers in their building, as they are tying back to interconnection stations through their own fiber, or dark fiber from a few service providers, back to key carrier hotels. If a cloud service provider, however, is taking lit services into the building their demand for space and power for the network service provider could be very large – beyond what even the enterprise user may require.
Cloud providers require larger scale deployments and specific timelines, fast-tracked to meet immediate business expansion needs. Cloud users typically deploy their required power capacity immediately in a much denser environment than the enterprise users (typically ~ 10kW per cabinet,) but consistent with enterprise, they want scalability options. So, the challenges in building hyperscale cloud centers are speed and scale done right – all to support flexibility of an ever-changing IT roadmap.
It’s clear how the two examples discussed here present different design and build challenges for data center developers, but meeting such variable challenges simply requires a singular focus – the customer’s specific business needs.
Having a Proven Stable of Known Deliverables Maintains Agility,
as well as the Confidence of Data Center Customers.
To resolve the challenges for data center developers discussed here, we at Stream stay positioned to launch new developments by offering fully-vetted products including Hyperscale Cloud Centers, Ready-to-FitÔ Powered Shells, Private Data CenterÔ suites and Build-to-Suit Data Centers. The latter option combines our proven design approach with customer-centric solutions to deliver a hybrid product that resolves all needs – and future-proofs the company’s IT strategy. Our methodology makes it easy to deliver the right data center product tailored to meet all requirements. This means adhering to a consultative design process, listening to the user/customer, and staying true to solving their design and construction problems.
It’s important to have great relationships with a select group of best-in-class equipment vendors that enable access to worry-free deliverability. We are loyal to those relationships, and we design around readily available equipment and materials, with a dedicated supply chain resources that meet the specified design intent, and remain readily available to maintain speed to market.
We know from experience, building credibility and trust between data center developers and customers is required when deploying mission-critical facilities. That’s how we do business at Stream Data Centers, and believe the best way to proceed in the design and construction process is to first listen, and constantly adjust to the customer and market needs.
Chris Kincaid is Senior Vice President of Design & Construction at Stream Data Centers.