Cookie cutter data centers?

I was just reading a blog post by Michael Manos at Changing An Industry Of Cottage Industries, promoting the idea of standardized instead of “one off” unique configurations. In this post, I’m going to address why I think this isn’t the best idea. Standardization of facilities does indeed reduce costs (look what it did for the Model T), unfortunately, this most often yields a mediocre result rather than an optimal one that is highly tailored for the specific circumstances.

Mr Manos characterizes differences in design philosophy by companies that specialize in elements of data center construction as “religious mystery” that is an “illusion” created by specialists with a vested interest in making sure that every job is a one off one. This is far from the truth.

Consider the technologies now that have a wide variety of options in them, all pertinent to the customer’s particular requirements:

Power (AC, DC, hybrid, green locally generated)

Cooling (CRAC, chillers, cooling towers, free air cooling)

Layout (hot aisle/cold aisle, vented cabinets)

Infrastructure (raised floor, overhead cable racks, a wide range of fire suppression technologies)

Each one of these technologies (and others I havn’t mentioned) has its place and the specialists are the ones that know exactly how to apply them to the customer’s needs, as well as fitting their piece into the whole puzzle optimally. Without this, you not only don’t get a facility that takes advantage of new technology, you get a facility that can NOT take advantage of new technology as it becomes available.

Also consider that no two facility situations are going to be the same (unless they’re built right next door to each other). Environmental conditions, utilities, and many other variables affect the design of a data center and its systems.

Now, it’s certainly true that some percentage of business owners are just going to just ask for something that requires minimum thought and maximum simplicity (no levers, knobs, advanced technology), what Mr Manos calls the “owners perspective”. These same owners are going to be the ones asking the hard questions when they find out what the real cost of standardized facilities are, as their more agile competitors leave them in the dust with their optimized facilities.

There’s a good reason for “one off” facilities and it’s not the specialists protecting the need for them.

Vern, SwiftWater Telecom
Data Center Services and Facilities


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