Five tips on selecting a data centre location

Linda Tucci Senior News Writer
18 Jun 2008

This nerve-wracking economy might be prompting all kinds of cutbacks at your company but chances are a new data center is not one of them. Construction of data centers boomed last year and is expected to remain strong in 2008 according to a survey conducted last fall. More than 60% of respondents said they would be involved in a data center construction project in 2008.

Designing a data center comes with a Rubik's Cube worth of moving parts but location location location is the first piece of the puzzle to solve. Site selection is critical to increasing uptime and controlling costs said analysts Stephanie Balaouras and Galen Schreck who cover IT infrastructure at Cambridge Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc. Here are some of their pointers from an April 17 report on data center site section with commentary from John Burke principal research analyst at Nemertes Research Group Inc. in Mokena Ill.

Research threats before taking action

Minimize the risk of natural and man-made threats by researching the locations under consideration for your data center. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists natural disasters by state and by year dating back to 1953. Balaouras and Schreck advise that you determine both the frequency and the severity of natural disasters in the locations you are considering.

Man-made threats include accidents like chemical spills and plane crashes as well as calculated threats such as terrorist acts civil unrest and transit strikes. Damage from man-made accidents tends to be localized and more closely linked to transportation and energy infrastructure such as rail and truck hubs airports and power plants. The U.S. Department of Transportation publishes the history of transportation accidents hazardous materials incidents and other safety data for each state. The list also provides data on topics such as rail and road infrastructure and energy consumption.

Intentional threats such as sabotage and terrorism are harder to predict and more difficult to research. Balaouras and Schreck recommend meeting with your company's risk management professionals and raising questions about whether the location has landmarks government buildings or financial markets that are likely targets for terrorists and what is the likelihood of civil unrest or rioting. Historically densely populated urban areas carry more risk of attack than sparsely populated rural areas.

Weather and power at the outer limits

Nemertes Research analyst Burke points out that location will be dictated by what your new data center needs to accomplish. The survey found that the top driver for the current data center building boom is disaster recovery (DR). Roughly 25% of survey respondents listed DR as their No. 1 motivation for data center construction.

'If you are putting together a new data center to serve as a failover site the first thing you want to do is figure out how far away you can put the center. You need to figure out the limitations on distance based on what you run and who you have to serve ' Burke said.

So for example if you can be only 100 miles from New York or 300 miles from Chicago you need to take that into consideration first 'then go right out to the edge of your safe zone ' Burke said. 'Then look for a site that gives you the maximum possible separation from your current location with respect to weather and with respect to large regional power grid interconnections.'

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