What to Look for in an Effective Data Center Design

What to Look for in an Effective Data Center Design

What was considered an effective data center design only a few years ago is quickly becoming dated. New technological advancements and demanding workloads translate into new data center design requirements. For example, artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) workloads need denser computing power to improve performance and provide real-time feedback. This changes the approach for cooling methods and calls for more computing power in less square footage.

We’ll talk about what should be part of modern data center architecture, as well as key considerations for businesses looking to move to a more effective data center.

Key Considerations for Data Center Design

When making decisions about a data center design, organizations should think about scalability, flexibility, power consumption, availability, redundancy, and security of their infrastructure.

Scalability and Flexibility

The design of a data center should include anticipation of future growth. Ensure there is enough space, power, and cooling capacity for additional servers and racks. Modular designs and adaptable layouts can improve flexibility and scalability, and high-density computing can make the most of your square footage.

Power and Cooling Efficiency

Powering equipment and keeping it cool can be a resource-intensive exercise. However, there are ways businesses can optimize and reduce their power consumption, making it more sustainable. By switching to energy-efficient equipment, leveraging renewable energy sources, and implementing strategies such as hot aisle containment to maintain a barrier around hot air exhaust, businesses can improve their power and cooling efficiency.

High Availability and Redundancy

When a data center has high availability and redundancy, the facility ensures continuous operation regardless of interruptions.

Backup generators, redundant power supplies, and copies of critical systems can mean that data centers are only down for a few minutes per year at the most.

Security and Physical Protection

Physical and digital security is vital in data centers. The facility should have access control systems to allow only necessary people into certain parts of the building or applications. Security cameras, fire suppression systems, and intrusion detection tools can help safeguard data and equipment.

What Should Be Included Within a Data Center Design?

When building a data center, the anatomy of the design should incorporate the aforementioned considerations and designed with geography, data sensitivity, performance, and availability in mind.

Building Structure

Every region is prone to certain natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and tornados. A facility’s structure should be reinforced to withstand whatever mother nature brings, especially if it’s more expected in a certain region.

Access Controls and Physical Security

Physical access to data center resources should be restricted and tightly controlled. This can include protocols around access for sensitive areas of a building, use of two-factor authentication, biometric screening, and video surveillance that covers all doors and windows.

Virtual Security

When designing a data center, it’s crucial to include virtual security measures as part of a comprehensive cybersecurity plan. Effective cybersecurity measures are essential to protect data centers from threats and ensure data integrity, and can include:

  • Firewalls
  • Encryption
  • Regular security audits
  • Virtual private networks (VPNs)
  • Intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDS/IPS)
  • Security information and event management (SIEM)

Climate Control and Cooling

Heat, humidity, and static electricity can wreak havoc on data center equipment. Redundant environmental systems can enable continuous operations. Cooling methods also make a big difference in the performance of your equipment. Air cooling blows air on and around equipment, whereas liquid cooling circulates cool liquid to equipment and around the building to absorb heat. After that, the liquid is sent through radiators or cooling towers, providing an efficient way to cool key components.

Building Management Systems

Building management systems can give data center operators a high-level view of all factors of facility health, including HVAC, power loads, and voltage levels. Management systems can also monitor the status of emergency power systems such as uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and generators.


Diverse and redundant power sources can greatly reduce the chance of power outages affecting the availability of servers. Power distribution units (PDUs) do more than deliver power in a data center. They can also be used to track power consumption and identify voltage fluctuations that may indicate equipment issues.

Data centers can also include UPS as a first line of defense against short-term spikes or drops in power that can greatly hinder availability or damage equipment. Redundant UPS systems offer even higher availability.

Backup generators can be added to provide continuous power during utility power outage events. Facilities can also have additional fuel onsite to keep generators running longer.

Redundancy and Failover

Redundancy and failover add extra safeguards to a data center to boost availability. Duplicating critical components, such as hardware, network connections, and power, improves redundancy. Failover details the process where data centers switch automatically to a backup system when a primary system fails. This can be done by having both systems run simultaneously (active/active), or by having a backup system in place to start when the primary one fails (active/passive).

Environmental Monitoring

Data centers should be monitoring onsite operations as well as the environment. Onsite operations monitoring provides 24x7x365 visibility into possible security threats and elements critical to data center infrastructure performance. Environmental monitoring includes sensors for temperature, humidity, airflow, and power consumption. Detecting environmental issues early can reduce the likelihood of equipment failure.

Cabling, Connectivity, and Networking

Having one or two carriers to choose from can mean businesses may have to sacrifice availability or performance. When data centers are carrier-neutral and offer multiple connectivity options with different carriers, organizations enjoy higher availability, lower latency, greater choice, and improved disaster recovery.

Hybrid and Multi-Cloud Architectures

Is there a need to connect to on-premises infrastructure or form connections between multiple cloud environments? Data center design should consider the interconnectivity needed between different architectures and work to integrate as effectively as possible.

Business Continuity Workspace

Sometimes, a natural disaster or outage can lead to displacement, leaving employees looking for a safe place to work. Data centers can also include business continuity workspaces, allowing employees to set up shop during the recovery process. For example, TierPoint’s data centers have workspace sites that can accommodate up to 800 people.

Modern Data Center Design Strategies

To accommodate larger workloads and meet new demands, modern data centers are being designed with more scalability and agility built in.

Modular and Containerized Designs

Modular data center designs start with pre-fabricated modules that contain IT equipment, power, and cooling. Because the design is modular, it’s easy to add or remove pieces as needed, which makes scaling easy.

Similar to modular design, IT infrastructure can be kept within a containerized unit for rapid deployment. These are not as customizable as modular designs, but if time is of the essence, containerized designs can be the better choice.

High-Density Computing Solutions

High-density computing solutions can fit more computing power into smaller spaces using technology such as blade servers and GPU-accelerated systems. With blade servers, multiple server modules reside in one chassis, sharing power and cooling resources. The shared nature of the system reduces the physical blueprint without compromising on processing power.

Graphics processing units (GPUs) offer significantly higher processing power compared to central processing units (CPUs) and can be a better fit for machine learning and artificial intelligence tasks. High-density data centers are necessary to house GPUs effectively.

Choosing the Right Data Center for Your Needs

The data center design that is right for your business will depend on what data and applications you want in the data center, your tolerance for downtime, natural disasters common to your geographic area, and more. TierPoint’s 40 world-class data centers offer coast-to-coast connection, carrier-neutral connectivity, and hybrid flexibility to suit your business needs.

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