December 07, 2010

Tips to build and move a data center – Part 1

As an IT director, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to move our data center twice in six months or three times in two years and have learned a few things. The last two times it was back to an in-house data center, so we were responsible for the build out as well. This includes working with contractors to build the walls, the power company to upgrade the service, inspectors and, of course, the in house facilities group.

If you haven’t experienced the fun of loading your entire company’s infrastructure on a truck in February in New England and watched it drive away, hoping the roads aren’t icy, you may be able to learn from some of the headaches I’ve gotten.

In part 1, we’ll look at the steps to take as an IT director when building out a new data center.
  1. By assuming the risk of time and materials, you can save a significant amount of money; however unless you truly have the time to manage the project closely a fixed bid price may be best.
  2. Used equipment can be a good way to reduce costs; however for large ticket items, a professional inspection and service check is a good insurance policy.
  3. If a vendor promised something three times and for whatever reasons had to back out, cancel and go somewhere else. You’re getting the run around.
  4. Don’t forget inspectors. If you are doing anything that requires an inspector to sign off, make sure to include them at the beginning of the project. It’s much easier to change the design on paper than when it is all built.
  5. Make sure you have time to test and resolve power and cooling issues, preferably not the same weekend you are moving.
  6. The last week is the worst. Everyone will be stressed out, trying to hit their deadlines. Part of the job is keeping everyone from getting on each other’s nerves.
  7. Don’t get oversold on “green”. Super energy efficient is great, but not always worth the extra money. We had planned to design our data center retrofit to leverage a very efficient cooling layout, but to do so would have cost $150,000 in demolition and ductwork. The ROI just didn’t make sense.
  8. Meet often, but with the right people. One person needs to be the point person and everyone goes to them. Otherwise you get rumors, distraction and all sorts of technical and political issues.
  9. Construction is disruptive. To avoid upsetting one group, make sure you annoy everyone equally.
  10. Plan for other damages and issues to crop up. Something as simple as carrying piping materials can cause damage to the walls. It’s real easy to damage sheetrock walls with a 10’ long metal pipe. Expect to spend some money to fix these later, or make sure it is in the contract that the vendor will do it.
  11. Always get at least three bids. Unless it is so small it will cost more in internal labor to go through the bidding process, take the time. The easiest way to save money is to negotiate for it and the best time for that is before you assign the work. Plus, different vendors might suggest ways to cut costs. If so suggest them to the other vendors to see if it makes sense.
  12. If possible, ask your vendors for the parts lists and comparison shop. Many times they work with a favorite supply house that may not always get the best price, especially if they just mark up the price and pass it along. By comparison shopping you show you are involved in the project, plus it shows you are very serious about saving money. Typically contractors will mark up the materials 10% so if you find a better price and ask them to order it, expect a slight increase.
Next time we’ll look at some tips to consider when you are in the process of moving your data center. What do you think? Any other best practices you have used when building out a new data center?
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Extreme Marketing Team

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