Data Center Facility Strategy

For the past six months I have been working with various Data Center Facility consultants and specialists, developing a strategy for a trilogy of new “Green-Field” data centers within Saudi Arabia.

This post is a snapshot of the Data Center Facility landscape right now. So if you are planning on expanding: going hybrid or public cloud, building your own, renting space, etc. then this post is for you.

What are the options available right now?  Every option has Pros and Cons; it is just a matter of selecting the best solution that fits your business requirements:

  • Public Cloud – You do not have to worry about the Data Center Facility, it is taken care of for you.  In fact, you trust them to provide the entire service delivery to you for a fee.  Upside: Reduced OPEX/CAPEX, Reduced time to implement.  Downside: Data movement and Service Migration times, Possible Governance and Compliance issues.
  • Hybrid Cloud – You have existing infrastructure of some sort and rather than expand it, you purchase a hybrid cloud service (eg. IaaS, SaaS, PaaS, DaaS) and connect that to your Organisation via IPSec VPN (Site-to-Site) or SSL VPN (User-to-Site).  Upside: Keep your primary site intact, Reduced OPEX/CAPEX, Reduced time to implement.  Downside: Data movement and Service Migration times, Possible Governance and Compliance issues.
  • Co-location – You rent rack-space from a Data Center Facility service provider that is responsible for the facility; you just have to provide the active equipment to be installed in the racks provided and be responsible for operating it.  Upside: Reduced CAPEX, Reduced time to implement, Facility is not your responsibility.  Downside: You do not own it, Increased OPEX.
  • “Bricks-and-Mortar” – You construct a concrete building that will operate as a Data Center. Upside: You own it, Reduced OPEX.  Downside: Increased CAPEX, Increased time to design, order and implement, Space restrictions/wasted space.
  • “Pre-Fabricated” within an existing building – You have a building where a pre-fabricated Data Center is constructed.  Upside: You own it, Reduced OPEX, Scalable/Modular, Reduced time to implement.  Downside: Increased CAPEX, Substantial lead-time to order and deliver.
  • “Performance Optimised Data Center” (POD) – You have a plot of land with perimeter security and a vendor delivers shipping container-size (20 foot, 30 foot or 40 foot) modular Data Centers.  You stack them across the site, just like Lego blocks when you were a child.  Upside: You own it, Scalable/Modular/Mobile, Reduced OPEX, Reduced time to implement.  Downside: Increased CAPEX.  Substantial lead-time to order and deliver.

Primary Considerations:

  • Governance and Compliance – Do you have any regulations regarding the locality of your Customer data that you must adhere to?  How will you prove compliance?
  • Cost to implement (CAPEX) and operate (OPEX) – Full investment upfront or PAYG?  Do you have the budget?
  • Time to implement – “Ready to go” or years of construction and project management? Do you have the leisure to wait? Or is your business requirement urgent?
  • Delivery method – “Turnkey solution” or “Piecemeal”? Piecemeal projects with contractors and sub-contractors are a risk to the project schedule.
  • Green Energy – Do you have a PUE compliance requirement? If yes, build your Data Center in a COLD location.
  • Location – Perimeter of a city (cheap land) with dual electrical sub-stations, multiple POPs from ISPs/DSPs, away from major thoroughfares and flight paths, no history of natural/man-made disasters.

Data Center Facility Components:

  • Uptime Institute Tier Rating – Tier-1 to Tier-4?  Approximately US$100K to certify your design.
  • Power – UPS 1+1, UPS N+1 or Radial (Generator and UPS are combined into one unit), ATS, External Generators, Fuel Cells, Distance from Building Transformers?
  • Flooring -Raised or not?  With “In Rack” cooling and overhead cabling and overhead pipes, a raised floor is not necessary.  Assuming your cooling equipment is pressure tested correctly.
  • Cooling Method – Compressor or Chiller?  Compressor is used for small to medium size Data Centers; Chiller is more expensive, but scalable for large Enterprises.
  • Cooling – “Traditional” Raised Floor cooling (CRAC pushes cold air under floor to create a plenum, cold air is forced through tiles in the “Cold Aisle”, active equipment sucks cold air in and pushes hot air out into the “Hot Aisle”, hot air rises and returns to CRAC intake for cooling), Hot Aisle Containment (“HAC” – rigid enclosure containing hot air exhaust of two rows of equipment), Cold Aisle Containment (“CAC” – rigid enclosure containing cold air intakes of two rows of equipment).  HAC and CAC can also use “In Rack” cooling solutions.
  • Power and Data Cabling – Underfloor or Ceiling Suspended trays?
  • Monitoring – IP-CCTV, PUE monitoring, Temperature, Humidity, Water Detection, Smoke Detection (part of Fire Suppression)
  • Fire Suppression – Legacy FM200 or Novec 1230?  Protect every room in the Data Center?
  • Physical Layout – Single white-space (with functional rows) or separate functional rooms (UPS, Generator, Server, Recovery, Archive, Security, Network, ISP/DSP, etc.).  Reserved areas for future requirements (10 year, 20 year plans)?
  • Physical Security – Locking system: doors and racks? Data Center – above ground, underground, heavy equipment access, operator access, etc.?


  • Non-technical people have no concept of how complicated a Data Center is.  They envisage picking up a laptop and moving it from one desk to another.  Set the right expectation; make sure you fully explain and communicate the risks, budget and project timelines involved from the start.
  • There is no “right solution”, there is only the solution that fits your business requirements, budget and timeline.  So talk to the experts that specialise in this field, get quotations and advice and then select the best strategy for your company.


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Chief Enterprise Architect and Strategist, 4xVCDX#133, NPX#8, DECM-EA.

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