More Data Center Space Doesn't Have to Mean New Buildings

  June 15, 2011

This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management. Today's tip is that adding data center capacity doesn’t have to mean new construction.

Renovate or build new? Answering this question is rarely easy, particularly when the facility in question is a data center. A range of considerations — from risks and costs, to power and cooling sources, to the structure's load-bearing capacity — must be analyzed and weighed.

A renovation, of course, allows an organization to remain in its existing space. However, the renovation process can quickly become complex, particularly if all work must take place without any computer shutdowns. Christopher Johnston, chief engineer, critical facilities with Syska Hennessey, says "It's like doing open heart surgery while the patient is at work."

After all, the construction that's underway often takes place right next to complicated equipment that can cost millions of dollars and run mission-critical operations. What's more, given that many companies need to avoid shutdowns that will affect operations during their renovations, the time frame can easily exceed the time required to build a new center. That's because work often needs to be done in phases, which adds time, complexity and risk to the process. The extended time frame also will drive up costs.

Still, a data center renovation offers some advantages that building new typically doesn't. As a starting point, a renovation typically doesn't require a major technology migration plan to move into the new space.

In some cases, organizations decide to stay put and renovate their existing data centers for reasons that go beyond cost and technology. For instance, if management believes that maintaining its computer systems at its headquarters location provides it with a competitive advantage, it's unlikely to consider moving.

In the end, making the renovate-vs.-build decision is a matter of weighing the costs required to avoid downtime and mitigate risk during construction versus the cost and convenience of building new.


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