Too often, data center project decisions are made based on gut feels or having been burned in the past. We find that often times, customers spend too much time detailing out their data center specification, and not enough time in the early planning, really understanding the business requirements, including determining the appropriate criticality or redundancy level, determining the growth plan, determining efficiency (PUE) targets, and understanding budgetary constraints. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen projects that get caught up in discussions of UPS topology and product A vs. product B specs and CAD drawings, before they even have an understanding of these high level design requirements. Having discussions at the wrong level of abstraction will lead you down a path of false starts, which can be costly to the project (both in money & time).
This is where data center tools and calculators can help. They can show you quantifiable, tangible benefits of implementing different architectures and justify project decisions by letting you experiment with “what if” scenarios and make trade-offs. For example, should I reduce my data center power capacity to afford 2N power distribution? They’ll let you make educated, rational decisions. Schneider Electric offers a set of tools called TradeOff Tools (http://tools.apc.com) to help address this need. The TradeOff Tools are designed to be used at the very beginning of your data center project to help answer a lot of those upfront questions and to help get buy-in from management so you don’t have to backtrack after you’ve spent 3 or 6 months going down a design path that turned out to conflict with a key requirement… This is actually something we had to contend with for our own data center in St Louis. We were fitting out part of an existing building as a data center, and executive management wanted answers to these types of questions, and we used the TradeOff tools to help provide those answers and make informed and accurate decisions.
But I know there are skeptics out there, that view these as marketing tools, so that’s where this blog comes in. I want to share with you some further details about these tools – how they can be used, the methodology, assumptions, data sources, etc., so that you have complete confidence in the scientific nature of these tools. In each post, I’ll focus on a different tool, starting next time with our Data Center Efficiency Calculator, a tool that helps estimate the annualized PUE for a data center, for a defined set of power & cooling characteristics. Here’s the link to the tool so you can familiarize yourself with it – http://www.apc.com/tool/?tt=6. If there is a tool that you rely on and you’re willing to share it, please write a comment with a link so that we can work as a community to help each other create higher performing data centers faster.