Measuring the Size of a Data Center – Yes, it Matters

30 Jan

A data center’s size shouldn’t be measured by its square foot measurement, but rather by its ability to deliver power and remove heat.

A data center’s size shouldn’t be measured by its square foot measurement, but rather by its ability to deliver power and remove heat.

How often have you seen the headline “The largest data center was commissioned today by” company name here? I know the first few times I heard “largest data center” I made the assumption that it in fact was the largest, but I didn’t ask the question “Largest in what way?”

Unfortunately, there isn’t an industry guideline for determining what the actual size of a data center is in any other manner than its square footage/square meter size. Considering the fact that the square footage of a data center is meaningless, we should identify the true measure of a data center’s capabilities as its capacity to power and cool IT gear.

Examples:

  • If we put 20 MVA of power and 1000 racks of servers in the Burj Kahlifa it would be mid-density, mid-sized, and very tall data center but not the largest
  • Put 1 MVA and 50 racks of servers in a Walmart and you have a large building with a small data center

 

We need to identify a new measure of what size means in the data center world, because it does matter. My proposal is that the size should be decided by how many MVA can be delivered and cooled. In this way we can say “We’re building a XX MVA data center with the capability to move XX CFM of air” instead of “We’re building an 800K SF data center”. I would recommend that any new data center being designed today should be built to handle a minimum of 750 Watts per SF in power and the appropriate amount of CFM, which would depend on your delta-T numbers as well. The best data centers are being built to support up to 1500 Watts per SF. The ability to utilize data center space effectively is directly related to that facilities capability to support ever increasing server densities, while successfully managing your cost of operations. When you see an 800K SF data center with only 50 MVA of redundant power, with the capability to move 5,000,000 CFM of air then that’s the size of the data center. The 800K in the aforementioned case is a meaningless number, because the space available hasn’t been maximized to accommodate the best possible power and airflow density.

We shouldn’t glorify man’s ability to create large structures that cover vast spaces and use massive amounts of precious resources but don’t offer the appropriate amount of use value in return. So, the next time you hear “We have an 800K SF data center”, you can say “that’s great, but how much power do you have and how much of it can you cool?”

Did you like this? Share it:
 
 

Leave a Reply

 

 
  1. The Real Problem with Data Center Efficiency « IT's Evolutionary Transition

    September 27, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    [...] Data Center Pulse board member Mark Thiele provided additional color in his SwitchScribe post Measuring the Size of a Data Center – Yes, it Matters. Unfortunately, the majority of articles focus on the Very Large Enterprise data centers. These [...]