How to decide whether to retrofit or replace your data center

Consider these 4 questions before making your decision

Experts say deciding whether to remodel an existing data center or build a new facility often comes down to the following questions.

Will the current facility support reconfiguration?

Not all buildings can be retrofitted to meet new weight, cabling, cooling and energy requirements, said Chris Hardin, president of CDH Consulting, which specializes in data center projects.

Engineers should also verify whether other costly risks, such as the disturbance of asbestos, would result from making fundamental changes to the shell of an older building.


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Can network cabling be upgraded cost-effectively?

As networking technology advances to 100 Gigabit Ethernet and beyond, information technology managers need to consider the cost of switching from copper to fiber wiring, which is necessary to support faster, high-bandwidth computing.

“It can be very costly to retrofit versus moving to a completely new facility,” said Michael Sorenson, senior program manager of infrastructure at Qinetiq, an information technology services provider.

Can remodeled power and cooling systems keep up with future demands?

Blade servers, which pack more processing power into a single chassis, are the platform of choice for today’s virtualized server workloads. But they run hotter than traditional servers. Even if your facility can accommodate the power supply and cooling equipment needed to run blade servers now, you need to consider whether it will be able to support more demanding requirements in the future when servers become denser and thus hotter, as trends suggest they will.

“If the facility passes that first test but you find there’s little expansion capability, you could be throwing good dollars after bad” by staying in the existing facility, said Bill Kosik, principal and green business technology lead at Hewlett-Packard’s Critical Facilities Services Group.

Can the facility meet the government’s goals for green IT?

An executive order issued in October 2009 mandates energy-efficiency best practices at federal data centers. Therefore, you must determine whether it’s practical to retrofit an existing facility with new technologies that will allow you to achieve those green goals, said David Cappuccio, chief of research for infrastructure teams at technology consulting firm Gartner.

About the Author

Alan Joch is a freelance writer based in New Hampshire.

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