Things to Keep in Mind While Planning & Designing a Data Center

Sun Micro systems have provided few simple design guidelines for the data center. The design of data center should be done keeping following in mind:

Simple Design

The design should be simple so that it is understood properly by the operations of staff and can be managed easily.


The design of data center should flexible enough to take into account future expansion plans, the quick changes in technology, changing customer requirements etc.

Design should be Modular

The modularity in design allows for quick expansion, easy trouble shooting, efficient management of data center.

Advance planning

The data center implementation and expansion should be planned to avoid the slippages in deadlines and service level agreements (SLAs).

Capacity determination

The capacity of data center should be determined based on number of RLUs (rack location units) required rather than using area.

Take Weight requirement seriously

The data center equipment such as Storage Devices and servers have become quite heavy. The data center design should take into account the load bearing capacities of supporting structures such as raised floors etc. The use of cast aluminum tiles, which are stronger than other type of tiles, may be considered. The use of perforated and grated aluminum tiles allows for cold air circulation in racks as well as provides sufficient strength.


Labeling of all the equipment and most importantly the cable reduces maintenance time in case of any problems. It becomes easy to locate a faulty bad cable when it is properly labeled especially when the number of cables is large and most of it remains concealed.

Keep things covered

It is advisable to keep the things covered and out of sight. It is difficult to tamper a thing that cannot be seen.

Plan for the Worst

The data center planned for the worst-case scenario will never allow operator to get into the troubled or spring surprises.

Data Center Space layout

The data center design requires proper allocation of the space to take care of changing requirements and future growth. The deployment should provide a balance between the initial costs of deployment and anticipated future requirement. The planning should keep enough empty space for expansion plans. The TIA-942 standard provides facilities specifications for various functional areas of the data center. The standard allows placement of equipment based on hierarchical star topology design. The recommended design of functional areas allows for easy upgrade with minimal downtime. The TIA-942 recommendations specify following key function areas for a data center:

Entrance Rooms

The entrance room houses access provider’s equipment and provides interface to the building cabling system. The entrance room location can be inside or outside the main computer room. However, standard recommends that it should be housed outside the computer room for better security. The large Data Centers may require multiple entrance rooms to optimize the cable distances.

One or More Horizontal Distribution Areas

Horizontal Distribution Areas (HDA) is distribution point for horizontal cabling. HAD contains cross-connects and other active equipment deployed for cable distribution in equipment area. The TIA-942 recommends that separate racks may be installed for fiber, coaxial and UTP cables. Recommendations specify collection of switches and path panels to minimize patch cord length and better cable management. Each HAD should have more than 2000 connections. More HDAs may be located for large data centers with more connections.

Equipment Distribution Area (EDA)

The cables coming from horizontal distribution areas are terminated in patch panels in Equipment Distribution Area. The standard specifies that the patch panel racks and equipment racks should be located in an alternating pattern for proper heat distribution.

Zone Distribution Area

The Zone Distribution Area is located between HAD and EDA. The ZDA can be used as consolidation point or for locating equipment that have no provision for accommodating patch panels such as freestanding mainframes etc. The ZDA is optional and within a horizontal cable run only one ZDA is allowed. Cross-connects or active equipment is not allowed to be located in ZDA.

Backbone and Horizontal Cabling

The Backbone cabling is used for connection between MDA, HDAs, and Entrance Rooms. The standard also specifies installation of optional backbone cable between HDAs for redundancy. The location of functional areas should such that the cable length for backbone as well as horizontal cabling remains within maximum permissible limits.

Standards for Building Data Centers

  • ANSI/TIA-942: Telecommunication Infrastructure Standards for data centers were published in 2005

  • ANSI/TIA 942 Addendum 1 (2008): Data Center Coaxial Cabling Specifications and Application Distances

  • ANSI/TIA‐606‐A‐1 (2008) : Addendum 1 — Administration of Equipment Rooms and Data Center Computer Rooms

  • ASHRAE TC9.9 (2009): Thermal Guidelines for Data Processing Environments, 2nd Edition

  • ANSI/TIA 942 Addendum 2 (2010): Additional Media and Guidelines for Data Centers

  • ISO/IEC 24764 (2010): Information Technology – Generic Cabling Systems for Data Centers

  • CENELEC EN 50173‐5 (2007): Information Technology – Generic Cabling Systems — Part 5: Data Centers

  • ANSI/NECA/BICSI 002-2010, Data Center Design and Implementation Best Practices: It complements the existing standards and covers topics such as security, site selection, site layout etc.


You can also keep up to date with current trends and technology by visiting Data Center Talk where we keep you informed on important changes as they occur.


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