Guide to setup a data center

For most tech companies, the process of selecting a data center partner and building out the facility itself is shrouded in secrecy. All parties to the transaction are usually bound by strict non-disclosure agreements.

Not so for Backblaze. The San Mateo, CA., company, which offers a cloud-based data backup service, is in the market for a new data center and isn’t shy about discussing it. In fact, it’s posting a link to its RFP on its blog.

“Many companies have this knee-jerk reaction about disclosure. They worry that things they say will somehow be used against them,” Backblaze CEO Gleb Budman told me in a recent interview. Backblaze has been open about some other things, too. It shared information about how it builds the storage pods that run the company’s cloud-based data backup service.  It also talked about why it didn’t initially seek venture funding and also about why it changed its mind.

“There may be some things that should be proprietary for a very specific reason, but if we don’t see a reason not to share, we share,” Budman said

The RFP lays out exactly what the company is looking for in terms of initial physical, power, and network requirements and information on what it thinks it will need for expansion over the course of the next 3 to 5 years. For example, it expects to add 1 to 1.5 cabinets per month over a 36 month period. That’s because Backblaze is nothing if not growing.The company manages 40 petabytes of data now and adds about 2 petabytes per month.

Interestingly, while Apple, Google, Amazon remain incredibly tight-lipped about their data center build outs — our own Katie Fehrenbacher can attest to that after her data center road trip  – there’s also a countervailing trend pushing for more openness about data center gear. The biggest example is the Facebook initiated Open Compute Project, which pushes for standards-based, energy-efficient data center hardware. These companies may not want you in their data center, but they’re now willing to share some best practices about the hardware you should run in yours.

Backblaze’s 8-page RFP asks prospective data center providers what they offer in terms of physical security, and SAS 70 compliance and other regulatory certifications.

It’s an interesting document that could act as a template for other companies that are now in the market for a new data center.

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