You’ve carefully avoided fault lines, flood plains, and nearby volcanoes to pick a great site for your colocation space. Now that you can design and build it safely, what should it look like? Consider the following factors to create a colocation facility that will function correctly and attract customers from day one.

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1. How Many Nines?

Customers, not surprisingly, care deeply about colocation reliability and resilience. The only thing that tempers their enthusiasm is the cost, which varies according to the number of “nines” being offered: 99.995% availability, for example, means less than 27 minutes of downtime per year.

Your design choices about power and network connectivity, physical protection against the elements and intrusion, and non-stop repair and maintenance capabilities will all depend on the service level agreements you want to offer customers.

2. Make It Modular

IT equipment is modular. Colocation services are modular, so why shouldn’t you design and build your entire colocation space in a modular fashion too?

The same logic applies in all cases: plan for needs in the future, but pay just for what you need right now. Colocation buildings need mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) infrastructure, but with modular construction, incremental deployment of the building shell and MEP is possible.

3. Align with the Weather

If you’re designing for colocation in a hot, sunny area of the U.S., turn your building orientation to present a smaller surface towards the south to reduce cooling requirements.

If the climate is temperate to cold, turn it back to present a larger surface and thus reduce heating requirements. Remember to protect your facility's roof against strong winds, rain, and hail, with appropriate tiling or other covering.

4. Neither Coffee nor Natural Light!

Unlike “dem dry bones”, inside the facility, the white space (computer cabinet space) should be deliberately disconnected from the office space by fireproof walls.

Among other things, you can then avoid any unfortunate collusion between coffee and computers.

Fire-rated corridors separate the white space from the power rooms as well. Windows are located away from the white space for increased security and protection.

5. I’ll Take Two of Everything, Please

Depending on the availability you offer, you may need to double up on critical items and, therefore, make sure that your design and building can cope accordingly.

In other cases, the “N+1” design may be sufficient: you have one spare unit to replace one of the other N if required.

Breakdown is one reason for this, but maintenance, reconfiguration, and expansion are others if you want your services to keep running without interruption. You may want to apply redundancy everywhere except – hopefully! – to your operations staff.

6. Air, Smoke, Fire, Cables, and Floors

Colocation HVAC could be the subject of an article all by itself. Let’s say that airflows and air quality must also be thought out from the beginning.

Remember that cooling requirements evolve with increasing IT equipment, new generation hardware, and simple reconfiguration of existing space.

Similarly, planning smoke and fire detectors and suppression systems should leave as much flexibility as possible, allowing them to remain effective even after rejigging cabinet space and partitions. Cable management and raised floors may be easier to change, but they still need proper design and organization from the outset.

Colocation space design and building require common sense and good judgment and often benefit from prior experience. What tips would you give somebody just about to start? Let us know with a line or two underneath the space for comments.

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