Standardization can help your data center deliver consistently high-quality performance on time in a safe environment. In the data center world, “standardization” means that processes follow the same steps, in the same sequence, while using a set of products and systems with predefined characteristics. If data centers lack standardization, then “improvisation” (executing a task without preparing or knowing what’s ahead) can take over. This eats up valuable time, leads to mistakes caused by human error, produces inconsistent results and produces unexpected delays.

While the word “standardization” may seem restrictive, it can actually lead to the opposite: flexible data centers that make the most of capital investments, improve space utilization and prevent unplanned downtime. Which is more important: standardized or flexible data centers? Or can you have both? It’s vital to standardize where you can – but it shouldn’t come at the loss of flexibility to meet your unique (and changing) business goals.

When combined appropriately, standardized, flexible data centers offer several benefits. Because it can be hard to describe, we’re going to use Lego blocks as an example. While Lego blocks are standardized, they also provide a world of flexibility.

Make the Most of Data Center Space without Oversizing1. The Ability to Scale Quickly

What does your data center require right now in terms of capacity, density and speed? How different will these requirements look in 2020, with IoT and cloud computing becoming more prolific? Trying to predict the future is pretty impossible, which is why flexible data centers are necessary to accommodate future infrastructure additions and reconfigurations. The same holds true for Lego blocks. What you want to build today may not be what you want to build next year. Does that mean you should scrap everything and start over when you need to reconfigure or build something else? Not with Lego blocks – and not with standardized, flexible data center components, either.

Standardized data center parts can help you achieve optimal space configuration because you know how everything will fit together. You can create the infrastructure you need today – and position your data center to scale in the future without massive upfront costs or expansions. As technology requirements change, flexible data centers using standardized products can add more “building blocks” (components) without re-engineering the entire system or space. You can buy, power and support the capacity, density and speed you need today – and then easily add and reconfigure down the road.

Open Bridge Racks are a great example. In the last five years, hundreds of companies and thousands of participants have become involved in the Open Compute Project, and we predict that participation will continue to grow. But most data centers aren’t ready to make the move yet. Open Bridge Racks are a standardized, flexible solution serve that allow you to serve current EIA investments and requirements; once you’re ready to deploy Open Compute hardware, the rack can be reconfigured quickly in the field. If you need to go back to EIA standards, you can do that as well.

2. Easy “Maintenance”

Standardized data center components are often swappable; if they fail, they likely can be swapped out for another component without calling for a system shutdown. If components and processes are standardized across your data center, fewer pieces of equipment need to be kept in stock – and it becomes easier to know how to fix a problem. This makes maintenance faster and simpler, and makes staff training more streamlined.

When moves, adds and changes (MACs) or other reconfigurations are needed, modular components can easily be removed, rearranged and reconnected – just like a Lego.

3. Ramp Up Easily for Fast Deployment

You don’t have to build a Lego before you use it. The entire block is ready for you to connect it – the work is done for you before you deploy it. Data center configuration and deployment happens faster when components and connections are standardized and simplified – while still remaining flexible.

How much faster you could deploy equipment if you were able to standardize the components you need, and get them delivered ready to deploy? It’s a huge timesaver for data center staff (and, thus, a money saver). Data Center Ready solutions are a great example. Customized enclosures can be designed, built and delivered with copper, fiber and accessories pre-installed to meet specific requirements. It’s a better, faster, more cost-effective way to receive standardized solutions customized to your needs – without onsite assembly necessary.

4. Pieces Designed to Work Together

When you buy a box of Lego blocks, you know what’s inside. Lego design and manufacturing work together to minimize potential problems. The result is a predictable, reliable block that will always do what you expect it to – but it’s still flexible enough to become whatever you want it to be. Standardized by flexible data centers take a similar approach, resulting in predictable, reliable infrastructure performance. You know how everything works together, you know what to expect and you know what to do if a component needs to be replaced or swapped out.

There are small and large Lego blocks, square and rectangular Lego blocks and pieces of various colors. These standardized pieces are interchangeable, and all fit with one another; they can be assembled, disassembled, reassembled and connected to create almost unlimited variations. They were made to work together, just like standardized components in a flexible data center.

How Belden Supports Flexible Data Centers

Belden systems are designed and created to work in harmony, allowing for changeable, scalable, repeatable, understandable and integrated data centers. Our products allow you to make switch-outs and changes without compatibility or footprint issues. Belden components seamlessly integrate into reliable, high-performance networks.

We also own our manufacturing process, producing all products in-house so we can offer customization options, competitive pricing and fast deployment. To learn more, visit info.belden.com/data-center.

P.S. Speaking of flexible data centers and Legos, check out this data center built out of 5,772 Lego blocks!