Data Center

Data Center Planning: From the Top Down or the Bottom Up?

Stéphane Bourgeois

There are two ways to think about data center planning and deployment. One approach is often seen in the beginning stages of development and design; the other is the view often taken after a data center is up and running. Do you know the differences?

Top-Down Data Center Planning: From a Facility Perspective

When a new data center project starts – or a data center is renovated or redesigned – initial discussions tend to focus on the facility itself and its capacity and capabilities.


At this stage, the parties involved in data center planning generally include consultants, general contractors, construction engineers and facility engineers.


The questions being asked include:

  • How much space is available (both in terms of white space/square footage and vertical space)?
  • How much power is delivered to the facility?
  • How much cooling is available? (This often centers on the number of CRAC units.)
  • How secure is the building? (Access control, surveillance and monitoring are all discussed and considered.)
  • What type of fire protection will be deployed in the space?
  • Is the facility in a seismically stable region? Is it in a flood plain?
  • What is the strength and load-bearing capacity of the floors?

Bottom-Up Data Center Planning: From an IT Perspective

Once a data center facility is commissioned and running, that’s when IT teams tend to become more involved: the IT managers, network administrators, technicians, etc.


Their discussions focus on the equipment and devices that go inside the data center (specifically starting with the cabinet). In their world, everything is thought, designed and built around the rack or cabinet, whether discussing density, power, coolingsecurity, etc. The cabinet acts like a building block that supports everything else.


The questions being asked include:

  • How many cabinets are needed (and what types)?
  • What is the server capacity per cabinet? How many ports can the cabinet support?
  • What is the kW needed per cabinet?
  • Will hot aisle or cold aisle containment be used?
  • What type of network architecture is being deployed?
  • What types of servers are being installed?
  • What method is being used to store data?
  • What types of software are being used?

The answers to these IT-related questions can impact the space, cooling and power requirements discussed early on in a data center project – it’s all intertwined. For example: If IT plans to deploy blade servers, then fewer cabinets may be necessary. But if the consultants, general contractors, construction engineers and facility engineers weren’t aware of this early on, they may plan a data center space that’s too big. As a result, you pay extra capital upfront, designing and building more space than you need – and operating costs are higher, since you’re cooling and powering space you don’t use, wasting money and energy.


Which is the Right View?

Wouldn’t it be better if we thought about both of these perspectives as early on in the data center planning process as possible – and throughout the lifecycle of the data center? Bringing IT professionals into the data center planning conversation early will help determine exactly how much space needs to be planned for based on the use of virtualization, cloud, etc.


Is IoT in your future? The answer may impact the data center and network as well. You’ll be able to more easily align facility costs and capacity with enterprise IT needs if all parties are involved in decision-making.


Belden can help you take a holistic look at your space, coming up with a data center plan that will reduce costs, maintain uptime and maximize space – whether you’re starting from scratch or want to improve the data center you have. Learn more here.