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7 considerations for data center site selection

An incredible amount of research must go into data center site selection. If the location does not fit company demands, the data center cannot perform as necessary.

Data center site selection is a full-time occupation for a small group of people at large colocation operators and hyperscale cloud providers, but a once-in-a-lifetime decision for most businesses.

Although it might seem like data centers are built just about anywhere, there is an extensive list of considerations to make before construction can begin. Data centers are permanent buildings, so everything from reliable power sources and large amounts of land to infrastructure connection assurance must undergo consideration.

Considerations to make when choosing a data center site

There are many considerations to take into account when selecting a location for a data center, especially its proximity to internet exchange points. The situations that follow are challenges to data center site selection.

Available power. The chosen location must have access to some kind of reliable power source, like the power grid. The site should ideally be serviced by multiple electric providers and multiple internet service providers. At the same time, organizations must consider the cost per kilowatt hour and the power grid's reliability.

Cooler environment. Data center power consumption is mostly due to the need to keep servers and equipment cool. Building a data center in colder parts of the world reduces cooling costs.

Risk assessment. Organizations must perform a risk assessment for any location in question. Data center sites should be in areas where relatively few natural disasters occur.

Abundance of land. There should be plenty of land -- possibly hundreds of acres -- available to accommodate the data center and any future expansion, especially for hyperscale data centers.

Transportation requirements. A data center should be near adequate roads and within proximity of an airport for ease of shipping data center hardware. The location should also be close to civilization so employees can more easily access the data center. It is also important for hotels to be nearby for visiting employees.

Rural challenges. Due to available land, it is ideal for data centers to be in rural areas. However, talent acquisition and training can be difficult to find, and community acceptance of a data center might be low. Small rural communities might oppose the construction of a data center and take legal action to prevent the construction.

Secure the site. Consider how easy or difficult it would be to physically secure the site. Legal and regulatory requirements might come into play if an organization has data that must be kept in a specific geographic area.

How infrastructure for a data center is connected

Before an organization selects a site for its data center, it's necessary to understand how the data center will connect to existing infrastructure. This is particularly true of network connectivity, which often relies on undersea cable networks and internet exchange points.

The network cable that comes out of the back of a server connects to a switch, which in turn connects to the top of a rack switch. These switches provide connectivity to routers, which link the data center to the internet. Network routers directly connect and exchange internet traffic instead of going through an internet service provider.

An internet exchange point is a location where multiple large networks integrate with one another. They provide direct connectivity between various large data centers and hyperscale cloud providers. Direct connectivity boosts performance and decreases traffic latency.

Direct connectivity still requires the internet. Once internet-bound traffic routes to the internet service provider, the traffic is sent across the internet backbone. If the traffic's destination is on another continent, it will pass through submarine cables. The traffic is then sent through a terrestrial network on land to reach its destination.

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP and a commercial astronaut candidate. In his over 30 years in IT, he has served as a lead network engineer for the U.S. Department of Defense and as a network administrator for some of the largest insurance companies in America.

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