Build the Best Data Center Facility for Your Business

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A comprehensive guide to designing and operating reliable server environments

  • Keep your data center cool, clean, scalable, and secure
  • Learn the five principles of effective data center design
  • Avoid the natural and man-made hazards that can jeopardize a data center site
  • Learn how to lay out key infrastructure objects within the data center for greatest efficiency, from buffer zones to server rows
  • Apply proven installation methods by studying sample illustrations of both overhead and under-floor systems
  • Extract the best practices and design strategies for both in-room and standby electrical infrastructure
  • Avoid accidental downtime, improve productivity, and ensure user safety
  • Safeguard and streamline your network infrastructure with a well-organized physical hierarchy
  • Understand the special challenges of retrofitting overburdened server environments
  • Implement solutions from a wide array of sample illustrations and examples of essential data center signage
  • Safeguard servers with operations standards for people working in or visiting the data center
  • Download templates used by Cisco to design its data centers, customizable to square footage and geography
  • Avoid excess construction costs by designing a data center that meets your needs today and for many years to come

All data centers are unique, but they all share the same mission: to protect your company’s valuable information. Build the Best Data Center Facility for Your Business answers your individual questions in one flexible step-by-step reference guide.

Benefit from the author’s concise and practical approach to data center design and management. The author distills this complex topic by sharing his first-hand and worldwide experience and expertise. Regardless of your experience level, you can fill your knowledge gaps on how to safeguard your company’s valuable equipment and intellectual property.

This easy-to-navigate book is divided into two parts: Part I covers data center design and physical infrastructure details, and Part II covers data center management and operations. You can also access supplementary online materials for installation instructions, which include customizable data center design templates, written cabling specifications, and sample drawings.

If you need a starting point for designing your first data center, regardless of size; if you need to prepare yourself with comprehensive strategies to retrofit or improve an existing one; or if you need proven methods to manage a data center for maximum productivity—this book is your readily accessible, comprehensive resource for answers and insights.

Invest in the best future for your business by learning how to build and manage robust and productive data centers now.

This book is part of the Networking Technology Series from Cisco Press‚ which offers networking professionals valuable information for constructing efficient networks, understanding new technologies, and building successful careers.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781587051821
  • Publisher: Cisco Press
  • Publication date: 6/14/2005
  • Series: Networking Technology Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 7.54 (w) x 9.48 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Douglas Alger is a team leader of the Data Center Infrastructure team at Cisco Systems®, where he helps design, support, and manage the company’s worldwide data centers. He has participated in more than 50 major data center projects, involving new construction or comprehensive infrastructure upgrades.

Doug joined Cisco® in 1997. His prior career was as a newspaper reporter, where he wrote for several newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from San Jose State University.

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Table of Contents



Part I Designing the Data Center Infrastructure

Chapter 1 Approaching the Data Center Project

Understanding the Value of Your Data Center

Deciding Whether to Outsource

Defining Requirements and Roles

Client Needs

Cross-Functional Support

Architecting a Productive Data Center

Make It Robust

Make It Modular

Make It Flexible


Promote Good Habits

Previewing Data Center Components

Physical Space

Raised Flooring

In-Room Electrical

Standby Power



Fire Suppression

Other Infrastructure Components

Establishing Data Center Design Criteria


Infrastructure Tiers

One Room or Several?

Life Span

Budget Decisions

Managing a Data Center Project

The Design Package

Working with Experts

Tips for a Successful Project


Chapter 2 Choosing an Optimal Site

Assessing Viable Locations for Your Data Center

Building Codes and the Data Center Site

Site Risk Factors

Natural Disasters


Electromagnetic Interference


Political Climates

Flight Paths

Evaluating Physical Attributes of the Data Center Site

Relative Location


Disaster Recovery Options

Pre-Existing Infrastructure

Power Analysis

Cooling Capabilities

Structured Cabling

Amenities and Obstacles


Weight Issues

Loading Dock

Freight Elevators

Problem Areas

Distribution of Key Systems

Confirming Service Availability to the Data Center Site

Prioritizing Needs for the Data Center Site


Chapter 3 Quantifying Data Center Space

Sizing the Data Center

Financial and Other Considerations When Sizing the Data Center

Employee-Based Sizing Method

Equipment-Based Sizing Method

Other Influencing Factors When Sizing Your Data Center

Determining Shape and Placement of Your Data Center

Desirable and Undesirable Spaces to Place Your Data Center

Growth Paths for Your Data Center’s Space

Consolidation Options for Your Data Center

Structure and Finishes of the Data Center

Associated Data Center Support Rooms

Electrical Room

Networking Room

Loading Dock

Build Room

Storage Room

Operations Command Center

Backup Room

Media Storage Area

Vendor Service Areas


Chapter 4 Laying Out the Data Center

Drawing Tools Available to Create Your Data Center Layout

The Floor Grid

Defining Spaces for Physical Elements of Your Data Center

Mechanical Equipment

Power Distribution Units

Air Handlers

Fire Suppression Tanks

Buffer Zones


Equipment Rows

Form Versus Function

Setting Row Dimensions

Networking Rows

Orienting Rows

Weight Issues

Seismic Mitigation

Dealing with Obstacles

Irregular Spaces

Structural Columns


System Controls


Common Problems

The Floor Grid Is Positioned Incorrectly

Infrastructure Items Are Installed Backwards

Floor Space Between Rows Is Too Narrow

Infrastructure Items Are Uncoordinated or Misplaced


Chapter 5 Overhead or Under-Floor Installation?

Overhead Installation

Under-Floor Installation

Separation of Power and Data

Plenum and Non-Plenum Spaces

Ceiling Components

Raised Floor Components

Floor Height

Ramps and Lifts

Weight Bearing Ability

Types of Floor Tiles

Floor Tiles and Static

Termination Details

The Subfloor

Common Problems

Tile Cut-outs Are Poorly Sized or in the Wrong Location

Cabling Installed in Plenum Spaces Aren’t Properly Rated

The Raised Floor System Isn’t Strong Enough to Accommodate Equipment


Chapter 6 Creating a Robust Electrical System

Recommended Electrical System Features

Isolated Power

Avoiding Single Points of Failure

Maintenance Bypass Options

Remote Infrastructure Management

In-Room Power

Determining Power Requirements

Power Distribution

Power Redundancy

Wiring, Component, and Termination Options

Labeling and Documenting

Convenience Outlets

Emergency Power Off

Standby Power

Load Requirements



Monitoring Lights

Labeling and Documenting

Installation and Grounding

Signal Reference Grid

Testing and Verification

Common Problems


Chapter 7 Designing a Scalable Network Infrastructure

Importance of the Physical Network

Cabling Hierarchy

Cable Characteristics

Copper Cabling

Fiber-Optic Cable

Multimode Fiber

Singlemode Fiber

Cabling Costs

Storage Area Networks (SANs)

Determining Connectivity Requirements

Network Redundancy

Networking Room

Common Termination Options

Copper Cabling Terminators

Fiber Cabling Terminators

Color-Coding Cabling Materials

Building-to-Building Connectivity

Recommended Installation Practices

General Installation

Bundling Structured Cabling

Minimum Bend Radius

Reverse Fiber Positioning

Labeling the Structured Cabling System

Cabinet Installations

Testing and Verifying Structured Cabling

Wire Management

Common Problems


Chapter 8 Keeping It Cool

Cooling Requirements

Chilled Liquid Cooling

House Air

Makeup Air

Cooling Quantities and Temperature Ranges

Redundancy in Your Cooling Infrastructure

Cooling Distribution and Air Pressure


Layout, Cabinets, and Cooling


Positioning Air Handlers

Hot and Cold Aisles

Cabinet Design

Fire Suppression

Suppression Materials


Manual Controls

Design Details

Air Sampling and Smoke Detection

Fire Alarms

Handheld Extinguishers

Common Problems


Chapter 9 Removing Skeletons from Your Server Closet

Lack of Space

Space Saving Measures

New Construction


Infrastructure Shortcomings




Fire Suppression

Structural Support

Paradigm Shifts


Large-Scale Server Moves


Part II Managing the DataCenter

Chapter 10 Organizing Your Way to an Easier Job

The Need For Organization

Organizing Equipment: Form vs Function

Clustering by Function

Organizing by Business Group

Grouping by Manufacturer

Not Organizing at All

Planning for Growth

Controlling Incoming Equipment


Chapter 11 Labeling and Signage

Choosing a Numbering Scheme

Recommended Labeling Practices

Cable Runs

Electrical Conduits

Cabinet Locations

Servers and Networking Devices

Server Rows


Essential Signage

Fire Alarm Instructions

Fire Suppression System Instructions

Emergency Power Off Instructions

Monitoring Lights

Emergency Contacts

Final Note


Chapter 12 Stocking and Standardizing

Equipping a Data Center

Patch Cords and Adapters

Server Cabinets



Equipment Spares


Chapter 13 Safeguarding the Servers

Physical Access Restrictions

Door Controls


Locking Cabinets

Closed-Circuit Television Coverage

Access Policies and Procedures


Implement Change Management

Change Defined

Change Request Essentials

When to Make Changes

Use Only Approved Materials

Follow Security Procedures


Don’t Leave Trash in the Data Center

Don’t Steal Items or Infrastructure

Don’t String Cables Between Cabinets

Good Installation Practices

Manage Cabinet Space

Properly Use Rack Units

The Balance of Power

Route Cabling Neatly

Label Thoroughly

Data Center Tours


Chapter 14 Mapping, Monitoring, and Metrics

Documenting the Data Center

Floor Plan


Server Inventory



Features and Philosophies

Monitoring from Afar

Web Cameras

Amperage Meters

Temperature Sensors

Humidity Sensors

Gathering Metrics

Maintaining an Incident Log

Availability Metrics

Other Useful Data


Chapter 15 Maintaining a World-Class Environment

The Importance of Data Center Maintenance

Regular Upkeep

Professional Cleaning

Vendor Qualifications and Credentials

Approved Cleaning Equipment and Materials

Pre-Cleaning Steps

Standards of Operations

Cleaning Procedures



Servers and Networking Devices

Other Above-Floor Items

Floor Surface


Post-Cleaning Steps


Common Problems




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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2006

    Excellent guidance book

    Building the Best Data Center Facility for Your Business by Douglas Alger This CiscoPress book is quite an outsider compared to other more classical CiscoPress material. It does not talk about networking itself but about how to build the physical infrastructure to host a data center, focusing on several areas such as temperature control, electrical and networking availability, or simply explains how to choose between raised floor or ceiling installations... The author of the book manages over 40 data centers all around the world, so you will find every now and then a text box with Douglas' tips or field experiences, which are very valuable. The first 9 chapters focus on designing and implementing a data center, from choosing an ideal site and sizing it right, tips on how to present the project to the executives and getting their approval, selecting the contractors who will build the data center etc. It goes on a chapter at the time talking about the cooling infrastructure, the electrical layout and sizing, the most efficient network layout for both copper and fiber cabling. The layout of the room is discussed all over these chapters explaining to the reader why not to put all small servers in the same rack (which could be a problem for eletrical and networking availability, heat generation or/and weight), or why the racks must align with floor tiles, how to creare cold and warm rows... Several layout examples are given showing their weaknesses and strengths. Structural issues are discussed, such as problems with building the room on an upper floor compared to a ground floor, proximity to electromagnetic fields, to heavily polluted areas, or to sismic areas. Guidelines for employees behaviour in the data center are also stated, with examples of what could happen if these rules are not strictly followed.. The remaining 6 chapters focus on how to get the best out of your data center and to keep it working at its best. Exemples of signage and labeling are shown to help out the users do the right thing even in emergency situations. Douglas migth seem maniacal about labeling, but my own experience can confirm all he says...label everything! Items to have in stock and everyday tools are listed to remind us which things should never be missing to help avoiding situations where system administrators cannot complete their job because of a missing patch cord or screwdriver. Monitoring and professional room cleaning are the last two items discussed in the book and Douglas' experience is very valuable in both areas to give us some tips. I found this book very interesting since I am running a data center that needs retrofitting soon and Douglas' experiences might come very handy to me. The language is very easy to follow as with most CiscoPress books, which is important for non-English people!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2005

    Guidance for Building a Data Center

    When individuals consider recent events from natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes to terrorist attacks like September 11th, not to mention new government regulations within areas like HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley the need to secure organizations information is becoming more critical. Thus an organizations desire to design and/or construct a data center that will meet these needs has increased. With in the book ¿Building the Best Data Center Facility for Your Business¿ by Douglas Alger guidance for items that need to be considered are presented in a detailed format. The general population and most companies assume that they can set a computer room or data area up without any issues or difficulties, hence it is always assumed that if you have knowledge of Server and Network design and someone that has an understanding of construction you can do it. But when you design a Data Center and consider items like power usage and cooling needs, you need to consider other items like fire suppression and redundant power sources. Within Alger¿s book we see items that most computer engineers will take for granted like raised flooring, and HVAC (cooling). But we also see items that some may consider common sense like generator power and supply guidance for fueling these generators. This book I found an excellent baseline and for as the author said in the introductory pages ¿Setting up a data center is easy. Except that the first time you do it you're going to screw up badly.¿ Hence as I read this book I found myself returning to discussions and implementations I did a few years ago and could see where we made mistakes and learned from them. Alger was correct in his statement and I was further able to reflect in my mind on the discussions that we had on items that included spacing and area needed for computers and networks then on topics like power utilization and cooling needs where always being considered. As I mentioned Alger¿s book provided me with reflections and will provide anyone reading it individuals with the needed initial guidance on either building or what to consider when improvements both a computer rooms or a data centers. While this book may appear small at only 374 pages including the index, its detail and guidance will add to anyone¿s knowledge or needs. Some of the information and definitions like what is a ¿U¿ and the difference between DC and AC power are discussed ,but also items like how to properly clean the room with pH neutral items and services as well as how to gather metrics only enhance the books value and understanding. While the book does limit itself to certain rack sizes and power utilizations not comparable with newer equipment occurring today, it does provide an excellent guideline. I can only hope that you like myself find the book informative and consider it, if nothing more than a guidance on how to work with a proper computer room and data center environment.

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