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How Do You Evaluate a Data Center?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the check-for-major-fault-lines dept.

Businesses 211

mpapet writes to ask about the ins and outs of datacenter evaluation. Beyond the simpler questions of physical access control, connectivity, and power redundancy/capacity and SLA review, what other questions are important to ask when evaluating a data center? What data centers have people been happy with? What horror stories have people lived through with those that didn't make the cut?

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211 comments

Get this out of the way (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30038548)

Libraries of Congress per second.

Re:Get this out of the way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30039618)

I prefer calling them Congress-Hertz

Just off the top of my head (4, Insightful)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038552)

Beyond the simpler questions of physical access control, connectivity, and power redundancy/capacity and SLA review

Well first of all, I don't know that I'd write any of those things off as "simple". But some other points worth looking into would be:

  1. Raised Floor Height
    Cable Management (over or under floor)
    Cooling Capacity and Redundancy
    Power Quality (not just redundancy)
    Age and Condition of Electrical Hardware (ATSs, STSs, UPSs, Generators)
    Outage/Uptime History
    Fire Suppression System and Smoke Detection System
    Maintenance records
    Maintenance records
    Maintenance records

Re:Just off the top of my head (3, Insightful)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038686)

Add to that:

-KW deliverable to each rack

-Ambient temperature in the cold aisle and how closely it's held (and possibly make it part of SLA)

-On site technicians (and/or security) and their hours

-Customer access policy and applicable hours (are you going to be happy, AND are threats going to be kept out?)

Re:Just off the top of my head (2, Interesting)

NervousWreck (1399445) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039092)

Maintenance records Maintenance records Maintenance records are Moses and all the prophets

Re:Just off the top of my head (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30039494)

Mean height above local water table / flood plain. Inches per year of rain in the locale. Number of farmers with backhoes in the area (ever had a cable cut????).

Re:Just off the top of my head (1)

Gigabit Switchman (16654) | more than 4 years ago | (#30040076)

Do they pay attention to temperature with any granularity? "Cold aisle temperature" is not a single number; it varies. If it *doesn't* vary, they're either REALLY good (unlikely) or spending too much on cooling and charging you too much. Field Guide to Datacenter Temperature Monitoring: http://www.sensatronics.com/index.php/support/library/265.html [sensatronics.com] 5% off from the Engineering department, use this code: ENG09 (expires Jan 1 2010)

Re:Just off the top of my head (3, Interesting)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038706)

That's interesting, but the OP really needs to know what is good or not. For example, you state "Raised Floor Height". What is good? Newer datacenters don't have raised floors because it is more energy efficient to have concrete floors. "Cooling Capacity" -- what's good and what is bad? How is this measured? Some datacenters may talk aobut how cool they keep the ambient air, but there isn't much evidence that this actually provides a noticable difference to the lifetime or any other factor related to the equipment.

Re:Just off the top of my head (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038742)

Good question - I would expect it's mostly relevant for those DCs that do underfloor cabling. Cooling capacity is measaured in kW, I believe - the ability to remove heat. since air has a low specific heat, it shouldn't matter much, so long as the temp is stable and it isn't very humid.

Re:Just off the top of my head (5, Informative)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038964)

    I noticed something when touring one datacenter. They had a neat conference room that overlooked the whole datacenter. You could see the heat rising off of one area (Google's room). They went on and on about the wonders of their cooling, and how they had so much capacity.

    We later took the guided tour. The person I was with was talking to our guide, and I was paying careful attention to our environment. There were tremendous hotspots on the floor. We're not talking about 78 degrees. It was closer to the 90's. Other spots were downright cold. Why? Because they had all this capacity, and no real planning. The circulation was insufficient, even though the capacity was available. A well populated rack will always be hot at the back, but it's expected that they will draw the air off of that area rather quickly. I've even seen datacenters that enforce their hot/cold aisles, but then there isn't much of a reason for it. There is no air return on the hot side, and it's just blowing at another aisle's cold side.

    Sometimes it's good to just walk the floor with a tech (not a salesman), and ask questions about the operation. What kind of fiber do you have coming in? How many providers? How good are your generators really? Do you test them on a regular basis? I've found a sales minion will say there are a dozen providers coming in, but it will turn out that only one has substantial fiber, and the others are sharing that. {sigh} Sometimes they will have generators, but they've never test fired them. Sometimes the tech is just frustrated at the nonsense at that datacenter, and that's indicative of how it's going to be to work with them.

       

Re:Just off the top of my head (2, Interesting)

outlander (140799) | more than 4 years ago | (#30040366)

One thing not mentioned: a rigorous procedure for handling of decommissioned equipment. Failure to have proper audit mechanisms in place for hw removal is asking for data theft.

Re:Just off the top of my head (2, Informative)

Critical Facilities (850111) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038988)

you state "Raised Floor Height". What is good?

24" is good, 36" is better. I once had a place with 8'0".

Newer datacenters don't have raised floors because it is more energy efficient to have concrete floors.

Hogwash.

Cooling Capacity" -- what's good and what is bad? How is this measured?

Capacity is measured in BTUs, or specifically tons (12,000 BTUs to a ton). What's most important is the relationship between BTUs and KW consumptions. In a nutshell, how much heat can you remove from the building vs how much are you putting in?

Re:Just off the top of my head (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039652)

"Newer datacenters don't have raised floors because it is more energy efficient to have concrete floors.

Hogwash."

Oh, well, thank goodness we got that out of the way.

In all seriousness though, do you have any verifiable information about this? I was under the assumption that every datacenter had a raised floor but I really don't have any idea where this idea came from.

Re:Just off the top of my head (1)

Cramer (69040) | more than 4 years ago | (#30040030)

Unless you're running water pipes through the floor, a few tones of concrete isn't going to do jack for data center. The reason for concrete floors is entirely engineering... cheap, strong, durable, and very easily built. It makes next to no dent in heat load. (what's the specific heat and thermal conduction rate for concrete?)

Well, how can I tell you ... (1)

da5idnetlimit.com (410908) | more than 4 years ago | (#30040458)

Just to get it out of the way, yes, IAADRS (I am a Disaster Recovery Specialist - the "speaks bit and byte" and "cosfi" datacenter visiting type...)

Concrete ? Well, yes. Under the raised floor. What did you want ? Marble ?

No cooling from the raised floor ? why not ?
Overhead network cables and a "newish" cooling solution like here :

http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/ [datacenterknowledge.com]

front page. Think...giant heatsink...(first overlord joke gets the boot 8p)

As for concrete, let me introduce you to this wonderful answer : it depends. Mostly on the concrete.

"Ramazan Demirboa

Civil Engineering Department, Engineering Faculty, Atatürk University, 25240 Erzurum, Turkey

Abstract

In this study, the effect of silica fume (SF), class C fly ash (FA), blast furnace slag (BFS), SF+FA, SF+BFS, and FA+BFS on the thermal conductivity (TC) and compressive strength of concrete were investigated. Density decreased with the replacement of mineral admixtures at all levels of replacements. The maximum TC of 1.233 W/mK was observed with the samples containing plain cement. It decreased with the increase of SF, FA, BFS, SF+FA, SF+BFS, and FA+BFS. The maximum reduction was, 23%, observed at 30% FA. Compressive strength decreased with 3-day curing period for all mineral admixtures and at all levels of replacements. However, with increasing of curing period reductions decreased and for 7.5% SF, 15% SF, 15% BFS, 7.5% SF+7.5% FA, 7.5% SF+7.5% BFS replacement levels compressive strength increased at 28 days, 7- and 28-days, 120 days, 28- and 120 days, 28 days curing periods, respectively. Maximum compressive strength was observed at 15% BFS replacement at curing period of 120 days."

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V23-4KPFKFY-1&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1085368183&_rerunOrigin=google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=b8e7b8ce7b5e23b07db5805bf9ad9740 [sciencedirect.com]

raised floor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30039980)

Newer datacenters don't have raised floors because it is more energy efficient to have concrete floors.

Hogwash.

Why? You can't put as much weight on a raise floor as you can on plain concrete.

Further, if you're doing cold- or hot-aisle containment, you can do it without the need to do a raised floor. There are plenty of in-row cooling options so that you can put the cooling in the places you need it (either beside the racks, or on top):

                http://www.42u.com/cooling/in-row-cooling/in-row-cooling.htm

There's even in-rack cooling:

                http://www.42u.com/cooling/in-rack-cooling/in-rack-cooling.htm

Or, pipe the water (or refrigerant) straight to the aisle and put it in door-based cooling system which is rated to 35 kW per rack:

                http://www.sun.com/servers/cooling/

The above systems also don't have fans, so you don't have to worry about maintenance on it--just the overall circulation system.

Not quite sure what the GP mean by the efficiency of concrete floors, but there are certainly better systems than general circulation air via raised floors.

Re:Just off the top of my head (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30040224)

As far as the relationship between BTU's and KW, what you're really looking for is power density. Any higher tier data center is going to already have all of this calculated and should be able to dictate a power density you are required to adhere to. Density is typically expressed in Watts per Sq Foot. When touring a modern colo facility, don't be surprised to see a customer with 4 cabinets packed to the gills with high density blades in an 400-500 sqft cage. The empty space is there to stay within density limits. Ie, you may be limited to 150w/sqft. I would be hard pressed to colo my companies' gear in any datacenter/colo that couldn't articulate the density they can support. Also, for what it's worth, there was a comment a ways back about cable management both above cabinets and below the floor as being a requirement - if the colo allows cabling under-floor, make sure to check it and make sure it's clean. Even better, there shouldn't be *any* cabling underfloor - the entire purpose of a raised floor is to create a pressurized space of cooled air which is then (ideally) strategically fed to the equipment. Under-floor cabling impedes airflow, regardless of how clean it is. Raised floor is *not* intended to hide cabling! On that same page, ensure that there are tiers of above-cabinet cable management - power and data/network should be cleanly segregated.

Re:Just off the top of my head (2, Informative)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 4 years ago | (#30040480)

Newer datacenters don't have raised floors because it is more energy efficient to have concrete floors.

Hogwash.

Yeah, what do I know about the subject? I'm just quoting from a recent talk given by Subodh Bapat, Vice President, Energy Efficiency and Distinguished Engineer, Sun Microsystems.

Oh, and there are some articles about this [greentechmedia.com]

But please, continue to refute my statement with clear, unsupported, single-word denials. They carry so much weight in an argument.

Re:Just off the top of my head (2, Insightful)

Triela (773061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038744)

Once you have assessed these technical points to your satisfaction, I think customer support's ability to communicate issues to you as they arise is the final bridge. Every datacenter will at the very least experience minor problems from time to time, and if you're not able to speak directly with the techs working the problems or if first-line customer support does not have ready access to the details of the resolution process, it sure is frustrating to be left in the dark in the meantime.

Re:Just off the top of my head (4, Interesting)

Sandbags (964742) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038992)

- Raised floor is certainly important, and a given. Check
- Cable management above AND below the floor. This is not an either-or... Check
- Cooling capacity is hard to judge, should be scalable. Redundancy is often overlooked but is often even more important that capacity... Check
- Power quality: never seen a big datacenter without a Liebert, or at least UPS in every rack. Power does not have the be contitioned except between the UPS and the machines/devices. A whole data center power conditioner is often more efficient, but unnecessary for the little guys. either way - check.
- Age is irrelevent as long as it's under support. If it's not, replace it. Generators need to be run several times a year to validate their condition, and also to grease the innards... See too many good generators get kicked on and fail an hour later because the oil hand't been changed in 3 years....
- Outages should be tracked, by system, rack row, and power distro. When system seem to be going down more frequently in one area, there's usually an underlying reason... As Google recently proved as well for us all, do not ASSUME all is well, routine disgnostics including memory scans should be performed on ALL hardware. Even ECC RAM deteriorates with age (rapidly) and needs to be part of a maintenance testing and replacement policy - Check.
- Fire suppression is usually part of your building codes, and a given, as is the routine checks (at least anually) by law.

In addition, we deploy:
- Man traps on all enterences to data centers. You go in one door, it closes, then you authenticate to a second door. A pressure plate ensures only one person goes in/out at a time (and it it's tripped, a scurity guy looking at a screen has to override).
- Full 24x7 video surveilance of the data centers.
- in/out logs for all equipment. To take a device in/out of a datacenter requires it being logged in a book (by a designated person). This is for anything the size of a disk/tape and larger. All drive bays are audited nightly by security and if drives go missing, security reviews the access logs and server room security footage to see who might have taken them.
- clear and consistent labeling systems for rack, shelves, cables and systems.
- pre-cable just about everything to row level redundant switches, and have no cabling from server to other servers not passed through a rack/row switch first. Row switches connect to distro switches. This ensures cabling is simple, and predictable.
- Colorcoded cabling: we use 1 color for redundant cabling (indicating their should be 2 of these connected to the server at all times, and to seperate cards in the backplane and seperate switches to boot), a seperate color for generic gigabit connections, another color for DS View, another color the out management network(s), another color for heartbeat cables, and yet another for non-ethernet (T1/PRI/etc). Other colors are used in some areas to designate 100m connections, special connectivity, or security enclave barriers, and non-fiber switch-to-switch connections. Every cable is labled at both ends and every 6-8 feet inbetween.
- FULLY REDUNDANT POWER. It's not enough to have clean poewr, and good UPS and a generator. In a large datacenter (more than a few rows, or anything truly mission critical), you should have 2 seperate power companies, 2 seperate generators, and 2 fully segregated power systems at the datcenter, room, row, and rack levels. in each datacenter we use 2 Liebert mains, each row has a seperate distribution unit connected to a differnt main, and each rack has 4 PDUs (2 to each distro). Every server is connected to 2 seperat PDUs, run all the way back to 2 completely independent power grids. For a deployment of 50 servers or so this is big time overkill. We have over 3500 servers, we need this... We can not rely on a PSU failure taking out racks at a time which may server dozens of other systems each.

Re:Just off the top of my head (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039742)

A pressure plate ensures only one person goes in/out at a time (and it it's tripped, a scurity guy looking at a screen has to override).

Uh huh. A big F&U to the guys who came up with that one. Unfortunately I always show up as "more than one person". I suspect that more than a couple people on Slashdot are similarly challenged.

Oh yeah... the man traps. If there are going to be situations in which somebody might be trapped in there for an extended period of time have an emergency box that can be broken into with a twinkie or hot pocket or something.

Big guys need some consideration too....

Re:Just off the top of my head (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30039976)

And the poster said weight detection how?

A pressure sensor doesn't have and usually doesn't include weight. It can be as simple as a grid of tiles where each tile has an on/off switch that's on whenever anyone is standing on it. So you stand on the designated pressure mat and swipe your card and enter your pin. If any of the other mats indicate something heavy is on them, the system indicates multiple people present.

Yes, such a system can be easily fooled. A couple of *really friendly* people can possibily stand on the same mat, but it's unlikely. And no matter how overweight you may be. I seriously doubt that you "footprint" is significately larger than other people.

You missed a few (3, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039004)

You forgot a few:

- Enough qualified *on site* staff 24x7 to deal with all clients including yourself

- 24x7 phone support, with people who understand English and have immediate access to the techies

- Company financial records and history (You don't want someone almost broke or a new startup with no backing)

- These days availability of virtualisation solution and supporting hardware (depending on your application, if virtualisation is an option)

Oh and your emphasis on maintenance records may be a little misplaced. They can be faked. They also may not be available due to security concerns (of their other clients). *IF* you can get hold of them they should be complete. Hardware service level should be part of the agreement and service schedule should be part of that.

Re:Just off the top of my head (3, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039066)

Presumably the OP is looking for a hosting site, or processing center, rather than looking at purchasing the facility.

If so very few of the items mentioned in the parent post are germane, other than Outage/Uptime History. What is under the floor is not your problem in hosting arrangement.

You might be interested in location (flood plain, quake zone) and, but if the place has been in business for more than 10 years it all boils down to Outage/Uptime History.

The cost, and ease of migration should the relationship sour and the names of the last big customers to exit the facility would be nice to know.

Re:Just off the top of my head (2, Interesting)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039172)

As you indicate, these are hardly simple questions!

While I would not endorse them today, for years I hosted at GNI, part of 365 Main. Things generally worked well, even if their staff were terse and often unfriendly, so I had no particular complaints until they had a power prolem that cost us about 2000 in direct cost and about two business days to finally, fully resolve. The amount of terse double-speak that came out of them left a very bad taste in my mouth and I've left as soon as I could. Stay clear of 365 Main!

Our new colo is Herakles Data in Sacramento. There, too, things have pretty much 'just worked', but they so much nicer to deal with! And when the inevitable downtime did happen (a 'brownout' on the part of one of their redundant Cisco routers) they were quick to explain exactly what happened and even sent us forms in case we wanted to make a claim against our SLA! (I didn't bother just because I appreciated the respect they afforded me)

And it goes further - when I asked their sales guy about the best way to get a server ack for the development, they GAVE me one that they had replaced because of size limits for FREE! On paper, both colos are similar, with full redundant everything, plenty of certification and nice, glossy promo materials.

In practice, they are like night and day.

Re:Just off the top of my head (1)

tempest69 (572798) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039242)

IMHO.. Check it for the standard disaster scenarios..
Flood... is this place in new orleans, below sea level, or in Cheyenne, a mile up with 12 inches of moisture a year.
Fire, Looting, Snow (can collapse roofs if not shoveled, and leave power outages for days). tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, landslides, sinkholes, train derailment, proximity to a place someone would like to destroy (WTC, Fedral buildings,the killdozer targets). Buildings that can be affected by highway closures. Close proximity to airport increases chances of plane collision.
See if you can get the full insurance adjustment estimates on the property. I've heard Detroit is considered the safest area for natural disasters (needs citation).
ask rough questions of the managment. "if cogent gets in another spat with level3, will we lose any connectivity?", "can a backhoe take out out service?", "if our rival comes into the data center to physically access their boxes, how will our boxes be secure?","how much wood could a wood chuck chuck..."

Re:Just off the top of my head (1)

speculatrix (678524) | more than 4 years ago | (#30040016)

* N+N redundancy in main supply *and* UPS *and* generators *and* cooling * security - access to the site, protection of the installed equipment, storing equipment being delivered * truly diverse fibre as well as sufficient bandwidth with low/no contention * good peering policies to avoid poor latency to your customers' providers * good value remote hands - some providers are very rigid about charging for every second you ask them for support, most are helpful with free basic cover * hidden charges for telephone line installations and cable management * extra charges for dual WAN uplink * cost of committed AND "overage" charges * protection from DoS attacks * rack depth - will your servers fit?! * patching infrastructure available for your own use to cable between racks if you expand, what cost? not all of the following are yes/no decisions BUT should be considered because they can make a big impact to the time taken to get your service up and running * power arrangements - who provides the PDUs - if buying yourself, will they fit, will you have the right brackets? * parking - this is not trivial in london and can be a major bug-bear if you're delivering equipment * traffic issues - if you've an emergency and you or the Dell or HP engineer can't get there to fix things without inordinate delays, you might have a growing headache * onsite facilities when working - drinks and food prep areas, bathrooms, showers even (not needed these but some sites do, if you're doing a major roll-out they could be significant) * rubbish disposal * local facilities - eateries, hotels or B&Bs * level floors - no steps - from loading bay to server floor, lifts etc. don't want to be lugging servers up/down stairs! I visited six significant colo facilities before choosing the one I picked, most had merits, some had minor (to them) problems which would have been a minor but consistent headache to me. We were recently forced to pull our entire server farm out of an inadequate colo, which cost us big time as we had to duplicate significant amount of equipment in order to maintain service instead of shutting down and relocating, as well as having to pay two hosting bills in parallel for a while. This came about because we originally chose the cheapest most convenient provider, which would have been ok for a while, but stayed with them far too long - moral, well before renewing or expanding, review whether your colo service is up to scratch.

first (0, Offtopic)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038554)

you evaluate it by how many cups for frosty piss it can...
wait...
in soviet russia, data centers evaluate you!!!!
Yeah there we go.

History (2, Insightful)

micksam7 (1026240) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038568)

Look at a datacenter's history [recent and past], outages, maintenance issues, customer support, management and etc, in conjunction with their listed redundancies and capacities.

Just because they have two electrics going to each server, doesn't mean a random maintenance tech will flip the wrong switch. :)

Re:History (1)

marbike (35297) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038784)

Nor does it mean that when they lose a leg of power that it will cut over nice and neatly. Got bit by that a while back. Their power bump put the air handlers offline. Ten minutes later all of our servers went into thermal shutdown.

past outages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30038602)

Make sure you ask about any past outages and how they were handled, I have seen data centre power that has failed 4 times in 1 year due to the same problem that was only found on the fourth outage.

i ran a junky data center (4, Informative)

digitalsushi (137809) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038668)

I ran a data center long, long ago. My sales guy knew it wasn't going to pan out and threw me to the wolves. He asked me to start the tour, and then he took a long lunch to miss it.

The guys I gave the tour to seemed very intelligent. They only spent about 60 seconds on our data center. The instant they saw the carpet, their eyebrows were up. When I didn't lie to them that there was no diesel generator on the other side of the (secretly dead) batteries, they did exactly what they should have and stormed out without saying thanks.

Re:i ran a junky data center (0)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038908)

I ran a data center long, long ago...... The instant they saw the carpet, their eyebrows were up. When I didn't lie to them that there was no diesel generator on the other side of the (secretly dead) batteries, they did exactly what they should have and stormed out without saying thanks

Sounds like you ran it out of your mother's attic. (A basement wouldn't have had carpet).

Re:i ran a junky data center (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30039134)

(A basement wouldn't have had carpet).

Mine does.

It is over concrete, but it's carpeted.

Re:i ran a junky data center (3, Funny)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039148)

A smattering of basic physics helps.

Long ago in a distribution centre a far far away - well, east SF bay, anyway - we had a custom mini doing a bit of work for a major retail store chain's logistics business. In the warehouse they built a little room for the mini upstairs, everything cheap but per spec, they insisted. They used one of their domestic air conditioners for the cooling, as it had the right thermal rating to match the heat dissipation we required for our gear. Cool, we said - no problem, cheap is ok as long as it's specced correctly.

It wasn't long before we had a service call for a hardware failure. Sent the engineer out, and it was about 110 in the computer room. They'd installed the air intake and air outflow of the air conditioner in the same tiny room.

Re:i ran a junky data center (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039414)

They'd installed the air intake and air outflow of the air conditioner in the same tiny room.

Wow... I bet they sometimes leave the fridge open to cool the break room.

Re:i ran a junky data center (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30039174)

I think "data center carpet" should be a new slashdot meme. I can not stop laughing at how ridiculous that "data center" must have looked with that carpet. Please tell me that it was the baby poo green shag carpet from the 70's. That would really make it feature complete.

Additional Questions (3, Insightful)

Astrobirdr (560760) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038670)

I'd also ask:

Number of years in business.
Involvement of the owner in the current business.
Number of years the current owner has been in this business.
Also do a check with the Better Business Bureau to see what, if any, complaints had been filed.

And, as always, Google is your friend -- definitely do a search for the business you are considering along with the word(s) problem, issue, complaint, praise, etc!

Re:Additional Questions (1)

djweis (4792) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038874)

I'm not sure BBB involvement is relevant for a data center. It's not an auto repair shop with thousands of customers per year. Searching the online court records would be a more appropriate resource.

Datacenter Archaeology (2, Funny)

jpvlsmv (583001) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038714)

Pull floor tiles and compare the amount of obsolete technology-- Thicknet cables, VAX cluster interconnects, water chiller hookups, FDDI cables, etc. with the amount of space remaining.

Anything less than 4 inches of obsolete crud isn't worth excavating. Leave it a few more years.

--Joe

Security (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30038724)

I co-locate at a data center in Alberta. It is in the basement of a high-rise building. Because of this there is much traffice in/out of the building. The main doors within the building leading to the datacenter itself can be opened with a credit card, or even a set of keys (um, any key). This poses a security risk. Even though you'd need to know exactly where to go and when (so as to not bump into people working there), it is still possible to get what you're after realtively simple with no alarms. They do have cameras though, so wear a mask - and since this is Alberta, no one would question the mask.

I picked up one of my servers a couple days ago, and they didn't ask for ID either. I could have been ANYONE.

I evaluate it dusly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30038726)

... If my direct manager evaluates it as good, then im good. If my direct supervisor evaluates it as fucked, then im fucked.

Word of mouth (4, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038776)

Find someone you trust who's already a customer. Word of mouth beats any number of white papers or studies or guarantees.

Some important questions: (2, Informative)

swordgeek (112599) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038780)

I'm assuming this is evaluating for co-location purposes. Here are some things I'd ask.

1) How quickly can I get a new server deployed into it? How do I do it?
2) Can I get a tour? Now? (Note that this not only lets you see the data centre, but also will give you an idea of security. Look for procedures on getting in, notice if they ask you to sign a release form, etc.)
3) How close to capacity are you? (The answer should include space, floor weight, power, cooling, and network. If it doesn't, why not?)
4) What are your racking/networking/cabling standards? (They should have some, at least where you connect to them, but they shouldn't be onerous).
5) How many people manage the data centre? You don't want to be one car accident away from loss of access or service.
6) How about power management? Is the centre on a UPS, redundant UPSes, or nothing? Can you get charts of the power going to the servers? Can you get DC for telecom servers, or only AC? Is it on a generator for long-term outages? (Note that you may not need this--in which case you shouldn't pay for it. Alternatively, if you need it, make sure it's there!)
7) Is it manned 24/7? (Ditto!)

If you can, ask them to pull a tile so you can see under the raised floor. Underfloor cabling (and suspended ceiling cabling for that matter) should be neat, tied, and labelled. Dead cables should be pulled, not left to rot. There has to be sufficient clearance for unrestricted airflow. Cages are better than lying on the floor.

Most of what makes a good data centre comes down to organization. If it's a rats nest, then even if there's one guy who knows "everything," it will be less reliable, less consistent, and less predictable. Procedures should be written down, printed, filed in labeled binders, and regularly updated. (Note: Online copies should be canonical, but also needs to be accessible offline when shit --> fan.)

Fire suppressant mechanisms (wet vs. dry, live pipes, etc.) need to be considered, as does emergency lighting. If the operators need to start digging around for a flashlight to read what they should be doing, then things aren't happening the way they should.

Be picky. If they're leasing space to you, then their data centre design and maintenance is their BUSINESS, and they had better get it right! Look for a neat, well-organized, well-documented, well-panned data centre. Also make sure that it fits your needs.

Re:Some important questions: (3, Interesting)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039094)

If you can, ask them to pull a tile so you can see under the raised floor. Underfloor cabling (and suspended ceiling cabling for that matter) should be neat, tied, and labelled. Dead cables should be pulled, not left to rot. There has to be sufficient clearance for unrestricted airflow. Cages are better than lying on the floor.

Just want to add... Don't let them pick the tile. They probably get this request frequently enough that they have a "show" tile or two if they are a shoddy organization. Pick one on your tour, as an offhand request that you had "forgotten" until then. If they try to steer you to a specific tile, that tells you they have something to hide, and you need to question everything else they've shown you samples of.

[paranoid and loving it]

Re:Some important questions: (3, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039564)

Just want to add... Don't let them pick the tile. They probably get this request frequently enough that they have a "show" tile or two if they are a shoddy organization.

If you pull this stunt, please understand that a techs hidden stockpile of magazines and canned soda does not necessarily indicate a shoddy organization, it merely means they have employees that like reading certain magazines for the interviews, and prefer to store their drinks in a nice clean spot underneath the chiller rather than the proverbially filthy employee refrigerator. On the good side this is a strong indication they don't have an under the floor rodent infestation.

Strangest thing I ever found under the floor was a vast amount of one employees (clean) clothing. He was kind of stuck in the process of moving and needed a temporary place to stash stuff. Apparently no one found it unusual that he was hauling bags of clothing in and out.

What are you evaluating? (4, Insightful)

chris.knowles (1109139) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038788)

There are basically 3 perspectives from which to evaluate the Datacenter. They're pretty well universal to any IT eval. People, Process and Technology. The datacenter facility itself is only one piece of the puzzle (Facility = Technology, which only accounts for a fraction of the total cost of operating a Datacenter). There are also the people running the datacenter and how they are organized and interact with the technology, one another, and their customers (internal and external). From a people/process standpoint, if you want to give a general "score" to them, you can assess them against the SLM maturity scale. (Read about the Gartner Maturity Model for Infrastructure and Operations) Evaluating a datacenter is going to be a balance between the cost of operating the datacenter and the level of service you require from said datacenter. There really isn't enough information in the question to give you a good answer. Are you looking at evaluating the acquisition of a datacenter to grow into, are you looking for a managed services DC to host your gear with operational support? Are you looking for rack space with pipe and power? If you give more details to your inquiry, I'm sure the community can provide you with some great answers.

In Russia... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30038846)

...data center evaluates you!

Do not jump in with both feet (3, Informative)

Jailbrekr (73837) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038868)

Regardless of how well they are decked out, always start with a "pilot project". Start small for a short period to evaluate real world performance of both their equipment and their tech support. We currently have a pilot project in place to evaluate a datacentre for outsourcing our compute requirements. We have learned that while they have exceptionally good equipment in place, their responsiveness and ability to provision is highly questionable.

Simple... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30038872)

Read their disaster preparedness plan. If you can get through it without your BS alarm ringing off the wall or laughing hysterically, there is hope. You do have a disaster preparedness plan, right?

What do you need? (2, Insightful)

Tdawgless (1000974) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038890)

What does your company _NEED_? How much bandwidth do you need? What kind of servers do you need? Are you looking for Co-Lo or Dedicated? If you're doing Co-Lo, how much power and space do you need? If you're doing dedicated, do you need managed or unmanaged? PCI compliance? HIPAA compliance? Do you want to pay for certain redundancies? Do you need an Uptime Institute Tier certified facility? I could go on and on. The one thing that you need consistently is good customer service. The rest depends on what you need. Full Disclosure: I work for one of the biggest privately held dedicated hosting companies on the planet.

Vending machines. (2, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038918)

Since the odds are I'm going to be spending the night there at some point, good vending machines or a cafeteria are a must.

Real Simple (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038920)

Power from the ceiling, data under the floor.

The reason is data centre floods don't occur very often but when they do the d.c can tolerate the data cable being in water but when the power gets in contact with water circuit breakers trip and they don't work again until they are dry.

I encountered it when the AC water feed burst and co-incidentally the drain for the data centre had been blocked. If your power and data are through the floor then I would suggest that you invest in a good wet and dry vacuum cleaner. I do have other suggestions but this seems such a basic thing to me.

Re:Real Simple (1)

jackb_guppy (204733) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039340)

IT was data room not a data center and it was 25yrs ago...

On the third floor was data room with computer and phone switch next too the main A/C flume going from basement to 20flr (walking closet without floor or ceiling. The external auditors came though and wrote up the location that there was no raised floor in case of flooding.

Site's response: HA HA HA - Flood - 3rd floor?

Next week the water main at the 5th floor brpke and came down the A/C flume and flooded the third floor in 2 feet of water!

Opps

Re:Real Simple (1)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039642)

Next week the water main at the 5th floor brpke and came down the A/C flume and flooded the third floor in 2 feet of water!

Exactly, mine was on the fifth floor!!!

My Top Three (0, Troll)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038928)

1) Hookers
2) Beer
3) Illicit drugs

Seriously, my top three are as follows ....

1) Bandwidth Available / Oversubscription rate
2) Geographically different alternative location.
3) Disaster Planning directives.

Organization (1)

jroc242 (1397083) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038960)

After redundant power, adequate cooling, 24/7 ops...etc. Neatness is the most important thing. Making each rack very neat with redundant power bars and individual patch panels is key for the long term. Its when you allow cables to run under the floor and between racks that things get out of control. We have an old timer that will yell at anyone who does anything messy and its works out very well.

Don't forget the non-technical bits (2, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30038974)

Such as street access. Is there more than one way in, if the access road was closed off (police incident, subsidence, civil unrest - depending where it's sited), what would happen. Could staff get to work, or leave for home?
Ease of recruiting / retaining sufficiently qualified staff in the locale, or persuading your to commute or relocate
Is the on-site restaurant / canteen or local eateries likely to give everyone food poisoning (this could be a single point of failure)
Local crime rate - number of times the facility has been broken in to - even the amount of graffiti on the walls could be a negative indicator

Re:Don't forget the non-technical bits (1)

kroby (1391819) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039046)

I assume you are looking to co-locate. If you plan on spending much time in the data center make sure that they have bathrooms available to their customers. Not all do.

Everyone has the questsions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30038994)

Everyone posts the "questions" to ask; no one posts the acceptable "answers" to those questions. Way to regurgitate uselessness, but I guess posting (even if it's useless) makes us all feel helpful/smart/educated/witty.

- Ask them how many Amps their electrical cords are tested for.
- Make sure you ask there EMI rating in Ohms / squared Newton times their rack cabling coefficient.

Yes, I'm mocking you...

an outside air duct (3, Informative)

spywhere (824072) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039038)

When I worked at a corporate office in Maryland, they used the building's air conditioning to cool the server room.
This worked well until the outside temperature got down to about 15 degrees Fahrenheit, but then it failed miserably: the outdoor condensers no longer functioned, the AC shut down, and the entire IT department went into a panic.
The first time this happened, I (a lowly Help Desk tech) suggested to the CIO that he run a duct into the room from the outside: a simple fan would bring in enough sub-freezing air to cool the servers.
The second time it happened, the look on his face told me he hadn't taken my suggestion seriously enough.
The third time, he flipped a switch and the fan cooled his server room just fine.

Re:an outside air duct (1)

SuperQ (431) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039662)

Yup, that was done at the University of Minnesota CS department a few years ago. They had to take A/C offline in the middle of the winter for a few days and the datacenter room was down 3 stories below ground. We ended up propping open 2 emergency exit stairs on 2 ends of the building, covering the two hallways with plastic tarps to prevent air flow. The the doors at either end of the datacenter were propped open and a gigantic 6' fan was turned on. It pulled a ton of cold air down one stairwell and pushed it up through the other.

Worked great except for the grad students who had to sit next to the datacenter doors where it was now freezing cold 24/7 for security.

Re:an outside air duct (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30040320)

When I worked at a corporate office in Maryland, they used the building's air conditioning to cool the server room.

This worked well until the outside temperature got down to about 15 degrees Fahrenheit, but then it failed miserably: the outdoor condensers no longer functioned, the AC shut down, and the entire IT department went into a panic.

The first time this happened, I (a lowly Help Desk tech) suggested to the CIO that he run a duct into the room from the outside: a simple fan would bring in enough sub-freezing air to cool the servers.

The second time it happened, the look on his face told me he hadn't taken my suggestion seriously enough.

The third time, he flipped a switch and the fan cooled his server room just fine.

the energy efficiency of the original solution is so bad that it should be CRIMINAL

you not only provided a simpler solution that will work you saved him a BUNCH of money

long live free cooling

Personnel (2, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039058)

More important than the technology is the policies and training of the personnel running the operation. It will fail, eventually: It always does, no matter how well its designed or what with promises of infinite uptime. So walk into the data center and count the number of people wearing hiking boots, divide by the number of racks, and there you go. The most grizzly looking guy wearing hiking boots usually knows everything. He also usually has a lighter and a screwdriver if you ask.

I don't know why this is...

Re:Personnel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30039660)

If he knows everything then it can be safely assumed the lighter is for those times when someone shows up with a PRD but not a lighter. He's smart, and he knows how to get in on a free doob.

Sorry, no idea what he'd be using the screwdriver for ;-)

a few things to think about (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30039060)

Security:
manned or unmanned 24x7
Closed Circuit cameras
How people are granted access to the facility
Do you get a cage, a rack, or space in a rack?
If a rack or space in a rack, how is your equipment secured?
How do you grant access to vendors if they come to swap a hard drive or motherboard for you?

Facility:
How close are they to their maximum power consumption?
How do they propose to scale once they reach maximum?
KW per Rack limits
How many power grids is the facility tied to?
Localized fire suppressant or general "drench them all with water"?
What kind of backup power generators and do they have access to fuel?
Do they have a priority relationship with fuel suppliers in the event of an emergency?
Do they have contiguous space available? If so, how much?
What is their plan for growth if they fill all available floor space

Network:
How many carriers are present in the facility?
Can you bring your own in, or do you have to share?
what is the cost for cross-connects?

Acct Mgmt & Processes:
Billing process
Do you have a dedicated account team?
What is the process for dealing with SLA violations?

Hands-on:
How many hours and what skillsets come with the contract?
What is the hourly rate to do simple tasks like swap tapes?

do they let me tug my nuts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30039072)

mmmmmmmmm raw

Freight Elevator capacity... (2, Interesting)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039120)

I used to have a large cage in an Exodus colocation facility. Turns out that if we wanted to put in an EMC Symm5 (these are three tiles wide), we would have to rent a fork lift and put it through an open rollup door on the second floor. Their "freight elevator" was barely big enough for two people and a dolly.

One of my other cages was housed in a Global Crossing facility; when they started to run out of out cooling, they would hook up huge external A/C units in the parking lot and run 2ft diameter ducting to a hole in the wall. If you happened to walk near one of these openings you'd be greeted by freezing 50mph winds.

Anybody find it odd that Exodus bought Global Crossing, who then went out of business?

I'm going to turn this around. (5, Interesting)

NoNsense (6950) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039136)

I am the Director of Operations for our DC. When we give tours, I explain the following (pseudo order of the tour):

- Begin with the history of the building, when it was built (1995), why it was build (result of Andrew in 1992), and how it is constructed (twin T, poured tilt wall).

Infastructure:
- Take you through the gen room, show you it is internal to the building, show you the roofing structure from the inside, explain the N+1 redundancy, the hours on the gens, when they are ready for maintenance, how they are maintained, by whom (the vendor), how the diesel is stored, supplied, duration of fuel at max and current loads. Explain conduct before a hurricane or lockdown, how we go off grid 24hours ahead of a storm, mention our various contracts for after storm refill and our straining / refill schedule.
- Take you to the switch gear room, explain the dual feeds from the power company, how the switch gear works, show you the three main bus breakers, show you the numerous other breakers for various sub panels, etc. Explain and show you the spare breakers we have in case replacement is needed.
- Take you to the cooling tower area, explain the piping, the amount of water flowing, the number of pumps, how many are needed, the switching schedule, explain the N+1 capacity and overall capability of the towers, explain maintenance, show you the replacement pumps in stock, explain the concept of condensed water cooling if needed.
- Take you through the UPS and battery rooms, explain the needed KW capacity, what the UPSs back up and what they do not. Show the various distribution breakers out to floor, their capacity, the static switches, bypass, explain the battery capacity, type of cells, number of cells, number of strings, last time the jars were replaced and how they are maintained. Explain max capacity of the load vs time. Answer questions relevant to switching from utility->UPS->generator and back.

Raised floor:
- Take walk on raised floor, explain connectivity, vendors, path diversity we have, how the circuits are protected. Show them network gear, dual everything, how we protect from a LAN or WAN outage, and specific network devices we have for DDoS, Load Balancing, Distribution, Aggregation. Explain how telco and others deliver DS0 to OC-12 capacity, offer information on cross connections regarding copper, fiber, coax. Explain our offerings (dedicated servers up to 5K sq ft cages) and ask what they are interested in.
- Explain below the floor, size of raise, that power and network is delivered under, what are on level one trays, level two trays, and the piping for cooling. Show the PDU units and how they related to the breakers in the previous rooms. Show them the cooling panel and leads out to CRAC units, explain the cooling capacity, plans for future cooling, explain hot/cold aisle fundamentals, and temperature goals. At this point, there are usually more questions about vented tiles, power types available and overall floor density in watts/sq ft.
- Explain the fire detection / mitigation system, monitoring of PDU's, CRAC units, and FM200. Explain the maintenance of the fire system, show them the fire marshal inspection logs and the panels that alert the police and fire departments (both on floor and in our security office in front).
- While finishing the walk on the floor, show cameras, explain process to bring in and remove equipment, tell them the retention on the video, explain the rounds the guards make, the access list updates and changes.

NOC:
- At this point we're back to the front of the building, go into the NOC, explain what we are monitoring (connectivity, weather, scheduled jobs, etc). Introduce NOC and security staff, explain they will always get a person if they call, submit a test ticket from a e-mail on my phone, they will see the alerts light up and the pager for the NOC will signal. The final steps are to introduce them to security and then I'll lead the customer(s) to the conference room so they can continue the conversation with the sales associate.

The sales person is normally with us. During the tour we will explain our SAS certifications and disclose any other NDA information. I see two types of tours, the first is the discovery tour, which is when a company or government entity is on a fact finding mission to see if we are close to their needs, then they talk with the SA. The other type (more common) are the tours taken after the agreement has been worked out and this is the final "sales" procedure. Our facility really sells itself. Once on tour, most sign up (if they are serious) within 24 hours. I probably missed a few things, so if you want me to follow up I can. For me, everything I present are things the customer NEEDS to know before installing in my building.

John

a horror story (1)

SendBot (29932) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039224)

I had a machine colocated in a very nice, secured facility right in the middle of a major city where all the telco wiring runs. It was awful for these reasons:
- they advertised 24 access to your equipment on the web site, then the smarmy salesperson explained how that's actually not going to happen. That should have been it right there, but I was dumb.
- later, they had a brief power outage due to a contractor f-ing up one day, and I was never notified. This in turn disabled my traffic shaping configs, which I intentionally do not have running upon startup. I didn't know anything was amiss until I got a huge bill for bandwidth overages. I had to fight heavily with them to overturn the charges because I had a contract with them that said 100% uptime in regards to power. They disabled my controls by not upholding their deal, and were trying to pin the results on me. Afterward I put in a simple script to email me when the maching mysteriouly rebooted. The whole time they were acting like jackasses about it, then acting like they were doing me a huge favor when they gave in.
- Then, the worst offense. I took off for a three day weekend right when they cold-cocked my machine during a maintenance operation. I didn't notice until the following sunday that things had been down all weekend. I had missed my opportunity to visit my machine since it was just after 6:00pm, and I'd have to wait until 9:00 the following morning to see what the hell was wrong. Or they offered to let me PAY THEM to look at it for me sooner. I declined.

When I got there, they had unplugged my machine, moved it to a new location, failed to power it back up, and had the network cable in the wrong port. All of those things were in total violation of my contract. When giving me excuses, they were saying that because the network lights were on they thought the machine was powered on.

Then it was like all hell to get them to come through on their contractual provisions when they don't provide the guaranteed uptime and exhibited severe negligence.

I eventually got paid back what I had paid for the service that month, but not any of the reimbursement specified in the contract for exceeding downtime. And it took two months for them to return my money.

Anyone have worse stories?

And location factors too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30039258)

Is it near a hazardous materials facility? Under an airport approach or departure path? A rail line? A major highway possibly having traffic hauling hazardous goods? Gas, oil or chemical pipelines? Flood plane? etc.

I'd be interested in... (1)

v1 (525388) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039278)

- data redundancy, offsite specifically
- ability to cut over? ie what happens if there's an earthquake, are your services to the world down until everything is replaced and backups are restored?
- what do you have on hand for hot spares in the event of equipment failure?
- when you are in failover mode for whatever reason, how does it impact your performance? ie does webmail just crawl until the mirror finishes rebuilding?
- how are your external resources? got a plan to truck in gas for the genny if a tornado levels the local substation? got a hotline or multiple points of expert contact available 24/7 for every critical piece of hardware that you can't fix yourself regardless of how it breaks? same for software.
- do you have a forensics plan in place? ie if you get hacked, (and don't answer that with "that can't happen") do you have any idea what you will do and in what order, to preserve forensic information, stop additional damage, and orderly cleanup? What are your legal obligations for notification, who is your contact with the press? (and there better only be ONE) Do you have a specific partner waiting in the wing all picked out if needed? after the fact is not the time to be choosing one.
- if you have a failure that affects multiple services or clients, what is your priority order? who gets their service back first?
- do you have a set "fire schedule" that people know specific additional hours they will be required to work in the event of an emergency situation? Are you going to run short on manpower in a specific area because you're already overextended by day to day operations in some aspect?
- are there any people that are single points of failure? What if Bob gets hit by a bus? what if Dave is the only one that knows the firewall and gets hospitalized when it explodes while he's working on it? crosstrain crosstrain crosstrain.
- not sure if it was covered above but documentation, documentation, and more documentation. How consistent is it? Does every network map look like it was written with a different drafting app by a different person? Is all of your documentation collected together and well organized? multiple copies in various places? are some things much better documented than others?
- server rebuild lists. do you have a step by step set of instructions for EVERY critical box that will take it from a freshly formatted HD to back in production, that any of a dozen of your monkeys can follow, with no "well wasn't that obvious?" missing steps? And how often do you test these? Walk in one morning and drop a new box on a desk and say "WEB15 just got STOLEN. Rebuild it. Fast. Starting NOW." and hit your stopwatch and see what you get. You do this from time to time, right?
- do you have a structured command that avoids differing opinions in a crisis slowing things down? when it comes right down to it there needs to be one clear person or command structure that has final say in a crisis.

I'm sure I'm missing some things but that's a good start for ya.

PUE - Power Usage Effectiveness (1)

SuperQ (431) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039432)

Many good comments, but nobody is asking what PUE a datacenter gets. Bad PUE turns into lower rack deliverable power and more expensive power when you do get it. I would have a hard time picking a datacenter that didn't have tight closed loop hot isle cooling.

References, references, references (1)

trippd6 (20793) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039508)

The quality of a datacenter has less to do with the equipment (although thats important), and more to do with who designed and is running the equipment.

Most of the datacenter outages I have been a part of in one way or another (Customer, or Provider) have been caused by:

Poor planning
Human Error
Poor design

As a normal customer, there is no way to know if any of these problems exist. The solution? Ask for references that utilize that datacenter. Make sure they don't give you a customer that utilizes another data center from the same provider. Data center design varies greatly, even across the same provider. Ask that reference how long they have been there, how many problems they have had, and the companies response to those issues. Look for a customer with a long history in that data center (3+ years, 5 would be better).

Don't rule out a data center because they had an outage. Outages will happen, no matter how redundant their systems are. Their response to it is very important. If you find out about a previous outage, ask to see the root cause analysis they provided their customers. If they can't or won't produce it, even under NDA, then walk away.

Only way to be sure.... (1)

unitron (5733) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039558)

Nuke it from orbit and then see how soon their backup site with your backup data has you back online.

thoughts from long ago (1)

68882 (444129) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039670)

Some thoughts, having been a shift supervision in a DC long ago...

(a) don't have the emergency poweroff & off halon dump switch uncovered right by the DC room's light switch. Someday someone will *hit* it...

(b) where does the water go when the 5 inch chill water main fracture?

(c) who is the cleaning staff and do they know not to turn the "computers" off when they dust? Also why are they dusting unsupervised
in the data center anyway?

(d) Oh sure you have multiple telco feeds that service the building from that *sole* pole over there, which that dump truck just took out.

(e) And your procedure for the phone in fire alarm is what, wait for the fire dept to axe the entry door? This was my favourite. What's that chopping noise?

(f) Lastly, if the city bomb squad runs a trial, let the staff know ahead of time because that ensures they might be able to focus after the squad leaves...

my list: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30039700)

Some additional things I looked for recently when evaluating a colo were:

- Ease of access to the building
- logistics including:
  -- how is the parking situation? 24/7 parking?
  -- if i need to drop something off from my car, is it close to a loading dock?
  -- how are deliveries handled, where are they stored until i come in to use new said equipment
- how many years remaining on the lease (assuming the building is leased)
- when was the last time they checked their backup systems (power, cooling)
- do they have multiple paths of entry for fiber into the building? (or will 1 backhaul bring down the interwebs?)
- do they have crash carts? (monitor / key boards)
- do they have spare cables or power tools I can borrow?
- how sturdy are the racks bolted into the ground? (push them, see if they are telling the truth :) )
- power density per rack that is available
- cross connects to various providers
- do i "like" the place ... this is subjective but important. talk to the NOC guys, are they nice, or do they hate their jobs, how long have they been working there, etc etc.

just a few things I evaluated when choosing a colo.

an important suggestion (1)

Eil (82413) | more than 4 years ago | (#30039704)

Unless yours servers absolutely must be local, one of the most important factors should be local climate and environmental risk. I've worked in a couple datacenters in Michigan and it's really ideal:

* No state-wide forest fires
* No flooding if you're above the flood plain
* No hurricanes
* Very few tornadoes

On top of that, if the AC units should spontaneously fail all at once, 99% of the time you can just open up all the doors and run a couple of large fans to keep things cool enough to run.

One Server at a time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30039764)

All line up and evacuate slowly.

Lol (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30039848)

How dont you evaluate a data center

Evaluation of Data Centers is nothing new... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30040028)

Why re-invent the wheel?

Yes it's People - Process - Technology... there are audit / checklist standards (multiple) for each area.

Search for SysAdmin SA-BOK-0500.pdf and you'll find a good overall checklist. SANS Institute also has a physical security checklist as well.

Beyond that you have the super serious audit things like SAS-70 or ISO-17799 / ISO-27000 or ISO-20000 or COBIT or ITIL... things that actually have outside audit standards / agencies.

If you want the informal check lists for your own review, SA-BOK-0500 or SANS Institute is good. If you really want to do a proper / formal thing, inquire as to their SAS-70 and ISO-20000 (ITIL) compliance. Ask to see copies of latest audit under NDA.

Some more points to consider... (1)

GetSteved (670886) | more than 4 years ago | (#30040274)

Full Disclosure: I work for a (Great!) data center provider (ViaWest [viawest.com] ).

Infrastructure:
- What is the UPS run-time?
- What is the generator startup time?
- What is the genset capacity in relation to UPS demand? (i.e. is the UPS demand larger than the genset capacity - you'd be supprised!)
- Does the provider have multiple refueling contracts?
- Are the refueling contracts high priority?
- Can the provider detail out green initiatives to improve PUE?
- Does the provider have sufficient capital resources to expand the data center?
- How much investment has the company made - this year - into the data center?
- Is the data center in a flood plain? Check http://msc.fema.gov/ [fema.gov]

Compliance:
- Is the data center SAS-70 type II audited? Type II means they're serious about it.
- Are the results of the audit available for review?
- Are a list of control objectives available?
- How does the provider assist with customer audits? (i.e. PCI auditor requests for info)
- Can the provider demonstrate servicing other companies where compliance is a requirement?
- Will there be additional charges for audit related work or requests?

Network Remote Hands
- Does the provider offer managed hosting / hybrid hosting options
- What is the expertise level of the NOC staff?
- How are remote hands charged?
- What is the response time for a remote hands event?
- What monitoring options are available?

Corporate
- Does the company have a business continuity plan documented?
- Are the company financials available for review?

Carrier Neutral or Inclusive (1)

dracocat (554744) | more than 4 years ago | (#30040284)

Depending on your uptime needs and size, also consider weather you want your Internet Access included as part of your Data Center or whether you want a carrier neutral facility. Many places just lump data access in with the colocation space and you get an ip.

Other places, sometimes called a "hotel operator" simply rent you space and power, after which you can connect to one of usually a couple hundred ISPs that are cross-connecting in their meet-me room.

Also, don't know if you are starting or moving. If you are just starting, be sure you look very closely into simply renting some cloud space. I admit I have been skeptical of it for a long time, but I am now a convert. Sure it is more expensive than buying your own servers and hosting them, but redundancy and capacity planning are almost eliminated.

Don't forget the contract details (1)

mattmarlowe (694498) | more than 4 years ago | (#30040588)

* If you move your infrastructure in with them and later lose confidence in their abilities for whatever reason, how quickly and easily can you terminate and move out w/o all the hassle of pre-paying to end of term? This should be your biggest requirement. No matter how much do diligence you do on technical matters prior to moving in, things change...the datacenter provider could have financial problems, sudden facility problems, lose key critical staff, etc. Your contract needs to allow you the option to terminate when you reasonably lose confidence in their abilities w/o a billion hoops or outlandish costs.

* Power pricing and limitations on how much they are allowed to pass on additional costs from utilities during term of contract.

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