I had the opportunity to speak with Etienne Guerou, who is the Vice President, Chloride South East Asia- a world leader in power solutions. Over a cup of coffee, Mr. Guerou, who has 20 years of experience in designing and building datacenters, briefed me on some of the top mistakes that IT professionals and decision-makers make when building their own datacenters.

Here are the main mistakes he outlined:

1. Harboring the wrong appreciation of a datacenter

One typical mistake is that would be that IT professionals and decision makers don’t differentiate between datacenters. Instead, they treat a datacenter as an all-inclusive black box where “many” servers are to be housed. That mindset is typically exposed when confronted with the simple question: “What do you intend to use your datacenter for?”

Ask yourself about the scale and anticipated usage of the datacenter, expansion plans of at least two to three years down the road, whether blade servers or standard rack mount servers will be utilized, etc. When you answer these questions, you can then extrapolate power consumption, as well as current and future capacities in terms of cabling, cooling and power.

2. Attempting to run a datacenter from improper facilities

It would be a mistake to simply acquire an ad-hoc facility and have it rebadged as a datacenter without a proper appraisal of its suitability, cautions Guerou. He cites an example in which a client, after having signed the lease for a fairly large space, sought out Mr. Guerou’s advice on how to proceed. To the client’s horror, the answer is that the venue was simply not suitable for a datacenter due to granite floorings and thick beams across the ceiling – resulting in an effective height that is simply inadequate for cabling and cooling purposes.

While it might not be possible for most organizations to put up custom-built datacenters on whim, what this client should have done was get an experienced consultant in and involved right from the get-go.

Ideally, in Mr. Guerou’s own words: “A datacenter should be a technical building dedicated to a very particular business of processing data.”

3. Buying by brands

Another common mistake is that many IT professionals attempt to buy into selected brands. While this strategy might work well when it comes to standardizing on servers or networking gear, an efficient and well-run datacenter has nothing to do with specific hardware brands or models. Rather, you should approach the datacenter from the perspective of a complete solution, where the entire design has to be considered as an integrated whole.

As an unfortunate side-effect of strong marketing by enterprise vendors, many users have, consciously or subconsciously, bought into the idea of designing a datacenter by snapping together disparate pieces of hardware. While not wrong, it’s imperative that the end-result be evaluated as a whole – and not in a piecemeal fashion.

Various hardware, such as types of servers, positioning of racks, networking equipment and redundant power supplies should dovetail properly with infrastructure such as cooling, ventilation, wiring, fire-suppression systems, and security measures.

4. Rushing onto the “Green IT” bandwagon

The increasingly popularity of “Green IT” has vendors unveiling new servers and equipment touted for their superior power efficiency. While the idea is definitely laudable, you should sieve out the marketing hype from actual operational consumption.

For example, two UPS from “vendor X,” while individually more power efficient at 90% loading, might actually offer a much poorer showing if deployed in a redundant configuration, where they will end up running at 45% loading. In the absence of proper scrutiny, green IT initiatives could degenerate into a numbers game.

At the end of the day, you should take overall power efficiency – or power factor, of the entire datacenter -a benchmark rather than weigh it by individual vendor claims. After all, a yardstick of a well-run datacenter has always been about power efficiency.

In parting, Mr. Guerou has the following advice for organizations thinking of building their own datacenter. “Hire an experienced consultant.”

Do you have anything to add on things to bear in mind when building a datacenter?