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How to Budget a New Data Center Project

There are two major categories for budgeting data centers and several sub-categories under each. Let’s look at the two major ones – facilities and IT. By and large they are interdependent, and it is risky to plan for one without understanding the other. Assuming that the underlying need for a new data center is already established, the budgeting process should begin with IT.

IT Planning

The IT planning process will articulate the IT objectives of the data center and relate it back to the core business strategy it is intended to support. The IT planning process looks a lot like a combination of field surveys, staff interviews and interactive workshops, all designed to get everyone on the same page with existing conditions, areas of improvement, financial targets and growth projections. Combined with a little crystal ball gazing into the near future, the IT plan will result in a budget that includes the following elements:

  • Project Management (in-house or out-sourced)
  • System design (in-house or out-sourced)
  • Relocated platforms
  • Replacement platforms
  • Relocation services
  • New platform acquisition
  • New network infrastructure installation
  • New WAN infrastructure build-out
  • Cable plant installation
  • Physical support equipment acquisition (cabletray, cut-outs and racks)
  • WAN services procurement
  • NOC A/V equipment design and installation

I realize that it isn’t often that the IT plan is developed in advance of the facility plan. However, we have designed a process that requires very minimal IT commitment and time to develop enough of a plan to begin the facility planning and budget to the point where work on the project can actually begin with a high confidence that the facility will support any anticipated IT functions over a five year horizon.

The main outcomes of the IT planning process are the IT budget and the three key criteria for the facility planning:

IT Budget

It is difficult to benchmark data center IT budgets since so much depends on the type of business, transaction frequency and density, expected performance, and application development philosophy. However it is not unusual for the total budget to be anywhere from $1,200 to $2,000 per rack unit, or $2,000 to $3,000 per sq. foot of raised floor area.

Key Criteria

  1. Space requirement: the amount of conditioned computer grade environment required to house all of the IT platforms.
  2. Reliability and availability targets: The impact of downtime combined with allowable maintenance windows and desired uptime metric will dictate the facility engineering systems configuration. Tiers levels 1 thru 4 generally describe the required reliability performance with Tier 1 being the least reliable and Tier 4 being the most.
  3. Power density: The mix of various IT platforms will determine how much power needs to be deliverred into the data center environment, and as important, how much heat will need to be removed via cooling equipment.

Facility Planning

Once the three key criteria have been identified, the facility budget can be developed. The three criteria are very interdependent. For example, a higher reliability facility will require more space for redundant equipment, and a higher power density will increase the ratio of support spaces to critical environment space. The following rules of thumb govern these interdependencies.

Rules of Thumb

  • Tier level 3 (the most common) requires a support space to raised floor area ratio of .5 for 35 w/sf up to 1.0 for 100w/sf.
  • Tier level 4 requires ratios of .8 to 1.2.
  • Power densities over 100w/sf will have a lower net usable area for the raised floor due to the great number of cooling units required. We use a grossing factor of 1.35 times the equipment footprint (including aisle allowances) for up to 100w/sf to account for PDUs and cooling units. Over 100 w/sf, the grossing factor increases to 1.5 times or so.

Doing the Math

Once you know how the criteria relate to one another you can follow these steps to determine a valid facility budget.

  1. Multiply the space requirement by the appropriate ratio to obtain total raised floor and support space areas. Add to this number any other areas needed in the building like a NOC (usually 450 sf/operator), offices (200sf/staff), or food services (45sf/staff).
  2. Multiply this total by 1.15 circulation factor to get your total gross building area.
  3. Multiply this by a typical hardened pre-cast concrete core and shell construction cost of approximately $125 per sf.
  4. Multiply your raised floor area by the cost of the interior improvements and basic building services premiums including raised floor, lighting, fire protection, leak detection, humidification, smoke purge, fire detection, power distribution, environmental conditioning, moisture control and security. Typically around another $100 per sq. foot.
  5. Multiply your power density by the raised floor area and divide by one thousand. This is your total electrical kw load. Multiply by $5,000 to obtain the cost of the UPS, batteries, generators, switchgear, cooling units, chillers, and chilled water distribution that will be needed to support the data center.
  6. Add the cost of site work at $15 per sf of gross area (item 2 above).
  7. Add soft costs for engineering fees, construction fees, furniture, equipment, and miscellaneous consultants (acoustic, geotechnical, etc.), and a contingency at around $50 per sf.

This budget number does not include the cost of the land which can vary significantly with prime properties in a secure, well- served business park going for over $500,000 per acre.

Go to our contact page and send us a note if you would like a free cost calculator in Microsoft Excel format.