Hidden Costs of Logistics

Before writing this blog, I decided to conduct some research on the subject of running a data centre more efficiently. I consulted Google, which returned an array of results including the popular topics of energy/heat efficiency and reducing the impact on the local environment. All of these are valid and must be considered when building a data centre but what about the hidden costs? How many of these results related to logistics? Zero! Whilst the industry is focussed on the obvious costs of energy, staffing, redundancy and the environment, nobody seems ready to acknowledge the hidden costs associated with inefficiencies in logistics.

Let’s take a scenario where there’s a requirement to install 5,000 racks in a data centre over a restricted time period. Can your data centre physically manage that kind of throughput? If it isn’t designed for this, have you calculated the extra costs associated including multiple shipments, staff overtime, etc.?

From my experience over the last decade, here are some of the essential logistics issues that should be considered when constructing a new data centre:

Location

Where do you plan to locate the data centre? Will it be surrounded by green fields or city centre based? From a logistics perspective, you need to ensure that the building is at ground level and that there are loading bays, loading docks and yard access to allow maximum throughput of equipment. Remember, these are big 18 wheeler trucks!

Furthermore, it is useful to also have secure and sheltered shipping docks where the logistics team can unload the equipment without being exposed to the elements.

Access

Logistics companies work 24/7 so it is important to have 24-hour secure access to facilitate overnight and weekend installation.

Staging Area

Have you considered creating a staging area where your logistics team can assemble the equipment and test that it is working before moving it to its final destination? I briefly mentioned above about having secure access to the building. It’s essential for both you and your logistics partner that there is availability of secured shipping and receiving services to hold equipment during the move.

Flooring

Racks are getting heavier and heavier over the last few years. You need to ensure that your floor is strengthened appropriately to allow for the racks to roll across and into position. It’s suggested that a 300/ft. floor loading capacity is the best solution for high density computing. Having to use plates to compensate for an under-rated floor dramatically lowers throughput and raises costs. (www.immedion.com)

Freight Elevators

Specially designed freight elevators should be included in the architectural plans for the building and it’s important that they are big enough to fit oversized equipment such as full-height racks with in-rack cooling units. As racks are getting heavier, they are often getting taller; taking time to tilt a rack to fit in a small elevator or doorway costs time and money. (http://searchdatacenter.techtarget.com)

If any of these requirements aren’t in place, you’re increasing the cost to deliver and position every rack, and that comes off your bottom line.

Here at ATC Logistics, I have overseen the installation of approximately 20,000 to 25,000 racks over 80 data centres across Europe, all with different requirements and logistical challenges. In each case, I’ve advised companies on the design of the data centre to ensure that they tick the boxes above, so if you’re designing or building a new data centre, get in touch to discuss your requirements. Some time thinking about logistics before the building will save time and money later.

Alan

alan.young@atc-logistics.ie