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Key data center strategy considerations for HK companies

Kris Kumar | June 17, 2014
As the amount of data being produced, stored and transferred grows exponentially, the demands being placed on technology infrastructure continue to increase. This is certainly true in Hong Kong as a regional hub for the logistics and FIRE sectors (i.e. finance, insurance, real estate and business services), all of which heavily rely on secured data center facilities to support their operations.

In fact, most office buildings in CBD locations simply aren't equipped to meet high power demands. Commercial buildings often use centralised cooling systems to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the building for human occupation. Centralized cooling systems have low-density power supply which do not support large volumes of IT equipment in a limited space. In rare cases where the commercial building can support standalone cooling systems for data centers, they typically lack the necessary generators to provide N+1 redundancy, a form of resilience that ensures system availability in the event of component failure, in case of power outages or downtime.

Structurally, commercial buildings aren't designed to play home to a data center either — they simply don't have the infrastructure in place. They lack the necessary slab-to-slab heights, for example, and can tend to stack critical equipment on low-height shelving units and cool them via low-height raised floors which can easily result in overheating.

Security risks

In addition, the multi-occupancy nature of commercial buildings in Hong Kong requires tenants to share riser space. In this scenario several tenants are sharing mechanical, power and cooling infrastructure, as well as distribution and connectivity cabling, leaving firms at risk of inadvertent or intentional "fiber splicing" and the like.

Furthermore, commercial property doesn't offer adequate structural loading to accommodate the ever-increasing physical weight of a typical server room, which can reach a critical mass of up to 1,400 kg in some cases. Today's data center racks, cages and/or cabinets can easily be heavier than several floors on their own, so the structural integrity of the building itself is of paramount importance.

Yet there are an entire host of other security risks possible because multi-occupancy offices are not safeguarded against theft, damage and sabotage. Given that Hong Kong commercial landlords are under no obligation whatsoever to meet Service Level Agreements (SLAs) in this area, there is little that companies can do to protect themselves against any of these concerns.

Fit out costs

Simply moving offices isn't a viable option either. Not only is it extremely difficult to identify a space that can accommodate people and the data center together, fit out costs can vary widely depending on company requirements, making it very hard to calculate the total cost of occupancy (TCO) of a data center - something that every CIO will need to be accountable for in evaluating any move. Even if companies find a suitable space, there is no guarantee they won't face similar challenges in the new premise.

Considering data center tier standards

Businesses also need to carefully consider reliability and availability requirements. The Uptime Institute, a Global Data center Authority widely recognized for its established Tier Classification System for data centers, applies a four-tiered standard to categorize the availability of data in a facility. The scale defines Tier I as offering the least availability and uptime, and Tier IV as the most robust.


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