Data Center

Critical Considerations for Planning the Right Data Center Layout

Keith Kramer and Henry Franc
Data center layout should be created based on uptime, cost and efficiency requirements. Our recent blog offers advice on what to consider so you can guide your design to the best possible outcome. 


Your data center layout—which determines how your space is utilized—plays a key role in data center functionality, future growth and supporting users.


Making decisions about data center layout often involves debates about whether to choose a top-of-row, end-of-row or middle-of-row configuration. The answer, of course, is that it depends on a variety of factors—everything from network architecture and required redundancy to business goals and the active equipment being used, as well as the type of data center being deployed. For instance, edge data centers must have much different layouts than colocation facilities.


What to consider for your data center layout

There is no “right” way to design a data center. Your floor plan should be created based on your requirements for uptime, cost and efficiency.


When deciding on your own data center layout, don’t start by worrying about physical designs. Take a step back to think about these considerations first, which can guide your design.


Business requirements

Will your data center serve one type of user or a wide range of clients with different needs? Will it host productivity applications like ERP and CRM systems, or will it support emerging technology like artificial intelligence, machine learning and virtual reality?



Do you truly need a Tier 3 data center design, which has multiple paths for power, cooling and IT systems to ensure redundancy—or do you just think you want one? It’s not worth it to overbuild your data center.


Computing equipment

The active equipment you deploy, along with factors like server configuration, will influence your design.


Floor space

The amount of square footage you have will help determine what you do with your data center layout.


Access to resources

How you gain access to electrical, fire suppression, mechanical, and plumbing infrastructure is key to data center layout. These systems also require a significant amount of space, which impacts design as well.



Who needs access to the space? What’s adjacent to the data center? The level of physical security your data center requires can impact layout.


Pathways and spaces

Whether underfloor or overhead, pathways (ladder racks, trays, baskets, etc.) need enough space to support cable management and containment systems. Your pathways and spaces factor into data center planning and layout.


Management, monitoring, maintenance and control

How will the space be monitored and managed to ensure business continuity? These methods and systems will influence design decisions.


Power requirements

How much power will the data center need today? How much will it need tomorrow? What will be required to keep up with growth requirements? Determining this now will ensure that your data center layout can support the potential power requirements you’ll have in the future.


Cooling requirements

The amount and type of active hardware you plan to deploy in your data center directly impacts the amount of heat that will be produced (and, thus, must be eliminated through cooling). Cooling requirements will influence how you design your data center floor plan. 


Density and capacity: a delicate balancing act

How you decide to balance density with capacity will also influence your data center layout. For example, do you want to rely on a dense server strategy that requires advanced power and cooling infrastructure (and may cost more to operate)?

Or perhaps you want to alternate power demands and wattage requirements by deploying a mix of high- and low-density rack configurations.  


Avoid unnecessary complexity

Adding complexity often means adding more equipment and components—and more parts means more potential for failure. It also increases the opportunity for human error and can be costlier to maintain.


The more complex a data center is, the more difficult it can be to ensure efficiency for systems, equipment and staff. It can be hard to implement new technology and strategic initiatives to move your business forward when you’re stuck in reactive mode, dealing with problems traced back to data center complexity.


How Belden can support your data center projects

While cabling, cabinets and connectivity may make up only a portion of what’s involved with a data center layout, it’s critical to think about these components as early in the process as possible to enable practical solutions.


For example, to help you choose a data center layout, we can guide you through questions like:

  • How much space will you dedicate to white space vs. gray space?
  • How many cabinets do you need now vs. later (in 10 years, for example)?
  • How wide will the cold aisles and hot aisles be?
  • What is the ceiling height?
  • Are you working with a raised floor or slab construction?
  • Is air containment being used?
  • Will network cabling be distributed above or below cabinets?
  • Will power be distributed above or below cabinets?
  • Are there compliance requirements (seismic ratings, for example)?


From there, our data center team can help you plan the rest of your project, right down to logistics and support, so you get a space that works for what you need.



Related resources:

Which is Better: Middle of Row or End of Row Layout for Data Centers?

In-Rack or Outside-the-Rack Design: Which is Best for Your Data Center?

Data Center Planning: From the Top Down or the Bottom Up?