Assembling Your Team for Your First Colocation Install

Looking to build into your first colocation facility? What are the steps and what do you need to plan out in order to execute your successful build? The most essential step in the beginning is assembling your team. Who should get involved to lay the foundation? 

Read what Colin Corbett, BlueChipTek Engineer, has to say from his 26 years of experience in building infrastructure from the ground up.

In building your first colocation build (up to 250Kw) you will need a large cast of characters. Some of them will work for your organization, some may be contractors, others will be vendors. Some of these roles can be done by the same person. (If you have more than 250Kw, theres a few additional people to work with as that is more complicated).

A Contract Lawyer 

Someone who can look at the contracts, and make sure that the terms you are signing up for, are acceptable to you and your company. This can be a contracted role, and it is suggested to find someone with data center and network contract experience.  While a multi-year build with a data center should go well, the contract, and all related paperwork, may be your only recourse as the relationship evolves. Key deal points to pay attention to, are renewals, price escalators, termination rights, and SLAs.


Executive Sponsor  

Building a Colo, is a large spend, with racks of servers ranging in cost from ~150K USD to ~1MM USD. Racks of networking gear can also have similar costs. Due to the size of this amount, most companies will require an executive for this project to roll up to. Make sure they are on board early and keep them up to date with issues. They will also be responsible for securing the budget, as well as budgeting for data center expansion etc. 


A Rack Integrator 

A rack integrator is a company that can send fully integrated racks to your data center.  They should have the ability to help you make an informed decision about which racks to use to meet your needs, source your server (and  maybe network?) infrastructure, put it all together, test it according to their and your criteria, put it in a crate, and send it to your data center. A good integrator can be worth every penny, in the time saved on the ground, keeping the project on track, and letting you know of potential issues seen in similar customers, or of upcoming hardware/parts shortages, changes and upgrades.   


Networking Reseller 

Depending upon your choice of networking vendor, not all integrators may be able to sell that hardware. As such you will have to work with a Networking Reseller to procure the hardware and send it to the Rack Integrator for integration. It is “ideal” for this to be the integrator if possible, as then they can control the timeline end to end for sending out the racks. 


Datacenter/Network Architect

At least one person, (ideally two or more) who knows how everything is supposed to tie together.    

  • How rack to rack communication works. (Cabling and protocol wise) 
  • What each rack/cage can scale to (traffic, footprint, power and cooling wise) 
  • Can understand the costs and tradeoffs that are needed to meet the business needs and deliver a solution. 
  • How the physical footprint of the datacenter will tie into your growth plans (Space, power, etc.)


Finance/Procurement Team  

Able to work with Integrators, Resellers, and Datacenters, to place POs, get hardware ordered on time, and keep the project on track monetarily. 


Project Management This is a project with parts coming from multiple different places, timelines from the data center, multiple teams at the office (Data center, System, Networking, Development), as well as involvement from the execs, due to the size of the capital spend. Keeping all of the people involved and the project on-track is a tough proposition.  


Systems (SRE) Team 

A set of systems folks who can configure all of the server infrastructure is being installed, ideally from the office, while letting the network and Data center team know of any issues. They will enable you to serve content out to your users. Also, the team needs to be clear on how and what type of servers are needed to make the DC successful.


Network Team 

A set of network engineers who can configure your switches, routers, and turn up circuits with remote peers and remote networks.  They should work hand-in-hand with the data center and systems team to turn up the colo and confirm the colo is reachable. Able to procure address space, and an ASN.


Security Team 

A focus on security is needed for any edge facing infrastructure. A good understanding of your architecture, and the security trade-offs as it relates to your own colo, is something that should be done, prior to installing. 


Datacenter Team 

To help get everything up and running, co-ordinate with the data center etc. you will need an on-site data center team for the initial bring-up. This may then translate to having to handle the ongoing day-to-day maintenance (server triage, swapping drives, optic swaps, additional cabling) etc. 


Monitoring/Tools Team 

To build dashboards, and alerting to allow you to monitor the data center and the infrastructure. 


Capacity Planning 

The turnaround time to procure parts (servers, routers, cables etc), can now vary from between 1 day to 16 weeks), depending upon a multitude of factors. The average time to procure a fully assembled rack, can be multiple weeks. Having a good capacity planner, who is aware of ongoing utilization, upcoming hardware needs, product pushes, etc. will ensure that there is always capacity available when needed, and new capacity on the horizon. When hardware is not ordered in time, you can very quickly run out of capacity. If you are moving out of a cloud infrastructure, the long lead time of actually getting hardware, is probably the hardest thing to change in a corporate culture.

 

As you can see, there are a lot of people involved, a lot of moving parts, and a lot of chances for things to go wrong. Make sure you have all the team members on the same page. Know what the 1,2, and 3 year plan look like and have everyone agree to it (especially Finance and your Executive Sponsor).  

Learn more on how BlueChipTek’s Integration Team can provide assistance in starting your first data center.