Prior to visiting the colocation center

After figuring out the type of colo you want, what is the next step? Prepping to visit the colocation center. But before you make your visit, there are some aspects to keep in mind to make sure you have a seamless visit without delays and hiccups.

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

Prior to visiting a DC, send them a series of questions in advance, such as a sample RFP. (A Sample RFP is available from BlueChipTek.) Be clear about the amount of space you are looking for, how much power and weight your cabinets use. Confirm that they can meet your needs. And then do an on-site walk to double check.

Note: because of the value of the contract, datacenters can sometimes embellish the truth significantly. Always do an on-site in-person evaluation.

Examples of why datacenters may fail your selection:

  • No space for your deployment.
  • Not enough power for your deployment
  • Not enough vertical clearance to wheel in your cabinets.
  • Poor physical security
  • Not designed to the level of redundancy you are looking for (eg: you are looking for a Tier 3 facility), but the facility is a Tier 2.

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Evaluation Notes

Not every datacenter can meet your needs, and it may take visits to multiple datacenters to figure out which is the correct one.

Having a set of notes/checklist to refer back to will be a huge help for when you do your site selection.

Examples of issues found in the past:

  • Fiber not redundant within the building. (Primary and Redundant paths crossed)
  • Fiber not redundant when leaving the building. (Primary and Redundant paths crossed)
  • Carriers were in the building, but no carriers were available in the datacenter vendor’s suite.
  • Vertical clearance issues for racks at various doorways, or on the elevator.
  • Horizontal clearance issues, when going around corners. (Unable to turn racks).
  • Loading dock not able to handle large truck, due to being in an underground garage with limited clearance.

Contacts

Everyone who will be successful to the bring up of the datacenter should be documented, so that you, your team members, whoever is on call, accounting etc. can reach them.

Addresses of the project

Make sure to write down the full address information, making sure to note the shipping address, cage number etc. Also, make sure to note shipping restrictions. (eg: all packages need tickets, 24-hour notice needed prior to arrival, nothing in excess of X pounds without a ticket etc.)

Access requirements

Getting into a datacenter can be tricky. Even if you have all of your paperwork in order, it can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 3 hours to enter a datacenter the first time you visit there.

As you, and your team visit, make sure to update your notes about what works to get into the facility.

  • Some datacenters have multiple security desks, (eg: a landlord desk, and a datacenter tenant desk)

TIP: As you may find yourself having to make multiple phone calls to your vendors, add all the contacts to a .VCF File, and put the .VCF file on a common share. That way as you add team members, they will be able to quickly come up to speed, by importing the vendors to their phones, and then be able to contact the vendors.

  • Some datacenters require you to enter via different lobbies at the time of day.
  • Some require tickets and forms in advance. Some do not.
  • Also, datacenters will require different amounts of information. If you will eventually be going to multiple colos, it is best to gather as much info as possible.
  • Make sure to open all appropriate work visit, hand scan enrollment tickets etc. that you may need BEFORE going on-site. Have the tickets ready when you walk in.

TIP: The Daytime shift, usually has the security staff that has done the most “new user badge” issuances. It is highly recommended to make the first visit to the datacenter on a Weekday during standard working hours. (Otherwise, it can be up to 3 hours to get in).

Additional Tips:

Before visiting the colo:

  • Have good closed toe, (ideally steel toe) shoes that you can walk in, and don’t mind getting dirty.
  • Review the questionnaire responses, and generate questions
  • Understand how much the site will cost over 3 years, and where it falls in relation to the other sites you will visit.
  • Print out your on-site checklist, of what you want to see and bring it with you. (I usually paste it into an A5 notebook.)
  • Bring a tape measure with you, just to confirm that your cabinets can fit.
  • If possible, learn how to read an electrical and mechanical one-line. If not, bring someone with that background with you.

When visiting the colo for the first time, make sure to keep an eye out for a few things:

  • How easy was it to get in. Were there gates at the property line. Is security in the building behind bullet proof glass.
  • Confirm that the vendor fully understands your requirements, and has the space, power, floor loading, and carriers that you need within the building.
  • That there are no issues with your panels, or your fiber density.
  • How many generators were there at the facility. (there should be at least 3 or more).
  • Walk/visually inspect the path from the street to the loading dock. Could a 55ft trailer get to the loading dock and deliver your equipment? Will you need a liftgate?
  • Walk the path from the loading dock, to where your cage will be, and evaluate the clearances, to make sure that there is enough vertical and horizontal clearance to fit your rack. Confirm that the colo can handle your weight requirements, and that there are no steps etc.
  • Visit both Meet Me rooms. You want to see an example of workmanship and quality that the datacenter does.
  • Confirm that the carriers you are looking for are in the Meet Me room, for the area you are going into.
  • As you look at things like power outlets within cages, are they labelled neatly and documented?
  • Is there a lot of mess? Is there cardboard everywhere?
  • Look closely at the breakroom. Get a coffee. Make sure there is sugar and creamer. (Yes I’ve had Datacenters provide coffee, but no cups, or sugar)
  • Is the electrical one line posted in all of the electrical rooms (and is it up to date)
  • Is there a one line, in the NOC, and is it up to date. (I saw a DC that had just finished a major electrical upgrade, but the documentation was still 5 years old).
  • Ask if they did a full Level 5 commissioning of the building, if they have the paperwork, and what were the results. (This is where they test everything as a combined unit, introduce failures, and make sure the system holds up.) TIP: The datacenter operator defines their own “success” criteria. So even if the building doesn’t stay powered during the commissioning, they can still “pass”.
  • Ask if you can see the maintenance schedule for the facility for the next 12 months (or until the end of the year).
  • Confirm that there is an annual pull the plug test of the datacenter.
  • As them what was the last SLA impacting outage that they had, what the issue was, how they resolved it, and how it won’t happen again.

When leaving the colo:

  • Finish writing down your notes (I pre-print pages to put in a notebook).
  • Score the datacenter.

If you are looking for advice for a sample RFP, checklists for notebooks, or for assistance in site selection, fill out the contact form to reach out to our BlueChipTek Integration Team.