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I've seen a lot of datacenters pictures and it seems that the owners prefer to build them over a wide area instead of building them using taller buildings. Why?

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The same reason most businesses are spread out instead of up: it's cheaper. Unless land is very expensive (like big cities) it's plain cheaper to build out instead of up. –  Chris S Feb 24 '11 at 14:43
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Ah... Apple's data center? –  JFW Feb 24 '11 at 14:50
    
@JFW: Yes, it's Apple's. –  i.am.noob Feb 25 '11 at 12:41

7 Answers 7

up vote 33 down vote accepted

Because they don't need to be located somewhere land/real estate is expensive.

Tall buildings are cost effective when the expense of the structure is less than the cost of the footprint.

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Aside from price and other motives already explained, you must think about weight. You have to build a far more resistent (+ materials) ceiling/floor to support the normal rack or storages. There are storages that can pass the 1 ton weight and it's not trivial to make a floor that can take it, so making everything on the ground helps that. –  coredump Feb 24 '11 at 14:48
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Also what employee wants to go up stairs/elevators to get to different servers? –  Lucas McCoy Feb 24 '11 at 16:23
    
DataCenters are also often located close to the backbone fiber cable runs. The "last mile" is expensive. You might be surprised as to how many fiber runs alongside train tracks, as the right of way is easier there. –  Bill Feb 24 '11 at 22:00
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@Bill it seems the only fiber in my state is run along railroads –  Earlz Feb 25 '11 at 1:16

I'm guessing its due to easier cooling, better weight distribution, cheaper land costs, and ease of moving equipment around. Hot air rises, after all.

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Well, because they're data warehouses. And warehouses are single-story. Makes sense to me.

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You're not helping.... –  i.am.noob Feb 24 '11 at 14:11
    
Warehouses in cities tend to be multi-story affairs. Lots of 10 story cement buildings around where I live, typically painted white with "cold storage" written in block letters on the side... –  chris Feb 24 '11 at 14:17
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And OP isn't asking a question that isn't really specific, otherwise it's an economic issue. If you have a business in a multistory building the data center may very well be spread out. If you are talking about a server farm, it may be located where power is cheaper, access is simpler, and it's cheap to build a place in a big flat area rather than building vertical from the get-go, especially since it helps keep cooling costs down. –  Bart Silverstrim Feb 24 '11 at 14:26
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You're also asking system admins a question that's more about engineering/architecture. Usually sysadmins don't get to dictate how a building is made. We're lucky if they ask for input on designing a data center room for adequate power and cooling. –  Bart Silverstrim Feb 24 '11 at 14:29
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I think maybe you could put all of your comments as the answer. –  i.am.noob Feb 24 '11 at 16:14

I've been in multistory data centers. And I'll bet they are all the rage inside big cities. I'm no construction engineer, but I suspect it is cheaper in most areas to use a bigger footprint than to build multiple stories.

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In cities typically old cement warehouses are retrofitted to be datacenters. This is especially true of "cold storage" facilities that were originally designed to keep stuff cold. Nice hefty cement floors that can support huge weights, no windows, fireproof construction, and heck, they're already there so no permits to pull or neighbors to annoy with construction. –  chris Feb 24 '11 at 14:21
    
The last company I worked for had an office above a data center. The office complex was three stories tall with offices on the top 2 floors. Pretty good idea for an owner, personally. –  David Rickman Feb 28 '11 at 15:27
    
Our current facility is multiple floor two with office above. I think the OP was referring more to dedicated data center facilities. –  uSlackr Mar 4 '11 at 17:10

One summer and One Wilshire and 111 Eight Ave are not one-story buildings, but they're some of the most expensive real estate on the planet, by square foot.

As others have said, it all comes down to the price of the real estate vs the price of the building.

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I used to contract for a company right around One Summer - for what it's worth, their datacenter was one floor of the entire building. –  Jeremy Feb 24 '11 at 14:29
    
Right -- one summer is actually the smallest of these facilities. The 111 eighth ave facility is a city block that was originally a warehouse / repair facility for New York city's MTA. Not a small building, but not a purpose-built datacenter. –  chris Feb 24 '11 at 14:47

The question mentions "the owners" which implies single company, purpose built data centre.

In which case the company will be building from scratch and the location will depend on cost, not only of land, but power, local tax, water for cooling, ....

On the other hand you have shared data centres which are quite often built in central locations and often built upwards or reuse an existing structure.

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I don't think this was mentioned, but security could also be a consideration.

If a tall building falls every server is going with it.

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Is that not also the case for a single story building? –  uSlackr Mar 4 '11 at 17:11

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