Site selection used to be as simple as finding office space with an area large enough to include compute equipment and resources. But, that was before computing systems started to grow and become more complex, requiring more space. That’s when colocation facilities came into play to handle off-site computing disparate from the corporate office. And then, repatriation exercises started, edge computing came along, and a myriad of other technologies put assets at a variety of sites for multiple reasons. So, what exactly is it that makes a site selectable?

There are several considerations to make when it comes to site selection, the first of which is meeting the application's demands. Starting here can be a huge cost-savings measure because it ensures the site will meet all requirements, including bandwidth, latency, connectivity, power, and the resulting cooling.

Bandwidth is available anywhere, but the speed and mode of communications will vary as well as the cost of getting that bandwidth to the site. Construction costs for fiber can be massive and, in some cases, prohibitive. Similarly, wireless options may be cost- or bandwidth-prohibitive. Know your communications needs. If you need an edge solution closer to processing for latency, that doesn’t mean the entire data center capacity is needed at that location . It may be advantageous to distribute the computing. Conversely, some companies may find it beneficial to have all computing resources in one place, as latency isn’t impactful to certain operations. Distributed computing may resolve communications issues as traffic splits into smaller domains, resulting in less traffic to each.

Power to the site is another primary consideration. However, this may be an area where some sustainability options can flourish. Edge locations generally have lower power demands than a centralized computing environment. As such, solar, wind, bio, natural gas, and grid power are all in play. The ability to have a “data center in a box” to serve some of these remote computing needs already exists.

Segmenting a single, higher-power load into several smaller, distributed power loads can mean the difference between building a new substation or simply dropping in multiple smaller, resilient nodes with potentially no new power demand. Smaller, additional loads could be powered via any number of renewable sources. Like communications, construction for power distribution to a site can carry a hefty price tag. Site selection should consider available power, expandable power, power sources, construction costs, and the like. Sustainability goals should align with a company's efforts.

Risk is another significant factor in data center site selection. While not all data centers exist in “risk averse” areas, the decision is simple if there is a choice between a site that is typically low risk and one that might not be. If you are building in an area that carries risk, additional design considerations will be mandatory. For instance, data centers exist in regions that have earthquakes. They are simply hardened in expectation of one. Security risks are another area worth investigating. Distance to emergency services, crime rates, neighborhood businesses, emissions from neighbors, potential targets nearby, and traffic patterns all impact site selection. Ideally, a site will have multiple rings of protection before someone enters the data center floor.

Local talent and potential employee pipelines matter. It's expensive to have to import talent and training. A site needs workers, even a lights-out one.

Other factors to consider may cover areas above and beyond the application needs. For example, sustainability is easier to implement at the edge due to lower power requirements, which translates into less land. Edge sites may even be in someone else’s data center, which is becoming increasingly popular. And, some edge environments have several locations, each supporting different applications.

Site selection used to be about the best spot to build a facility. Now, it’s about finding the best place to build a future.