Raised flooring is by no means obsolete. While there are ample reasons to lean towards slab flooring, there are also many benefits to a raised floor solution. While it’s perceived that running cabling underfloor takes up too much space (height-wise) in the data center, running them overhead frequently takes up just as much space. If you are utilizing a chilled water solution, running the piping overhead could be far more hazardous should there be a leak. Raised floors are likely preferred if your space is going to house multiple tenants (i.e. a colocation facility), as it allows for a lot more flexibility and ease of use when adding new equipment.
Arguments for raised floors and slab floors:
Raised Floor Pros:
- There is far more flexibility for raised floors. It will always be easier to run, rearrange, or replace cabling underfloor than it is overhead, and it allows for the easier addition of cooling/electrical infrastructure. Airflow management tends to be a bit more manageable when using raised flooring as well, especially when utilizing hot aisle/cold aisle layouts, which most data centers are/should be. Uneven flooring in the building itself can be a consideration of its own; raised flooring allows you to maintain a level floor surface, even if the subfloor/actual floor is not level, whereas if you intended to utilize slab flooring in such environments, you’d need to level the floor first. Last but not least, it just looks nice.
Slab Floor Pros:
- One main consideration is cleanliness. It is of utmost importance to maintain a spotless data center, but it is no secret that the plenum space beneath raised flooring can be very difficult to keep clean.
- Stability is a major factor as well; the ability to populate racks to their fullest capacity is quite attractive, and easier to accomplish when you can actually bolt the rack to the ground and not have to deal with the limited weight capacity of raised flooring (this is even more important in zones with seismic concerns).
How can data center managers who are renovating or building a new data center decide which option is best for their data centers?
There is no option that is outright better than the other, so data center managers looking to reno or build a new center will need to look closely at their specific needs to determine which solution works best for them. Installation and maintenance costs are lower with slab flooring than with raised flooring. However, raised flooring might be the way to go if you are creating a space in which scalability is a requirement. If you want to maximize your useable space, you may lean towards slab flooring, as the ADA will require ramps to be installed, which can take up valuable floor space. There are many factors to consider, but if you put your foremost needs into writing and evaluate them, you should be able to make a sound decision.