When customers are looking to build a new data centre, they often lose sight of the operational aspects of the facility. ‘Design for operation’ is an approach which focuses on the long term running of the facility when considering the initial design and one that we, as an industry, should be championing. Richard Clifford, Data Centre Consultant at Keysource explains.
Whilst there are some good standards in our industry around data centre design including the Uptime Institute’s established Tier system, there is very little guidance in the market around the actual operation of a facility. The Uptime Institute have introduced their Management & Operations (M&O) Stamp of Approval but it is relatively new and is not compelling for consultants and specialist contractors who are not involved in the ongoing management of the data centre. This means that organisations need to manage their risk carefully or they may end up with an expensive facility that is expensive to run and not fit for purpose.
The data centre design tenders and contracts we’ve seen rarely reference any kind of operational or FM standards and I would go as far to say that in many cases they are not considered at all. This can be for a number of reasons, the main one being that often the team that is tendering and procuring the data centre design is not the one that will be responsible for operating and maintaining it and these teams have not been consulted.
Having over 30 years of experience designing, building and then operating data centres and other businesses critical facilities, we always encourage different stakeholders, both internal and external, to be part of the process from the outset, as we feel that this delivers the best results. This early engagement is key as not having all the stakeholders involved may mean that the team fails to consider the design implications on the maintenance requirements, Total Cost of Ownership or understand the risks around downtime as they often don’t have a specialist subject knowledge. This can be a key challenge for public sector organisations or SMEs where cost is the key driver and in-house resources are scarce.
The importance of this cannot be overstated and companies need to ask themselves operational questions, such as whether the design can continue to support the critical business services under maintenance conditions and how the maintenance will be undertaken? Can the design help to streamline the ongoing operation of the facility reducing risk and cost? For example does work need to be delivered out of hours, or can it be done during normal working hours thereby reducing servicing costs.
The design and build team may not understand the resilience factors but the FM teams will know that the data centre cannot be taken offline, and that concurrent maintainability should be considered as part of the solution.
As an industry we need to put more of a focus on ensuring that data centres are ‘designed for operation’ and the team responsible for maintaining and running the facility is engaged from the outset.
Bringing together multiple stakeholders is always a challenge and it will need the industry to work together and be more open and engaging to share best practice and insight. We should remember that the life of the data centre could be up to 25+ years and by taking a little more time in the early stages organisations can ensure that the design will meet their requirements operationally and provide the best value for money at the lowest risk
Originally published by Digitalisation Word