Data Centre Standards – There needs to be a clear message

This was first published in the November edition of Data Centre Solutions Europe, but if you missed it catch up below.

The data centre sector continues to grow at a phenomenal rate, however a lack of consistent industry-wide standards is creating confusion for anyone trying to assess or compare the overall quality of individual facilities. Keysource, the critical environment specialists, calls for greater clarification.

There are currently several organisations working on behalf of the data centre sector that offer their own industry standards, each of which have made valuable in-roads towards promoting best practice. The Uptime Institute has certified around 170 data centres under its tiered system, while The Green Grid has witnessed a widespread adoption of its PUE scoring. The European Commission set up the EU Code of Conduct to encourage best practice, whereas The Data Centre Alliance (DCA) offers data centre owners and operators the opportunity to gain certification of their facility using an independent audit process. In addition, there are a number of other classifications and standards such as BSEN 50600 (which the DCA aligns with), TIA942 and the BICSI002-2014.

Whilst the work delivered by these organisations has had a positive effect, the industry has ultimately suffered due to a lack of transparent industry-wide standards that can be adopted by all stakeholders to assess the overall quality of any given facility. As a result, the industry is rife with conflicting views and this confusion looks set to continue.

For example, data centre developers do not have a common set of standards to ask designers, builders and operators to adhere to. In addition, operators cannot lay claim to meeting a concrete set of industry standards when advertising their facilities. This means that those purchasing services naturally find it difficult to distinguish between data centres that are designed, built and critically; operated, to a high standard and those that are not. At present, an organisation may choose to pay a professional to independently audit a facility, however any results are derived from only one particular consultant at one specific time. This is compounded by the service level requirements associated with managed or cloud service provision where customers are not simply buying data centre space.

In the current landscape, it is difficult for organisations to determine the suitability of a data centre or a service provider, and in many cases they just have to rely on what they are being told, which is obviously not the best approach. The Uptime Institute has made a big impact with its tiered system, however many providers are using it as a marketing ploy, and the Institute is now, understandably, having to clamp down on organisations that are exploiting it.

The Institute has led the way on certification, particularly in the case of resilience. However many customers request Tier III without knowing quite what it means.

In reality, customers will have different availability, density, and performance requirements for different applications. Combined with modular data centre design and multiple tenant and hall fit out, an overall facility could be very different. This therefore highlights the need for a more flexible approach to how we design and certify data centres, especially when the increased Capex needed to achieve greater levels of resilience, such as a certified Tier IV constructed facility, can be significant.

So what is the answer? Just to be clear, this is definitely not about developing new standards but rather helping to create some clarity and common understanding of the performance of data centres for all aspects of the industry.

An independent not for profit organisation, such as the Data Centre Alliance in the UK, is putting in place a framework to develop a consistent approach. Being funded by the industry, it also provides an opportunity for those who operate in this space to share their views and help shape this approach so that it works well in practice.

The approach being pursued by the Data Centre Alliance seems to be working, notwithstanding that at the moment there is much work to do and progress, and adoption, can be slow. A key part of this approach is to ensure governance, scrutiny and transparency are applied not just when an organisation is being audited but that the very audits and technical standards used for certification are robust. By not creating new standards but utilising existing ones, the DCA is not claiming anything new. Instead, it is providing a comprehensive approach to the certification of the data centre as a whole and not just one part.

Another key benefit of the DCA approach is that it has been designed to be affordable. Whilst other certifications are, in some aspects, more detailed or technical, and we would still encourage customers in certain situations to consider these, the DCA certification model means it is accessible not just to a few large IT firms or operators but to end users and in particular the public sector. This will hopefully serve to generate widespread demand and adoption and protect the DCA certification from becoming simply a badge for a select few.

With the continued globalisation of the industry, prompted by the growth of new data centre markets, particularly in South America, Asia and the Middle East, the need for industry-wide standards to help align different regions is more important than ever. A greater level of transparency is required across the sector and it is up the entire industry to work together in a bid to achieve this important goal.

2015 – A great year for Keysource

The past 12 months have been really exciting for our business with some key contract wins and great new people joining us. We have also won a record number of awards, launched a new website and hit the headlines in the trade press.

In January we started the year by winning a new data centre design project for Nottingham based colocation provider Space Data Centres, and later that month we were named as preferred supplier for a new Modular Data Centre for Jaguar Land Rover.

In February our new website went live. It has been designed to showcase our capabilities as a turnkey provider of solutions for data centres and business critical environments. In March the industry saw a change in the Construction (Design & Management) regulations and we created a handy tick sheet to help our customers ensure their project details were all in one place.  Download it now! We were also awarded a Sussex Super Growth Award which recognised our 135% growth over the last three years!

After Easter we were celebrating again after we won a Silver RoSPA Award for Occupational Health and Safety for the second year in a row and were praised for our high health and safety standards. We then successfully undertook a critical power and monitoring upgrade of Epsom St Helier NHS Universities Trust Data Centre.  Supporting all of the critical systems in the hospital, we were proud to deliver the project with zero downtime.

The summer saw no let up for the teams here as we completed a professional services offering with The National Archives, supporting them in developing a set of best practice principles and energy efficiency initiatives which can be implemented throughout the data centre. We also worked with ITPS on a new data centre near Newcastle upon Tyne.  Scalable to 1.4MW the new data centre uses Keysource’s modular approach and offers hosted and cloud services as well as colocation space.

As the year progressed and the nights grew darker we continued to grow our portfolio of high profile clients and completed a new modular data centre for Jaguar Land Rover.  With resilience and efficiency key to the design we delivered the project within just 20 weeks. Our work in the education sector continued too as we were chosen by Teesside University to provide principle consultancy for a challenging data centre upgrade project.

In October our new Managing Director – FM, Tod Harrison, spoke to Tomorrow’s FM to answer 10 hard hitting (not) questions. You can see the full article here. We were also shortlisted for an EI award (Energy Efficiency) in recognition of our approach to delivering high efficiency cooling solutions in multiple data centres across the UK.

We ended the year as we had started it – on a high – with the completion of the new data centre for brightsolid in Aberdeen. The CEO at brightsolid said some very nice things about us too  – you can see the video here.

Finally I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our clients and suppliers for helping us to make this a brilliant year. Let’s hope 2016 is even better!

Is it possible to future proof a Data Centre?

At Keysource we believe it is very important for our customers to have a long-term strategy for IT that will support their critical applications and services in the future. Indeed, future proofing is a key focus for our services, as we know how important it is for investments to have longevity and not to become costly mistakes in the future.

In our experience there is certainly no one-size-fits-all when it comes to developing a strategy that meets both an organisation’s business and technical needs. This is because applications can reside on-premise, in a colocation facility, in the public cloud or be managed in a private cloud. There are a number of factors that influence these choices including cost, speed and type of application, availability, security as well as data sovereignty. We believe that customers need to think carefully about how their applications and IT systems are structured and we help them through those options. With technology and business agility changing at a rapid rate, the cost of getting it wrong can make a significant impact upon a business.

To provide world-class class consultancy and solutions for the full stack we work collaboratively with our customers bringing in partners who have the same values and approach as Keysource. Our role is to underpin the applications with the best services and data centre infrastructure that are aligned with the business needs in terms of resilience, performance, and capacity.

As part of our consultative approach, we also work with our customers to address future needs and this means offering scalable solutions. With these modular designs, we can keep the upfront investment to a minimum but allow for future growth in line with business needs.  Where delivering data centre solutions and infrastructure we concentrate on providing a consistent and reliable solution to the whole business irrespective of where applications are running.

We also understand that it is particularly important that, in environments where business critical information is being managed, CIOs have the right information available that gives relevant insight, so that important decisions can be reached quickly and planning can be made for the long term. We provide tools such as data centre infrastructure management software and intelligent BMS solutions, with the widest interoperability, so that CIOs can see what is happening across all of the IT from applications through to the data centre infrastructure. We also offer training and support over the life cycle of the data centre so that customers can continue to optimise their infrastructure and easily upgrade and integrate new technology as needed. Our aim is to help our customers add value to their service while also making savings in both time and money through the lifecycle of their facilities.

In conclusion, at Keysource we are focused on our customers and their specific business needs. This means we can deliver the right advice and solutions wherever applications need to reside.

Keysource is appointed on to a new data centre framework

Adding infrastructure and equipment to its consultancy offering.

Keysource, the critical engineering specialists, can now provide all aspects of data centre design and delivery through the new North Eastern Universities Purchasing Consortium Ltd (NEUPC) Data Centre Management Framework. This builds on the previous NEUPC framework, where Keysource was able to provide data centre consultancy services.

NEUPC is one of six UK Higher Education purchasing consortia established to deliver and manage a wide range of collaborative framework agreements within the higher education sector. NEUPC’s new Data Centre Management Framework offers a broad scope of equipment, infrastructure and consultancy. The framework was designed by IT and Telecoms procurement experts from Higher Education institutions to speed up the process of data centre procurement for members and provide a supplier benchmark for services. This two-year agreement went live on the 29th September 2015.

Rob Elder, Director at Keysource said,

We have a long pedigree of providing high performance data centre facilities to the education sector. We’re excited that we can now offer our NEUPC framework customers all of our expertise from consultancy right through to delivery and ongoing management through this framework. As a truly independent organisation, Keysource takes pride in providing customers with world class data centre facilities while keeping within the constraints of tight budgets.

Since its appointment five years ago, Keysource has provided consultancy services under the previous NEUPC data centre framework for prestigious customers such as Teesside University and The National Archives.

Keysource gets the green light for Teesside University Data Centre

Keysource, the data centre design specialist, has completed its role to deliver principal design consultancy to Teesside University for its challenging new data centre upgrade project.

Keysource’s design on this complex project, which recently received planning permission, will see the University’s data centre benefit from a new critical power generator. This will ensure it has an uninterruptable power supply as well as a highly resilient modular UPS which can be expanded in response to changing requirements. It also utilises an innovative fresh-air cooling system that will make full use of the low-ambient temperatures around the data centre.

The full scope of Keysource’s consultancy contract was to conduct an initial feasibility study identifying any issues and risks, and address them. Designs were then developed for critical power and air quality. Keysource also assisted with the planning submission and took responsibility for the procurement of contractors and suppliers, taking the role of CDM principal designer.

There were several major risks that needed to be ironed out in the design process due to the data centre’s location. The University is flanked by an estuary and in close proximity to the sea. This means that the atmosphere around the data centre could be potentially challenging for both the IT and M&E infrastructure, with corrosion being a risk needing to be factored into the design. In addition, as the data centre is in the heart of Middlesbrough where the surrounding area is host to a large number of industries, there is the usual threat from external contaminants.

Keysource had to take into account noise control and all modifications also had to meet strict planning requirements.

Andrew Maclaren, Assistant Director (Estates Services & Energy Procurement) at Teesside University said,

“We chose Keysource through the North East Universities Purchasing Consortium (NEUPC) framework. We wanted totally independent data centre design specialists with experience in both fresh air cooling as well as working within the education sector. Keysource has professionally met every requirement and we’re really pleased with their designs and guidance on sourcing the best solutions for our needs.”

Andy Hayes, Director at Keysource added,

“We have a number of Higher Education providers within our portfolio and are well versed in the challenges the sector faces particularly around the need for flexibility and the budgetary constraints. We were able to complete this project on time and on budget and our innovative design will ensure the data centre meets Teesside University’s IT requirements for many years to come.”


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