When is PUE not PUE?

When Data Centre designers and builders talk about the efficiency of the facilities they have designed and/or built in terms of the industry standard PUE, they often reference the design PUE. We look at why this can be misleading and why it is important to understand the difference.

This blog is part of a series looking at PUE and data centre monitoring; you can read our first post, which looks at what PUE is and why it is important here.

Design PUE – What is it?

When a new facility is designed, a PUE can be calculated based on the energy consumption of the proposed plant, cooling etc. as a measure of how efficient the solution could be. So why is this a problem?

Well, the PUE figure being quoted is often based on the premise that the data centre is actually running at 100% IT load. This is often unrealistic, as most data centres, especially in the colocation market build up their loads over time, with it taking anything from three years or more to get near to operating at full-load. In reality traditional data centre efficiency rapidly deteriorates at lower IT loads (most facilities never operate at 100%). This means that the suggested power efficiency levels will not come in to play for a significant time, if ever, and operating costs will be substantially higher than indicated by the Design PUE.

So what should you do to address this?

Whilst Keysource is reasonably unique in the fact that we have in-house design, project management and operation teams (which allow us to constantly feedback and learn from past projects) we would expect most data centre design and build companies to understand the fact that most facilities need to be efficient not only at full load but also at part load. They should take time with you to fully understand not only the technical requirements of the facility but also your business, so they can explain and work through this with you.

When this is not done it can cause problems as, understandably, it can have big impacts on your operating costs. This limitation of the PUE calculation is of particular importance to companies that are working to tight margins to provide for example, cloud services and colocation services.

To keep operational costs under control, it is often best to consult with specialist data centre designers. They will be able to advise you on the best technologies to deploy that drive down part load operating costs from the start and who will be able to work with you to fully meet your business and technical requirements.

Sounds good, but how can this work in practice?

We recently completed a data centre for colocation specialist; ITPS (read the case study). Part of our process was to really understand their business objectives and use our experience within the regional colocation market to propose a solution that would deliver not only the highest efficiency but also allow high densities to be deployed anywhere within the data centre. Knowing that this efficiency was needed from day one the design was built to be highly efficient at part load. To further enhance this a modular solution was used to allow ITPS to deploy more cooling and plant as required rather than having it all in place on day one.

If you would like to understand more about PUE you can read our previous posts which explain the different ways PUE can be measured or download the top 10 things you need to know about PUE. As you may have guessed, it’s one of the areas we are passionate about so please call us and speak to one of the team.

We are happy to talk you through any of the issues and answer any questions about your current or planned facility’s PUE and, if required, give you some more information on how you can increase the efficiency of your facility.

Independent Auditing – Delivering real benefits

By Justin Busk – Head of SHE

As we move into a new year thoughts often turn to bettering yourself – a new year new you senario, you make plans to go to the gym more; complete dry January (we’ve made it!) or take up a new hobby, but the same is often not the case for businesses.  We are not experts in psychology so couldn’t explain this but we are experts in data centres and critical environments, and especially how to optimise them.  So today we are looking at auditing and how it can help inform and contribute to a wider plan to improve or develop parts of your business!

At Keysource we have an independent expert team of auditors that specialise in critical facilities and environments. We believe this is a natural fit with the consultancy part of our business which covers all aspects of data centre design, build and management, in addition to niche areas such as safety, health, environment and compliance.

Auditing is a great way to test the reliability, resilience, efficiency and effectiveness of the policies, systems and procedures in any business. This is particularly important in critical environment arena and can form the basis for major business decisions moving forward.

An external audit will enable you to identify gaps and recognise improvement opportunities which can have a fundamental effect on the development of your business. It will also give you the data to be able to convince other organisations that you are a suitable partner for them or to lobby for additional resources. Findings can also help you to address specific issues, build and deliver business cases and form the basis of strategic planning.

Unlike many companies undertaking audits at Keysource we are less focussed on the actual report itself, and more interested in the results and how to address and/or maximise the findings. That said we do follow certain standard procedures for every audit we do, such as establishing the right team of auditors and ensuring each member possesses the relevant technical experience, skill-set, knowledge and experience to help you gain maximum benefit and insight.

However after that the audit is entirely bespoke and can be aligned with any specific circumstances and objectives. It might include reviewing opportunities for improvement, gap analysis, potential legal compliance risk, good practices and agreed follow up plans. These will be discussed during a closing meeting and developed and implemented with additional support if necessary.

To maintain further impartiality and transparency the audit team is always led by a lead auditor who is a member of IRCA (International Register of Certificated Auditors). The lead auditor ensures that the audit process aligns with the three main dimensions to auditing; Intent, Implementation and Effectiveness.

We have been an approved official auditor for the DCA Data Centre Certification Scheme since 2014 which verifies facilities’ compliance and provides greater clarity for buyers and specifiers. It identifies and verifies four key areas of a facility, namely resilience, physical site security, energy efficiency credentials, and operational professionalism.

If you are interested in speaking to us about our auditing capabilities please contact: Justin Busk on [email protected].

If you would like to know more about the different certifications available, you can watch our webinar recording or see our analysis of the data centre certification landscape.

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.

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