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21.11.2017

Great data centres happen when design and operations excel together

Future-tech is sponsoring the Data Center Dynamics Awards to highlight the benefits of Operations and Design Team collaboration throughout a facility’s entire life-cycle. A cutting-edge data centre design is only as good as the team that operate it.

Future-tech is very pleased to be one of the key sponsors of this year’s Data Center Dynamics (DCD) Awards.

Sometimes referred to as the ‘Oscars’ of the data center industry, for more than ten years the awards have recognised the achievements of individuals, project teams and organisations in and around the modern data centre.

This year Future-tech has chosen to sponsor the Data center Operations Team of the Year award. It might seem counterintuitive for a company that specializes in facility design to sponsor an award for operations but we firmly believe that our designs are ultimately only as good as the team that manages them. And that operations teams should be consulted during the design process.

As DCD points out: “Data centre professionals rarely work in isolation, which means the development, management and motivation of effective IT operations and facilities management teams is paramount for ensuring service availability and for the success of any upgrade or optimisation projects.’

Day to day management of a facility obviously takes a lot of teamwork and organisation. However, evaluating ongoing management is fairly hard to do. For that reason, the Data center Operations Team of the Year award is designed to recognize how a team have come together to achieve a specific task or project. Or as DCD explains it:  “This Award seeks to recognize team achievement where the team has been convened for a special task or purpose relating to the data center environment, above and beyond everyday duties at any point in it’s life-cycle: design, construction, fit out, operation, refit or decommissioning.’

The awards are well timed as we have been focusing on the importance of operations and maintenance and how integration of design and operations teams is beneficial to any facility. Recently we have published a series of articles on the touch-points between design and operations and what their positive impact can be. For example, in an article entitled Data centre management part one: drivers and disruption, we outlined some of the arguments for more closely aligning design and operations teams:

Operators invest huge amounts of capital to ensure that facilities are as resilient as possible. However, this is not a safeguard against poor management. Up to 70% of unplanned downtime is due to human error according to Uptime Institute. This is often the result of underdeveloped and unenforced O&M procedures and documents rather than isolated mistakes by individuals.

The same article also discusses the relationship between capital and operating costs:

A significant proportion of the total cost of ownership of a facility across its lifecycle is operational rather than capital expenditure. A lot of costs are sunk in during construction and fit-out but there is also ample scope to realize efficiencies during the operational phase. For example, a one-degree change in cooling set points can result in a 2% gain in operational energy efficiency of a cooling system. The installation of high quality aisle containment may allow supply air temperatures to be increased from circa 18°C to circa 24°C and in some installations this will provide a circa 12% increase in energy efficiency.

Cooperation between design and operations teams can obviously improve efficiency and resiliency but when unplanned downtime does occur, the importance of good procedures, good documentation and a great team is even more paramount.

In an article entitled Data centre CSI: Investigating facility downtime we describe how Future-tech works with clients to investigate the causes of downtime that can often include some form of human error. Preventing future incidents means working with the operations team to come up with a plan for improvement to the infrastructure and also, potentially, the day-to-day management.

Although some reports may make hard reading for IT or facilities teams, the ultimate aim of our forensic engineering investigations is not to apportion blame but rather to provide detailed analysis of the incident and suggest improvements. Developing and implementing measures to prevent future downtime is not only important to the companies concerned but is also rewarding for our engineers.

The ideal scenario is that our suggestions, upgrades and/or design changes are adopted and that the next time there is a major issue those suggestions and changes protect the data centre from another actual outage. We have had this happen on several occasions. It is this scenario that our engineers find most rewarding, making changes and improvements, and then seeing them do the job when it really matters.

As a true life cycle services company, we know how important operations teams are to successful outcomes. We hope that by supporting the DCD award we will help spread innovation and best practices to the wider mission critical community.

To find out more about the Data center Operations Team of the Year award check out the DCD awards page.

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