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17.01.2013

Micro Data Centre Construction Project: Week 3

Welcome to the third installment of my blog giving you a behind the scenes look at what it is like to work with Future-tech.

Happy 2013 everyone, I hope you all had a good break over Christmas and are looking forward to the coming year. The following article is in reference to my last visit to site before Christmas, I had planned to have this out during the first week of January, however this year started incredibly well and this is the first opportunity I have had to sit down and work on something other than live projects and enquiries. Not the gentle ease in to 2013 I was expecting but a brilliant start none the less.

When I last visited site the installation had really moved on from the empty 1hr Fire Rated Modular Room we had constructed a couple of weeks before. All of the major components were delivered and positioned however the space was still a construction site in every sense. As a little re-cap, here is a list of what was in position at that point:

  • Composite modular shell
  • Raised access flooring
  • 3 x Stulz AHU
  • 2 x Borri UPS
  • 6 x APC NetShelter Cabinets
  • Power distribution boards
  • Custom made fire riser
  • Fire suppression pipework
  • And lots and lots of wiring

Since then the following have been installed:

  • 1hr fire rated split 80-20% doors
  • Cabinet up stands and aisle containment
  • Ceiling tiles and grid creating a return air plenum
  • Fire suppression bottles
  • Air handling unit up stands completing the closed air circuit
  • Finishes and the completed fire riser

The biggest change was that the facility now looked less like a construction site and more like a clean technical white space.

The next stage in the process was the commissioning and testing of the Air Handling Plant. Normally at this stage we are very close to completion and hand over, however just before the break Perenco IT required a change in specification and design. Due to requirements from Paris an additional two cabinets were needed on site before any migration could take place.
This can happen with projects as the timelines involved are often quite long, generally around 12 months from initial conception to completion on a data centre of this size. The fact is things change within organisations and as the IT department supports the whole business, changes can affect requirements and capacities.

Sometimes I hear people say this is why it is impossible to design flexible facilities that can deal with these kinds of changes however this is not the case. By engaging early with Future-tech, Perenco staff were able to discuss the potential changes on the horizon and the potential requirement for more capacity. With this in mind we designed the facility around the final day requirement but built it in line with the day one needs. This reduced the initial capital outlay for Perenco but meant if any further capacity was required it could be accommodated without interrupting the data centre’s live services. It just so happens this requirement was realised before construction was even finished.

Although this is a micro facility and phasing is quite simple, this approach can and should be adopted on all facilities no matter what their size. Starting at the final day point and working back in phases is a design philosophy that we have applied with data centres as large as 800 cabinets. As I say, with good planning this is how everyone should approach their data centre design and build projects.

Most clients are set with a budget when approaching a project of this nature. It is no secret that when we were invited to bid on the new data centre Future-tech was up against an incumbent builder who had offered a significantly cheaper, albeit lower specification, data centre solution. So why didn’t Perenco go with that solution? In this instance Perenco was more interested in the resilience, energy efficiency and phased flexibility of the facility rather than the initial bottom line. Perenco wanted a solution that complied with its specification as a minimum rather than maximum and they wanted to work with a company that could provide the correct expertise at the design and implementation stages, as this resulted in a lower total life cost. This is a perfect example of why picking the cheapest solutions is not necessarily the best financial decision in the long run.

It’s too often people lose sight of what a data centre is all about and many good ideas and designs are missed due to initial capital cost being the biggest decision making factor. Sometimes as little as 1 or 2% and a project or solution is dismissed, even when this can deliver greater resilience or savings over the life of a facility. It’s food for thought when your next data centre project comes around, that maybe it’s worth a little extra time to hear why one solution is a little more expensive than another. It could save you a lot more in the long run.

My final installment should, time permitting, follow next week as I am visiting the site on Thursday the 24th. Due to the additional cabinets the final full load testing and commissioning will be carried out then and Perenco will take ownership of their facility.

If you have any questions surrounding the design and construction of data centres or would like a consultation on your data centre feel free to contact me at rstacey@future-tech.co.uk

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