The Secret Heroes of Data Center Facilities

29 December 2021by Otomatica

Data centers and their performance criteria are becoming more important today with the increasing dependency on information technologies. In the contemporary information age, information value is generated at the data center critical facilities where data is physically collected, stored, and processed. The main responsibility of these facilities, which collocate servers, storages, and network devices, is to ensure that this IT equipment operate with high business continuity, high performance, and high reliability during their expected service life (lifecycle).

Consultancy companies that offer comprehensive design, suppliers that offer innovative technology solutions and large-scale construction and electromechanical contracting companies trying to position themselves in this fast-moving industry provide solutions for data center facility infrastructure to their customers.

This difficult and burdensome construction phase involves design, construction, supply, and implementation processes that lasts for 8 months to 2 years and is completed with testing and commissioning process. The critical infrastructure investment of a data center is made for a service life of at least 20 -30 years. While everyone is focused on data center facility construction and believe that all the problems would be solved during this period, the reality is quite different.

At the end of the construction stage, a facility and its infrastructure are created in which the system, material, engineering, and labor commercial deliveries are completed, and the highest IT technology is collocated. Everyone participating in this process consider themselves as the leading actor or a hero. Success stories are written for all the parties who contributed to this stage, becoming references for future victories.

But is this the truth? Are the heroes among the construction actors? The main criterion of Data Center Critical Infrastructure is “Business Continuity” and the real “Heroic” Story is sustaining the infrastructure performance above that the IT applications and communication network will continue with no downtime for the 20 – 30 years of data center lifecycle. Performing capacity management on the hottest and coldest days, surviving during days of power or water outages, overcoming with human errors or environmental disasters, keeping the reliability with on time preventive maintenance schedule and focusing to all incidents to manage the risk by 24/7, and thus sustaining no downtime during the 20 – 30 years of  lifecycle are not the challenges that everyone can handle. These challenges tremendously grow if the concept missed the “Sustainable Operation” principles, the design calculation thus the product selection is wrong, and the implementation is defective and incorrect. Some issues may remain the facility lifecycle long threatening the data center availability.

Basically, since the construction phase is considered as a project that has definite beginning and end, project team staff layoff is kept limited. On the other hand, during the operation period a lot of personnel are forced to change the position or company due to an unrecoverable error or working in a stressful environment.

During the construction stage, all the tests are performed with artificial heat loads used instead of IT devices and can be turned on/off at any time when necessary. Downtimes are a natural process of tests. A wrong technical maneuver or defective equipment or implementation may cause the downtime. When the data center production time comes and the “Real Heroes” take stage from the “Sensational Heroes”, then the “stopwatch” is started, and the downtime is unacceptable.

This is easier to understand with numbers. Experiencing 2 hours of downtime during the first-year operation downgrades the “Data Center Infrastructure Availability” to 99.97%. If the goal is to keep “Availability” at the essential level of 99.999%, then after this downtime, the operation team must operate the Data Center Infrastructure with no downtime for at least 8 years. As a worst scenario, it can be considered that 2 hours of downtime caused by a design or implementation error that the operation team cannot compensate.

Therefore, meeting the “Business Continuity Criteria”, which is the main objective of Data Center Facilities, lies in the hands of the “Secret Heroes” in the “Sustainable Operation” Team They quietly suffer also of all design and implementation errors, take measures, and try to overcome them. Their real added value, unfortunately remains in the background in many organizations. Every organization operating at high business continuity should not forget to give them deserved credit.
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