IT and facilities managers need to be cool with co-operation.

IT and facilities managers need to be cool with co-operation.

Nick Ewing, Director, Comtec Power

The successful operation of the IT at the core of a data centre is intimately bound up with the operation of the power and cooling infrastructure that supports it. The design of a data centre, and its ongoing operation, must take account of that.

Regrettably, the specialised nature of today’s world means that IT and Facilities occupy different silos of responsibility. When it comes to building a data centre, whether it is a green field site or the refurbishment of an existing building, the facilities manager will take decisions on issues such as heating, cooling and access control. How the racks of IT equipment are powered and cooled, where they are located: that’s the FM’s job. What goes into the racks is all the IT manager need care about.

The trouble is that this can cause problems that result in delays to the rollout of new IT services and expensive and time-consuming adjustments to the layout of a computer room. Frequently, these delays and their associated costs could have been pre-empted simply by involving IT decision makers in the process at a much earlier stage.

A typical example concerns the prevision of power and cooling. The room may have been designed to handle an overall power rating and been meticulously fitted out in accordance with the specification. An experienced facilities manager might take a decision on how much power to allocate to a rack based on their long and hard won experience.

But when the IT manager comes to populate the rack, they might want to install a number of power hungry blade servers. This will have implications for the power density in the rack. It will also have implications for the necessary cooling. The IT manager realises that more power supplies are needed. So too is more UPS support. Making the necessary adjustments to the infrastructure now becomes a time-consuming and expensive operation, made worse by the inevitable bureaucracy entailed in operating across different silos of responsibility.

Cooling also presents a problem if decisions have not been taken based on the knowledge of what the contents of a particular rack might be. In the above example there may be insufficient traditional cooling to handle the high density requirements of a rack filled with blade servers. On the other hand, an IT manager could find that far too much cooling effort is being wasted blowing cold air into a communications rack with a low cooling requirement.

Far better for IT and FM decision makers to address these problems at the start of a data centre design and rollout than make expensive amendments later in the day.

All business today are concerned with agility; the ability to act quickly to exploit new opportunities with maximum efficiency. With regard to the IT facilities needed to support such agility, flexibility, visibility and modularity are key. Data centres therefore become dynamic facilities: it is essential that new processing power and new storage capacity can be added as and when they are needed.

This in turn affects the design of the data centre facilities that underpin the IT effort.  Closer co-operation between IT and FM at the early stages of a data centre project can yield great benefits later on. Perhaps the IT guy and the facilities guys have always been friends. They should become even closer.

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