4 FM quick reads on data centers
1. FM And IT Need To Work Together
Today's tip is to involve both facility management and IT in designing a new data center. With input from both groups, design decisions can benefit both sides.
When FM and IT don't work together, the most common problem is over-built mechanical and electrical infrastructure. Too much UPS, too many generators and excessive precision cooling is installed on Day 1. In addition, the oversized equipment operates very inefficiently and reliability expectations may not be achieved.
The IT group may have critical applications that require a higher level of reliability than facility management plans to build. Oftentimes, one of the biggest issues is the need for concurrent operation of the data center and maintenance, or as the industry calls it, concurrent maintenance.
FM and IT need to agree on a set of performance objectives and success measures. Learn to communicate free of jargon, using easy-to-understand terms and descriptions. Describe the challenges each side faces, and interdependencies between both disciplines. Facility management and IT also need to jointly educate themselves about risk analysis, assessment and mitigation, in order to explain to each other what can happen under various scenarios. Necessary steps include going beyond the Uptime Institute Tier and other rating systems; exploring failure rates and their effects; and considering different ways to address risks, such as operations and maintenance improvements.
All of these considerations should be communicated to the on-site facility management and all shifts of the IT staff. If a problem occurs, both IT and facility management need to know. Finally, the team should conduct a post-event evaluation to determine the cause and prevent it from happening again.
Ten years ago, reliability was the top priority for data center design and operation. Now, cost to build and cost to operate are equally important. Solutions have to be scalable to allow for critical power and cooling to be installed in increments to match the growth in IT build-out. This cannot happen without close coordination between facility management and IT.
2. DCIM Offers Benefits In Legacy Data Centers
This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today's tip is that Data Center Infrastructure Management offers benefits in legacy data centers.
Where there is an existing plant, a middleware DCIM system is ideal. Configured and placed on the Industrial Ethernet or IT network, the object of the system is to listen on the wire for any pre-defined data or receive traps from legacy management/monitoring systems and report or archive accordingly.
The benefits of this type of installation include using existing BMS/BAS/EPMS (emergency power management system) and network management systems and less installation time since the points at the far end are already connected. However, many drawbacks exist. Those drawbacks include: the risk that custom software will be have to be developed to fit existing systems; incomplete data gathering based on the possibility that the building's legacy 'tool' cannot integrate; the potential that staff may tire of the system prior to full implementation and shelve it; concern that the DCIM will be yet another platform to increase operational expenses; and the probability that something on the raised floor will change during DCIM implementation, rendering Day 1 data out of date.
Don't let the drawbacks weigh too heavy, though. Tying existing systems into a central point of collection wisely capitalizes on the existing investment in management systems and enables cross-system data sharing. But be wary when checking into DCIM or middleware. Ask a lot of questions and provide the vendors with a list of the systems for desired integration.
Questions should include the obvious: Can you integrate with everything on my list? What protocols have you successfully integrated with? What systems have you successfully integrated with? Can I use this to tie not only one, but multiple data centers together?
Be prepared for a lot of "vaporware." Middleware and DCIM at this level of integration is an emerging field and vendors will make promises that the next release will contain everything. Don't expect an out-of-box solution from any of them — there are just too many types of systems. Consider creating a bubble diagram that shows the existing systems by manufacturer name and function and reveals any existing relationship between the two, as well as the desired future relationships. This can go a long way toward illustrating the desired equipment.
3. Securing Co-location Data Centers
This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today's tip is that co-location data centers offer unique security challenges.
Co-location data centers provide multiple customers with the ability to locate network, server and storage gear through a shared infrastructure, minimizing both capital and operational costs for users. With a number of tenants in a variety of space configurations, co-location data centers face a unique infrastructure security challenge. Because co-location data centers can be typically subdivided by cages or just by individual cabinets or IT racks, electronic access control is key.
Cages should be treated as rooms, with locks so that air conditioning is the only element shared. Tenants should gain access only to their own cage through an active card reader or similar equipment at the cage itself. For smaller clients that want just a cabinet or two, specify access control down to the cabinet level to provide individual access. This will allow security personnel to track who is in each space moment-to-moment. For example, if there are five clients in one area serving different racks, tracking who was where when something goes down will be streamlined.
Similarly, monitoring can be another function of the access control system in a co-lo data center. Personnel can monitor access to cages, cabinets and racks to determine who is in the building, which tenants have their doors open, closed, etc. By having a dedicated security IP network, the security team can maintain tight control over security communications and allow for 24/7/365 operation, which can be a great selling point to prospective tenants.
4. Data Center Infrastructure Management helps streamline operations
This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management magazine. Today's tip is that data center infrastructure management helps streamline the management of data centers.
Asking five data center managers how to manage a data center from a technology perspective — software, remotely and integrated — would likely yield at least eight different answers. The same question posed to a data center's facilities department would generate equally disparate responses. Ask that same question of a data center IT manager and a data center facilities manager at the same time and watch the fireworks fly. Why? Data centers are not managed by one group or department. While there is a larger goal in meeting the overall objectives of the company, the various departments often act as autonomous collectives. Data centers, however, are not owned by departments but by companies, and managing one should be a joint corporate effort.
Today, data centers can be managed as a total enterprise using data center infrastructure management (DCIM), or a "middleware," a software/hardware component which can tie formerly or currently different systems into a congruent monitoring environment. These dissimilar systems are often "owned" by different responsible departments. However, these systems can be configured to report up one chain of event and alert management.
The benefits of a good DCIM/middleware solution include faster change control; better, more coordinated, change management; views into the electrical and HVAC systems in reference to information and communications technology; views into IT and facility asset management; space planning; and general building environmental monitoring. It is important for facility managers to keep in mind when selecting a DCIM or middleware solution that because DCIM and middleware integrates independent systems beyond facilities, there is no means to discuss DCIM without concepts of an integration with the facility's systems.
Should the IT department be looking into DCIM, they would naturally focus on typical network management systems providers for a solution. Likewise, should DCIM be facilities-driven, traditional manufacturers of building systems can provide DCIM predicated on those building systems. However, with the high costs associated with DCIM procurement, installation and operations, it will make sense to view DCIM at the enterprise level and find a solution that works for each.