Building Operating Management

Avoiding Conflict Between FM and IT

From a facility manager's perspective, IT can be a big pain. Data centers may occupy 1 percent of a company's total real estate space. But often, because of energy demands and the sensitivity of data equipment to heat and humidity, that 1 percent of space accounts for 50 percent of the problems.

Conversely, the IT side sees the facility staff as neither innovative nor progressive. And they often think facilities management is slow to respond.

The relationship has sometimes been bad enough that the two groups have developed derisive nicknames for each other: IT personnel might call facility managers "broom sweepers" while facility managers might label IT people "propeller heads," says Paul Schlattman, vice president, mission critical facilities group for Environmental Systems Design.

In the past that adversarial relationship was of less concern. But in today's competitive economic environment, more IT and facility managers are developing strong working relationships. The huge demand for information and the resulting need for high-end servers with their high-energy demands is changing everyone's perspective.

"Energy consumption has gone from 15 to 100 watts per square foot in some high-end applications," says Chris Wade, senior manager of business continuance and data center strategy for Walmart. In addition to corporate files, online shopping and other strictly business applications, today's enterprise has significant recordkeeping requirements to meet federal regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPPA.

Three-Legged Stool

Bob Cashner, senior vice president in corporate properties for Wachovia Bank, a Wells Fargo Company, says the importance of teamwork is clear. He compares energy conservation in Tier IV data centers to a three-legged stool, with IT technology, corporate properties and security each representing one leg of the stool. "If any of these legs is too short, there's a problem," says Cashner. He recommends that all three groups be represented at the conference table, whenever a company is reviewing building or IT technology.

For example, consider if a company needs its sensitive financial data center facilities equipped with good access control and perimeter controls. That's the security side. From the facilities side, plate frame heat exchangers and evaluation of different cooling options are on the agenda. IT brings an understanding of the most resilient and energy-efficient servers, as well as historically underutilized technology such as virtualization.

"We want to right size the server finally chosen so that it really matches the IT application," says Cashner.

Bridging the FM-IT Divide: Signs of Progress

IT has a new server that it needs to get up and running — yesterday. The IT manager rushes a team to the data center to install the new server. The mission is quickly accomplished. Only one problem. The facility management department has converted the data center to a hot-aisle cold-aisle layout, and the new server is exhausting hot air into the cold aisle.

And then the finger pointing starts. The facility manager complains that IT never reported that it planned to install a new server. The IT manager replies that no one in facility management fully explained the hot-aisle cold-aisle arrangement. Eventually, the situation is resolved, but there are hard feelings all around.

That's more than a hypothetical example, says Bob Cassiliano, chairman of 7x24 Exchange and CEO of Business Information Services. For years, the lack of communication between facility management and IT has undermined corporate efforts to control soaring data center energy costs. Now, top management is starting to step in, making organizational changes designed to encourage the two departments to work together.

"Internal politics can be a huge barrier when facility management and IT report to two different masters who have goals that don't align," says Cassiliano. "At times, not having a clear understanding of each other's challenges can lead to a lack of respect for each other's responsibilities."

That lack of respect inevitably leads to a lack of communication, which can hamper the implementation of such energy saving options as air- and water-side economizers and hot-aisle cold-aisle containment, Cassiliano says.

The good news is that an increasing number of companies understand that there is a problem and are implementing measures to remedy the situation. "Many organizations have figured out the business importance of facility management and IT working as a team and are focused on bringing the organizations closer together," says Cassiliano. Two big steps are being taken: One is to have both functions report to the same executive; the other is to realign budgets so that IT feels the pain of soaring energy bills.

One way to accomplish the latter goal is to bill IT for data-center energy use. Another option is to charge IT for some of the capital cost of the facility infrastructure. That approach can lead IT to take a hard look at the level of reliability really needed for a specific application, says Cassiliano.

7x24 Exchange Role

The 7x24 Exchange was founded on the premise that facility and IT managers too often work in isolation. "The 7x24 Exchange created a forum for dialogue among mission-critical professionals to foster the teamwork needed to meet business objectives," says Cassiliano. The group defines its audience as those who use data centers, as well as those who design, build and maintain them. And its goal is "to improve end-to-end reliability by promoting dialogue among these groups."

That goal shapes the organization's showpiece events, spring and fall conferences that provide an in-depth look at critical industry issues. The conferences are designed for anyone involved with 7x24 infrastructures — from IT, data center, disaster recovery and network/telecommunication managers to computer technologists to facility or building managers, supervisors and engineers.

The spring 2010 conference, "Mission Critical Facilities: The Next Generation," will be held June 6-9 at the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton, Fla.

In addition to those conferences, 7x24 Exchange offers the quarterly Newslink publication, regional chapters, and a Web site that includes a career center along with Experts Exchange, an online discussion forum.

For more information about 7x24 Exchange, visit www.7x24Exchange.org.

— Edward Sullivan

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  posted on 1/5/2011   Article Use Policy

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