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The basic idea is easy enough to understand: The best way to design and operate data centers — to ensure that they are highly reliable and cost effective — is close collaboration between facility executives and their IT counterparts.
The concept may be easy to understand, but it’s not so easy to put into practice. Historically, the two departments have been separated by conflicting priorities, differing organizational cultures and divided budgets.
Slowly but surely, however, FM and IT are coming together. “I’m not so bold as to say there is no problem,” says Jill Eckhaus, CEO of AFCOM, an association that provides education and resources for data center managers. “But we’re well on the way to being where we need to be.”
So what triggered the change? Forces beyond the control of either department, say experts. “There’s a huge issue with cooling,” Eckhaus says. Although blade servers have come to symbolize the issue, the challenges of cooling data centers go beyond any one technology. Higher densities and hotter equipment have raised costs and sometimes pushed HVAC systems to the brink.
Meanwhile, top management has taken a new interest in data centers. Whether it’s because of soaring energy costs or corporate green initiatives, data center managers now find themselves being asked what they’re doing to save energy.
Of course, facility executives can relate. “They’re kind of getting into each other’s territory,” says Eckhaus. That’s not necessarily the best way to start a partnership, but it’s actually working out. “What I’ve see over the past five years is that they really are talking to each other. As time goes by and they start working together even more, they’ll realize that’s the best way to do it.”
Nowhere is collaboration more important than in the design of a new or expanded data center. A crucial step is having a joint budget. “That eliminates a lot of arguments,” says Eckhaus. She recommends that FM and IT go to top management together and make the case for a joint budget — a case based on business needs. “If they can speak the language of the business, they can go a long way together,” Eckhaus says.
— Edward Sullivan, editor
Data Center Operations Require Increasing FM, IT Collaboration