Over the last two decades, many data center managers experienced multiple opportunities to sharpen their design/construction strategies. Prior to this period, they were fortunate to be involved in one new data center build during their career. Successful building practices have been well published and discussed at conferences. In particular, the practice of thoroughly testing a critical facility’s infrastructure systems before it begins operation has paid extraordinary dividends. Yet management teams virtually all overlook one critical process that would ensure a much greater likelihood of uninterrupted operation: the need for operators to have practice time.
Many of our design practices focus on ensuring the critical building’s systems not only work, but nearly never fail. We are not applying this objective to the human side of the operation. People hired to operate critical systems are assumed to bring sufficient knowledge to confidently operate all systems and respond to incidents successfully. This is a remarkably naïve expectation, for several reasons:
• Data centers are significantly more complex than office facilities.
• Each data center facility is unique, so previous facility experience can only be applied at a general level.
• Intimate knowledge of the building’s design concepts and detailed system configurations is needed to be able to safely and successfully resolve incidents.
• Most facilities teams are not hired early enough to observe how the facility is constructed and where some of the critical components are located.
• Some teams are provided minimal training by the equipment manufacturers, but it is often conducted as a group and is generally rushed.
• Infrastructure system testing does not provide a chance for each team member to individually experience each critical “isolate” or “restore a system” procedure.
• At best, facilities teams are exposed as a group to some of the testing work in an environment full of distractions, where equipment manufacturers are under pressure to complete their work and leave the site.
Expecting new facilities teams to be successful with this approach is akin to assuming a person is fully capable of flying an airplane after one short ride as a passenger in a four-seat plane — while the other passengers are talking.
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