Site-Specific Data Center Commissioning Can Avoid Issues

  March 25, 2014

A site-specific, customized data center commissioning process lets trades and vendors do their jobs, with direction, oversight, management and documentation detailing demonstration of component, subsystem, and overall integrated system performance in accordance with owner requirements.

Commissioning technicians tend to focus heavily on familiar equipment they understand while sometimes glossing over or even ignoring unfamiliar equipment they don’t understand. This lack of understanding often extends to original equipment manufacturer (OEM) vendor service technicians, and even more so to third party service technicians. It is not uncommon for OEM vendor service technicians to be unfamiliar with standard features built in to their own equipment. Furthermore, commissioning reports often tell an incomplete story, failing to articulate in summary and in organized detail what exactly was tested, how it was tested, when it was tested, and how it performed.

Commissioning efforts and results for data centers and critical facilities vary widely, from glorified vendor startups billed as complete commissioning to a small army of technicians checking off boilerplate "one size fits all" forms, with little understanding about how the equipment they are inspecting and commissioning actually operates, let alone how it is most likely to fail. In the real world of data center commissioning, this approach results in some all-too-common problems.

Interfaces between different equipment sets and vendor subsystems are the areas where many problems occur. Vendors generally do a satisfactory job of getting their own equipment working, and also performing operator training for their own equipment and sub-systems. After all, they have a warranty and brand name to protect. However, many field technicians are too focused on "inside the box" individual component performance, to the point of attempting to prove specifications that are not relevant to the project (i.e., extreme overload conditions).

Many hours and precious resources can be wasted on minutia, such as simulating every minor alarm point. However, too often no one is taking a look at the big picture: how all the sub-systems need to work together and where the realistic failure points exist. Then, when the available commissioning time or budget are nearly exhausted, important overall performance tests are rushed, cut short, or otherwise compromised.


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