Today, data centres underpin many of the mission and business-critical digital services that we take for granted. Such services vary greatly from streaming platforms to healthcare and bio-medical research, while also supporting key segments, such as enterprise, finance and retail. No matter their intended purpose, today’s data centres must perform with efficiency and resiliency, and while much of this responsibility falls on the operational staff once a facility is up and running, the burden can be eased if, from the outset, the data centre is commissioned for optimum performance.
Deployment strategy undoubtedly remains
crucial, and a primary way to ensure successful operations is to conduct a
commissioning exercise before a data centre is built. This process, which is
often carried out by an external commissioning agent, reviews the physical
design of a new facility and tests it as a holistic system. When done properly,
it will anticipate potential difficulties, verify that the design meets the
expected end-user objectives or industry standards, and will ensure that the
build takes place according to the desired schedule and budget.
and expertise are essential
For a commissioning exercise to be
successful, however, it must avoid a number of pitfalls. This includes bringing
the agent into the process at too late of a stage to be effective. Here, it’s
important that the agent should be engaged weeks or months before the data
centre is constructed, in order to overcome complications such as incomplete
testing and poor communications between stakeholders.
It’s also important to align testing
procedures with the specific technologies deployed, as all too frequently,
procedures for testing legacy infrastructure may not be appropriate for use
with newer more advanced equipment. By ensuring they utilise updated testing
procedures consistent with current technology, agents can avoid confusion among
personnel and mitigate malfunction or downtime once the facility is up and
As with any successful project management
exercise, there must also be a clear identification and allocation of roles
between the various stakeholders. Greater coordination and clear communication
between all groups will prevent duplication, confusion, and delays.
Validation of the project plan is also
important, especially in terms of work schedules and delivery dates, so that
all partners are clear on what is expected of them and by when. Preparation remains
critical, and greater validation can help to anticipate problems caused by
differences of interpretation between siloed teams, or inconsistencies in timing.
With cooling a fundamental component of data
centre design and operation, and with greater needs to maximise energy efficiency
and keep operating expenses (opEx) or costs low, it is essential that the agent
carry out a detailed analysis of the potential heat loads once a data centre
environment is deployed and live.
Fortunately, many data centre
infrastructure management (DCIM) tools and other software systems can quickly analyse
a facility based on its design and hardware systems, and deliver accurate
simulations that will ensure the facility is performing both adequately and
The task of a commissioner can often be
complex, as they must also identify any weak links in a design, which are
likely to surface in real-world conditions. However, this more stringent
approach will avoid having to diagnose problems at a later stage and here a simple
checklist of anticipated inputs and outputs for critical components can help to
quickly rectify any issues.
More often than not, the people responsible
for designing a data centre and anticipating any potential events are not usually
the same professionals responsible for its operation. Should an unexpected event
such as equipment failure or outage be experienced, it’s crucial that a comprehensive
list of emergency procedures, alongside other documentation, is kept up-to-date,
as the technologies within a data centre may change over time.
Finally, every effort must be made to
reduce human error during the commissioning process. It may be inevitable that
as demands increase and deadlines loom, those fitting out a data centre may be
expected to work long hours or consecutive days to meet the desired schedule.
Here, over burdening personnel at such a crucial
stage can lead to simple mistakes with potentially costly problems such as
equipment malfunction. Ensuring that you have access to adequate technical
experts during commissioning and testing, while insisting that there is proper
rotation of key personnel, will help to avoid potential human errors caused by
Overall a commissioning agent’s role is a bit like that of a conductor of an orchestra: all of their hard work is done before the system goes live and is critical to delivering operational reliability. Ensuring proper coordination and communication between key stakeholders, alongside the strict adherence to a meticulously verified plan can ensure the success of a data centre deployment strategy.
By Patrick Donovan, Senior Research Analyst, Data Centre Science Centre, Schneider Electric.