Data Center Commissioning Can Safeguard Against Potential Disaster
Data center construction is a complex undertaking that requires meticulous planning and execution to ensure the completed facility meets the enterprise’s operational and business needs. During the building phase, the project team needs to follow a set of best practices, assess the existing facility, carry out strategic and tactical planning, design the data center and finally construct it. But after that, all that’s left is to cut the ribbon and flip the switch, right?
Data Center Commissioning Is Crucial
Not quite. Another critical step must come between completion of construction and full operation: data center commissioning.
In the construction industry, commissioning is the process of thoroughly testing a new facility to make sure all components are working as designed. It’s the equivalent of a dress rehearsal or a shakedown cruise. To use the words of the U.S. Department of Energy, commissioning “ensures that the new building operates initially as the owner intended and that building staff are prepared to operate and maintain its systems and equipment.”
Data center commissioning can help avoid poor performance by exposing hidden potential problems that can impair productivity across the enterprise and result in possible expensive and disruptive outages. Conversely, skipping the commissioning process or cutting corners “is the heart of most IT capital project failures,” Matt Stansberry of the Uptime Institute writes in NetworkWorld.
Since data center commissioning is a highly specialized process, enterprises typically contract with an experienced commissioning agent to handle the job. That said, the IT professionals charged with managing the data center facility should be actively involved to make sure commissioning is carried out with the goals of the organization in mind. Data center operators can also use the commissioning process to familiarize themselves with the new facility.
The commissioning agent will test the performance of the new data center infrastructure under real-world loads, simulations and changes. Rather than test individual components, the agent should test the entire data center — including power and cooling components — to make sure the facility is running efficiently.
The Last Defense
While the agent is guided by a holistic view of the data center, commissioning by definition must be a detailed process. The commissioning agent’s documentation should include a line-by-line report of which data center components passed or failed testing, as well as which part of the enterprise’s operations were impacted by a specific failure. An agent also should present enterprise decision-makers with an executive summary outlining overall performance.
Commissioning is the last defense against hidden construction and implementation problems that can derail a new or expanded data center. It’s a process that should be handled by experienced professionals in collaboration with enterprise IT leaders and business decision-makers. Once a thorough commissioning is completed, enterprises can begin operating their facility knowing that it will meet performance expectations and help the enterprise achieve business and operational goals.