Data Center Ecosystem

Nov 1 2010   9:07AM GMT

How Expert is your Expert?

Carrie Higbie Carrie Higbie Profile: Carrie Higbie

Just because you can spell data center that does not make you an expert!  This isn’t directed to those of us that work to maintain current knowledge, new technologies, and the latest green trends, but rather to those that design the same data center over and over, the ones that think low speeds are all that will ever be used, and most importantly those that try to get you to alter your business and planning around a certain technology just so they can make the sale.

I was in a consultant’s office recently, and I asked him how he designs pathways and spaces without knowing density, equipment, etc.  His response, “I just give them 12″ ladder rack all the way around and when they use it up, tough!”  Now that is user friendly!  Yet another value engineered out the UPS system and Generator for a hospital.  Not much value if I’m a patient at the time.  Turns out to retrofit back in the generator cost them twice the amount on installation.

These days when there are so many people out there that purport to be experts, it is difficult to tell what is what and who is who.  Your best bet is to do the following:

  • Get references (preferably by word of mouth or off their website) that have been living with their DC for a while
  • Find out how many other DC’s they have designed and what their product knowledge is.  This will involve some homework on new technologies.  Meetings like AFCOM, 7×24, and other end user consortia will help.
  • Invite all of your DC team to the meetings to ask “what if” questions.
  • Invite all of your preferred DC vendors to a round-table discussion.
  • Most important, ALWAYS ALWAYS have a backup source for brainstorming and discussion.  If you think about it, a finite group will have a finite number of solutions.  These generally follow the “flavor of the day” technologies and may not provide a good workable long term data center design that is agile and flexible enough to accommodate a variety of technologies which will provide a far better ROI.
  • Be aware of overall contracts, if one part of the construction falls short, the GC may skimp corners on the rest (this happens a lot).
  • Technology, in particular, low voltage, pathways and spaces, etc. are probably best part of a separate contract unless your GC is willing to follow your spec.
  • Have final approval on any and all Value Engineering.  Make sure you understand the implications long term.
  • Talk to other people that use the technology you are evaluating.
  • Lastly, do your homework so you can be an informed consumer.  Be aware that the most expensive solution is not always the best, and neither is the least.  There should be clear benefits to any solution that have NO adverse effects on another part of the ecosystem.

If you do have a horrible experience with an expert, spread the word.  In fact, no naming names, but feel free to comment with bad experiences here.  The more we all know the better we all are!  It’s great to learn from another’s mistake before you make it yourself!

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