This post is response to a question from Allison relating to the series of questions that need to be asked before embarking on a data center build project.
Where to begin?
In my first post of this series Allison sent along a quick note with an interesting observation; “I found this article very insightful, but it left me with one resounding question. Where do I begin? If I’m a company who thinks that a data center build might be in my future, who do I go to first?”
I realized when I read this comment that there is an underlying problem with almost all data center build projects, and that is the simple fact that these are one-off projects, only executed once a decade. The person who ran the last one may have been wildly successful, but the likelihood that they documented all the steps, or are still around to share them with you are pretty slim. Retaining the information gathered and lessons learned, and then documenting them for future reference, is almost never done. So when someone like Allison (or any of us) gets volunteered to run one of these projects we begin the process by relearning everything that’s been done in past, both the good and the bad. So, lesson 1; document everything.
And to your point Allison on where to begin, let me offer this. I would begin by creating a very small tiger team of perhaps only 5 or 6 people. Early in the project these might even be part time positions, but the focus is on data gathering, idea generation and team building. Members should include folks with skills in IT architecture, servers, storage, networking, facilities and building security. The facilities folks would include disciplines in air conditioning, (focused on IT cooling), UPS and generators and power distribution. I would be looking for people who didn’t come into project with pre-conceived notions of what a data center should look like, because many bad designs have resulted from repeating the past (today’s well designed data center is radically different from older versions).
Lastly, early on in the project I would be looking for a representative from either the PMO or an assigned Project Manager to begin tracking and linking deliverables, and also to begin documenting the expected desired state as input to the commissioning process. Commissioning is a critical part of the build process, and the most efficient scripts built for the commissioning process begin early in the project.
As always, all comments and questions are welcome.