How to Avoid Over-Engineering Your Data Center
By Neil Lakomiak, Business Development Director, Building & Life Safety Technologies, UL
Data center certification programs have struggled to keep up with a rapidly changing technological landscape. We outline the premise behind over-engineered data centers as a consequence, in part, by outdated certification programs and standards, and how this obstacle can be addressed.
Off-premise computing is becoming ubiquitous. Combined with the increasing complexity and interconnectedness of technology, the potential impact of an outage from a major data center provider grows daily. Enterprise organizations are acutely aware of the business risks of a data center, network or infrastructure failure.
According to RightScale's "2018 State of the Cloud" report, 81 percent of enterprises have a multi-cloud strategy, with an average of five cloud environments per company. Usage has increased year over year as well: companies reported running 79 percent of their workloads in the cloud.
Understandably, data center owners and their operators place resiliency at the top of their priorities along with sustainability, maintainability and other safeguards to prevent outages. Operators routinely work with third-party certifiers to help address the most common root causes of outages, including human error, software issues, network downtime, and hardware failure with a corresponding impairment of high availability architecture.
However, there are few solutions for data center operators to get a holistic view of all factors that contribute to the resiliency of their services. We hear from operators of major data centers that existing offerings have not kept up with the pace of change in the industry. Most notably, operators indicate dissatisfaction that current certification programs have not evolved to meet the needs of a world with billions of technology users and connected devices. Incumbent certification programs rely on redundancy of systems and, therefore, will sometimes require a facility to be unnecessarily over-engineered. Over-engineering takes resources away from what truly matters to enterprise users: security and reliability.
Data centers have historically faced over-engineering at several phases of the certification process, from the early design of the facility to the adoption of emerging technologies. Here are two key challenges your data center may be facing due to an antiquated certification program - and what you can do to avoid selecting a program that increases your costs due to over-engineering.
Challenge #1: Design Reviews Without Site Surveys
A big challenge often arises at the drawing board of a data center. Some programs offer initial certification reviews based on specs or design plans but exclude a thorough survey once the data center has been constructed. As a result, data center design plans often do not reflect the final constructed center in its entirety, exposing operators to unknown risks. This raises questions about the value of certifying a design without a site survey. If a data center provider changes their strategy, technology or other elements of their facility to accommodate new types of customers, they might not have a certification program that scales with them. Customers who are selecting data centers are also impacted by this gap in certification and are left unsure how those facilities have been evaluated. Operators may be forced to incur additional costs for more reviews.
Solution #1: Don't Fall for Certifications on SpecWhen assessing programs, it's important to look for one that includes a detailed infrastructure gap analysis and site survey as an essential part of the process and not as an add-on. This approach will minimize hidden costs while promoting consistency during the design, construction and operational phases. The experts conducting the design review should be thinking long-term about the evolution of the data center, its operational goals, and how to scale with the needs of customers.
Challenge #2: Balancing Power Generation Needs and Sustainability
After the design phase, another challenge often emerges with critical utilities. Existing certification programs have historically focused on outdated technologies to move data centers to install continuous power generation systems. For most data centers, this will not affect efficiency or reliability, but it could result in millions of dollars of incurred cost. This requirement, in fact, prevented the cloud computing industry from being recognized by any data center certification programs. As other facility standards have advanced to recognize sustainability targets and emissions reductions, data center certification programs have also lagged in these areas. This has left data center providers to choose between corporate sustainability goals or complying with legacy energy standards.
Solution #2: Embrace Baseline Critical UtilitiesLook for a certification program that balances energy-saving practices with resilience. Flexible programs allow for emergency generators as the sole critical utility. This aligns with the standards of the cloud computing industry while also saving millions of dollars in potentially unnecessary power generation costs. Programs should also align with existing energy standards that promote sustainable energy usage, like ASHRAE Standard 90.1: Energy Standard for Buildings Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings. To avoid further redundancy and related costs, data center providers should select a certification program that incorporates existing standards for both the overall facility and individual pieces of equipment.
Data centers will continue to face massive change to keep pace with technological developments. Now, more than ever, it's crucial to have a certification program that not only helps data centers employ emerging technologies at the rate they need to stay competitive but also provides an end-to-end evaluation of every mission-critical component from the fire safety of the facility to the servers themselves. QTS is one data center provider worth looking at as a model of how to do it right. With a better map of today's needs, data center operators can spare themselves and their customers from over-engineering their facilities.
UL fosters safe living and working conditions for people everywhere through the application of science to solve safety, security and sustainability challenges. The UL Mark engenders trust enabling the safe adoption of innovative new products and technologies. Everyone at UL shares a passion to make the world a safer place. We test, inspect, audit, certify, validate, verify, advise and train and we support these efforts with software solutions for safety and sustainability. To learn more about us, visit UL.com.
A global company, ESD is a leader in Improving Society Through the Built Environment. We create design solutions that produce economic, environmental and experiential benefits for our clients, many of whom are the biggest names in the worlds of business, technology - and beyond. We embrace technological change and are in the forefront of developing Intelligent Buildings. We emphasize innovation, adaptability, and sustainability when providing mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, life safety, and technology engineering. For more information, please visit www.esdglobal.com.