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What regulations govern data center operations?

Posted by on Dec 4, 2014 in Facilities Management, Training | 1 comment

This is a guest post from Lee Foley, CIH, CSP. Lee consults on health and safety issues in mission critical environments. She can be reached at lfoley@eqm.com. In the United States, various codes and regulations protect the environment and keep workers safe. There are several types of environmental compliance requirements that pertain specifically to data center operations, each requirement varying based on the size and type of data center involved. But unfortunately, data center managers can become so focused on what it takes to ensure uptime that these environmental and health and safety compliance requirements can get overlooked. There are fines for noncompliance that can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars and, in certain circumstances, a manager can be held personally liable for a violation. Environmental regulation examples common to data centers One environmental regulation applies to diesel fuel storage. If you store diesel fuel for your emergency generators in excess of 1,320 gallons, you are required to perform an evaluation to determine if your data center falls under Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) plans. The plan includes spill prevention and cleanup procedures, inspection protocols, recordkeeping, and training and may require that a professional engineer, or PE, sign off on the plan....

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Mission critical training: Are you certified or qualified?

Posted by on Sep 4, 2014 in Training | 1 comment

How do you certify or qualify someone to work in your data center? Do you administer classes, give them a written examination, question them in front of a panel of experts, or review their experience and call it good? I see it on resumes and applications, “qualified data center technician” or “certified data center technician or engineer.”  And when I see that, I always ask, “How did you get qualified? Who certified you?” A combination of experience over the years and a certificate given by the employer (who in reality doesn’t have an accredited program) is usually offered as the answer. I see a definite need for legitimate certification and qualification processes; but before I go further, let me explain how I use the terms “certification” and “qualification.” Certification: A process through which a person’s level of knowledge and skill at a certain level has been validated through accepted, repeatable examination and testing. Qualification: A process through which a person demonstrates repeatable success in the operation and response to a facility’s equipment and systems....

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The vanadium redox flow battery

Posted by on Aug 7, 2014 in Facilities Management, Industry Trends, Innovation, Site Improvement | 0 comments

If you’re like me, you’ve had to deal with a few batteries in your career. It’s usually one of the weak links in mission-critical environments; and consequently, we find ourselves obsessing over battery condition, life expectancy, and failure rates quite often. We can literally spend millions of dollars each year due to failed cells or end-of-life replacements. Wouldn’t it be nice not to have to deal with that – or even to worry about it? I have recently (with some excitement, I might add) been investigating vanadium redox flow batteries. These systems use fluids — or more precisely, electrolytes — to store energy. I’m not going to get technical in this post; but if you want to know more today, here’s a Wikipedia link. How the battery works Basically, there are two tanks of electrolyte with a membrane in a frame between the two.  The two electrolytes set up a potential across the membrane that allows for the flow of electrons....

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The repair or replace decision – one methodology

Posted by on Jun 5, 2014 in Facilities Management, Site Improvement | 0 comments

When I was a facilities manager (FM), I had to make decisions around whether to repair or replace a facility asset (chiller, reverse osmosis unit, UPS, etc.). Some of these decisions I was authorized to make alone, but others had to go up the chain of command for higher-level approvals. Regardless of who ultimately made the decision, I had to be able to justify the repair or the replacement. Like many FMs, a part of me just wanted new equipment because I had the perception that newer equipment would give me fewer headaches. Another part of me was driven by the need to reach the goal of having no failures and the perception that newer equipment would have less chance of failure. (Besides, new equipment is just cool.) In reality, as the facilities manager, I was working for companies that needed to make a profit or were held to some financial requirement and it drove me to build a decision framework that aligned with their financial goals. While I hoped company leaders would understand the language of engineering, and some did, it was more often the case that they understood the world in terms of finance, which required me to put the justification in financial terms....

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Creating innovation

Posted by on May 1, 2014 in Innovation, Leadership | 0 comments

We constantly see magazine articles, blogs, and books that profess methodologies for creating innovation in organizations. I’m here to tell you that innovation doesn’t have to be created. It’s always been there. People are natural problem-solvers. It’s in our nature. We look at our situation, we look at what we have, and we try to come up with a solution. Sometimes in this quest to solve problems, we innovate – we come up with something new. Where does the “new” come from? According to Plato, necessity is the mother of invention, and I have to agree. When we’re faced with a need, our brains try lots of different scenarios to come up with a viable solution. Sometimes we link previous experiences with our current situation and come up with something entirely new. For example, working in the patent office in Bern, Albert Einstein was exposed to questions related to the synchronization of time which led to thought experimentation and eventually to his theory of relativity....

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Risky business – creating clarity around data center risk

Posted by on Apr 3, 2014 in Facilities Management, Incidents/Downtime | 0 comments

What does it mean to your client when you place a static switch or UPS in bypass? Most clients won’t understand that it means their business is now at the mercy of the utility supplying power. Most clients won’t associate risk with the statement at all — let alone imagine their company on the front page of the Wall Street Journal because of an outage. When you communicate with your client about maintenance or your process, is there any way to know what they really understand? Many years ago when we were running one of our first data centers, we tried to come up with a way to relate what we did in facilities to our clients. Shawn Patrick came up with an idea that we started calling “Level of Readiness.” We rated the risk to our customers based on our equipment and process conditions. Ever since, I have used a very similar idea to communicate to the clients of data centers the level of risk our operations pose to their processes, systems, and business....

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News Release: Sapient Services, LLC, to build twin state-of-the-art data centers

Posted by on Apr 1, 2014 in General | 0 comments

Foster City, California, Tuesday, April 1, 2014 For Immediate Release Sapient Services, LLC, has procured funding to build and operate two new, cutting-edge data center facilities in the northern and southern hemispheres. Sapient is extremely excited about the project, which stands to push the boundaries of PUE to 0.94. Built in different geographic locations, these twin data centers (NP1 and SP1) are to operate as one. Data will be mirrored to capitalize on their unique operational abilities. SP1, the site located at the South Pole, will operate entirely on solar power during the summer there. With all that free cooling, the initial calculations indicate a PUE of 0.94. This remarkable design will be mirrored at NP1, the North Pole site that will operate only during the summer there. Engineering for NP1 was a little more advanced due to the entire site having to be built on movable tracks to compensate for ice-floe movement. As for operations, Terry Vergon stated, “We only need a single crew to operate both sites since only one will be in operation at any given time, reducing cost.” As one data center is placed into what we call ‘deep freeze’ for the winter, the team will transition to the other hemisphere to do a ‘cold startup’ of the other site. Each data center is completely self-contained with its own waste recycling processing, just like the space station.”...

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Testing emergency diesel generators

Posted by on Mar 15, 2014 in Up For Discussion | 1 comment

Many critical facilities have emergency diesel generators that are used for back-up power. These generators need to be ready to supply power when the normal source of power is no longer available. To ensure that they are able to do the job as intended, we test them periodically. While some uses are mandated by law as to how often and how they are tested, many locations do not fall under these tight restrictions and, more often than not, other factors such as cost or air-pollution limitations dictate these parameters. When it comes to testing your site’s emergency diesel generators, do you periodically run them loaded or unloaded, or both? What is the “best” method in your opinion, and why? Please share your experiences and best practices with everyone in the comments section below! (Editor’s Note: Comments will be moderated and posted as quickly as...

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Considering a climate change? A primer on raising data center temperatures

Posted by on Mar 6, 2014 in Industry Trends | 1 comment

A number of articles discuss raising the temperature of data center spaces in order to save cost. In many situations, very significant cost savings can be had by doing this – but raising the temperature is only a part of the picture. The act of raising temperature in any space means that the space simply has an overall increase of the enthalpy or total energy. This act by itself does nothing for the thermodynamics of the system. From a data-center-space perspective, regardless of the temperature, the heat energy generated by the servers and equipment must be transported or expelled from the area. It is in this process that you can either make the system efficient or not. Consider the following diagram: In this conventional design, it doesn’t matter what temperature the data center is held at, there still needs to be 100KW of heat removed. This moving of heat energy costs energy. If we have a centrifugal chiller, it takes about 0.6 KW per ton to remove this heat. So if we use this example:...

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How detailed should your procedures be?

Posted by on Feb 15, 2014 in Up For Discussion | 0 comments

One of the more frequent discussions I have with clients is about the level of detail in their procedures. Some procedures do not supply enough information to complete the task while others are so detailed that they are difficult to use. Many times we do an analysis of the technician’s or user’s level of training and base the level of detail on that. Here are four examples of what I mean: Lowest level:  Inspect the compressor. Low level:  Inspect contact points on the compressor. Mid-level:  Inspect contact points on compressor #2 contactor. Document the results. High level:  Inspect contact points on compressor #2 contactor. Remove the contactor cover and visually inspect the points for arcing, pitting and alignment. Replace, if necessary. Document any findings on the data sheet. Please share your experiences and best practices with everyone in the comments section below: At what level of detail do you write your procedures, and why? Are there better ways to determine the best level of detail?...

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