Facilities Management

Hidden costs in new data center designs

Posted by on Mar 30, 2012 in Facilities Management, Industry Trends, Innovation, Site Improvement | 3 comments

I enjoyed watching one of the old “Top Gear” episodes recently that discussed the lifetime cost of ownership of the Land Rover as compared to the Prius.  The episode discussed the mining of the materials necessary for the batteries and how that impacted the real cost of each car.  The “Top Gear” hosts stated something to the effect that when you factored in what it costs to manufacture and properly dispose of the lithium batteries, the Land Rover was actually “greener” than the Prius. While there is debate whether what was said on “Top Gear” was true or not, it did get me to think about some of the new innovations that I’m seeing in data centers.  When I look at factors beyond the obvious operating costs, I find that some of the innovations have hidden costs that affect total cost of ownership.  Let’s look at some designs and explore the possible hidden costs....

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Stirling engines for data centers

Posted by on Mar 16, 2012 in Facilities Management, Innovation, Site Improvement | 0 comments

Stirling Engines For Data Centers Classified as an external combustion engine, a Stirling engine is one that runs off an external heat source. The Stirling engine was conceived in 1816 by Scottish engineer, Robert Stirling. If you look it up on Wikipedia, you will see that these engines use an external heat source and require a cooler source to expel waste heat. If you actually had to build one as a science project as we did, you likely discovered that it could run a small fan from the heat of your hand. This picture shows a Stirling engine you can get from 3B Scientific that does exactly that. Are Stirling engines practical for data centers? So, you have to think: We have hot air out of the back of the servers and a cooling source (usually chill water or cooling water). We could use Stirling engines to power fans to move air through a heat exchanger. Imagine if your data center used nothing more than waste heat to move the air in it. How much could you save? The Stirling engine could also be used to assist in the movement of cooling water to and from heat exchangers and towers or other heat sinks....

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Where contests are really won

Posted by on Mar 9, 2012 in Facilities Management, Incidents/Downtime, Leadership | 1 comment

Santiago Botero is a Colombian professional bicycle road racer.  He’s best known for winning the mountains classification in the Tour de France, and the World Championship Time Trial.  During the 2000 Tour de France, he kept a daily diary of his thoughts and progress for a newspaper back in Colombia.  What follows was his entry for a part of the race that took place in the mountains: “There I am all alone with my bike.  I know of only two riders ahead of me as I near the end of the second climb on what most riders consider the third worst mountain stage in the Tour.  I say ‘most riders’ because I do not fear mountains. After all, our country is nothing but mountains.  I train year-round in the mountains.  I am the national champion from a country that is nothing but mountains.  I trail only my teammate, Fernando Escartin, and a Swiss rider....

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The most important 2 seconds of your career

Posted by on Mar 2, 2012 in Facilities Management, Incidents/Downtime, Leadership, Training | 0 comments

The lights flicker, your phone starts making “message received” sounds, and the radio crackles with excited voices.  You recognize that something is not as it should be at the facility and you’re the person on duty with the responsibility to respond.  It becomes apparent that the power system is in distress.  The orders come over the radio to shift the “E” lineup to backup.  You run to the “E” power room and quickly move the switch to the backup power supply position.  You hear the breakers actuate, and then the unthinkable happens – the lights go out.  The ironic thing is that shortly after you turned the switch, your mind actually was pondering the possibility that you could have heard “D” instead of “E.”  And sure enough, the actual order, as it turns out, was to place D into backup and not E.  Your actions caused a loss of power to the facility, compounding the initial problem....

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Measuring data center efficiency – a facilities manager’s perspective

Posted by on Feb 26, 2012 in Facilities Management, Site Improvement | 2 comments

Even though we struggle with the concept of data center efficiency, there have been great attempts to evaluate this elusive, magical term. For example, I can measure the energy in and the energy rejected and thereby calculate the amount of energy used. I can even tell how much of this energy was used by the data processing equipment specifically. What I cannot tell, however, is the efficiency of the data center – the ratio of how much work was performed as related to the energy used. I can tell that the data center used 8 megawatts in a month; but since I can’t relate that to the amount of work that was done, I simply can’t measure the data center’s efficiency. The problem stems from how you measure data center “work.” So what does a data center do? If you ask people, you get a myriad of answers. The CFO’s perspective is that it’s the amount of money (revenue – costs) that you get from the operation of the data center. The CIO’s viewpoint is it’s the amount of data that is received, sent, processed, and stored. The engineer looks at it as the amount of total energy used for IT equipment versus that used for other functions. In a sense, they’re all correct. They each have their responsibilities and perspectives about what the data center is supposed to deliver....

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What is the true measure of training?

Posted by on Feb 17, 2012 in Facilities Management, Leadership, Training | 1 comment

Why do we send people to training? What should we expect from a training program? Considering the amount of money spent for training, we should expect results – but what are those results specifically? When I’ve asked these questions of others, I’ve received answers such as knowledge, skills, certification, qualifications and the like. But the true measure of training isn’t the increased knowledge, new skill sets, or additional certifications (though these may be indicators that training has been successful). The true measure of training is in fact determined by measuring how much behavior has changed. Training is used to serve another function as well, the validation of current skills and knowledge. While validation is one of the most used functions of training programs, there are still other, more effective methods to determine this. We’ll examine that a little later. When I send a technician to train on the latest techniques of rebuilding a compressor, I expect that they will return being able to do something they couldn’t do before, e.g., rebuild a compressor using new processes or methods. This new behavior can be measured and observed. If you want to measure how effective your training programs are, you need to observe and measure changes in behavior....

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