Reasons for the Disconnect

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2006-09-15 Print this article Print

Chilcote had almost bought the UPS when he found out that he "couldnt do what I wanted to do because the UPS I wanted would outstrip what our generator could do." The lesson showed him the need for his department and facilities to keep open the lines of communication.
"It is a challenge to keep in communication and not make assumptions," he said. "We have grown to the point where with everything we do, we do very much keep in touch with facilities."
There are multiple reasons for the disconnect, said Eric Maxfield, vice president of Total Site Solutions, who gave a presentation at the Data Center World show addressing the issue. The two sides see data center projects differently. The facilities people have a traditional approach to procedures and schedules and want as little change as possible. By contrast, IT folks are constantly thinking about change. In the same sense, what the facilities people oversee—the physical infrastructure and space of a companys assets—does not change often, while IT people are regularly updating and changing the technology they use, Maxfield said. And what changes on one side of the aisle impacts the other side. IBM ramps up a chips speed by cooling it down. Click here to read more. "On the tech side, they turn over their technology frequently," he said. "On the facilities side, its the opposite. You dont want to buy a generator every two years." The shift toward doing business on the Internet also has fueled problems. Unlike 10 years ago, a companys Web site always has to be up and running. For transaction-based industries, any downtime means money is being lost. That puts more pressure on the facilities side to ensure that the technology is kept running, Maxfield said. Another issue is money. The IT and facilities departments have their own budgets, and therefore their own priorities. In his keynote address at the show, Bruce Shaw, vice president of worldwide commercial and enterprise marketing at AMD, said that a survey done by the chip maker last year showed that 71 percent of those polled said power and cooling were becoming problems. However, 62 percent said they were not changing their buying behavior because of it. Why? "Because the person writing the checks for every bill has nothing to do with the data center," Shaw said. Vendors are now trying to bridge that gap. For example, some engineering and design companies like Total Site Solutions have expertise in both the construction and facilities sides of things as well as the IT side, Gallagher said. Power supply company APC, when it engages a client, will offer a service designed to bring the two sides into the discussion as early as possible, trying to determine everything from common goals to governance issues, Carlini said. "Well go in and forge a relationship between IT and facilities," he said, adding that businesses are aware of this issue. "You start asking questions and they start asking what other companies are doing." Liebert, a unit of Emerson Network Power, in Columbus, Ohio, traditionally had dealt with the facilities side of the table, but about 18 months ago appointed Jim Hall to a new position as IT market development manager, responsible for making inroads into the IT space. Hall said he is working both directly with customers as well as through their channel partners to more aggressively address the IT client side. Businesses also are beginning to recognize the need. One telecommunications company in 2005 took an engineer from the facilities team and reassigned him to IT to work as a liaison between the two departments, according to the engineer, who didnt want himself nor his employer identified. Lori Nelson, data center manager for Wright Express, said she meets regularly with the facilities department. Her company has about 650 employees, of which about 125 are IT and about 12 are facilities. The South Portland, Maine, company, which provides payment processing and information management services to the vehicle fleet industry, is growing quickly with daily transactions growing from 250,000 several years ago to 900,000 now, Nelson said. "I communicate with them whenever I have any new product coming into the facility," Nelson said. "Communication is important. "Were growing quite a lot. It works great if IT and facilities are clear about what their needs are." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.


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