How to Maintain Business Continuity in Your Evolving Data Center

 
 
By Frank Bibens  |  Posted 2010-09-26
 
 
 

How to Maintain Business Continuity in Your Evolving Data Center


Earlier this year, huge, debilitating thunderstorms plagued the northeastern United States. They knocked out utility power to a local 911 call center and triggered a frantic call to Emerson Network Power's Liebert Services business. The 911 center's UPS batteries in its data center had failed and, given the nature of the facility's operations, it was critical it get them back online quickly.

We responded swiftly and had the 911 center operating again shortly after the initial call. Upon investigation of the failure's cause, officials with the 911 center admitted that they did not engage in a comprehensive service program (which typically includes preventive maintenance, assessments and monitoring). Had their data center engaged in a battery service maintenance program, this outage could have been avoided.

Situations like this 911 center incident are powerful reminders of why a comprehensive service program is necessary. In today's ever-changing, data center-dependent world economy, a comprehensive service program is crucial to maintaining business continuity.

Change Is All Around Us


Change is all around us

With the constant transformation of technology, one of the biggest challenges data center managers face is change. Gone are the days when it was common to have smaller, distributed networks located in a handful of locations. Now, fewer, larger data centers in more centralized locations are becoming the norm.

Also, for many organizations, the IT infrastructure has evolved into an interdependent, business-critical network that includes data, applications, storage, servers and networking. A power failure at any point along the network can impact the entire operation and have serious consequences for the business.

Because of this change, it's crucial for organizations to have reliable, preventive maintenance plans and experts as their data center evolves. As organizations upgrade to new equipment and centralize data centers, they may not realize that it's as equally important to have the necessary power and cooling infrastructure in place to ensure IT availability.

One scenario we see all too often: The IT manager for a company decides to purchase new servers for the organization. As new servers are readied for installation, the facility manager finds that no assessment services were completed to see if the existing power and cooling infrastructure could support the new servers. After a professional assessment, it's determined that there is not enough backup power on one of the critical buses to support the new servers.

In addition, a CFD thermal analysis indicates that there would be insufficient cooling to one of the racks. Had the IT and facility manager communicated with each other earlier and contracted with a service provider to determine their power and cooling needs, they could have planned for the new capital expense and optimized their system instead of risking availability.

Service Programs Help Ensure Availability


Service programs help ensure availability

With a well-orchestrated, site-level service program, outages-either due to unplanned events such as thunderstorms or planned system upgrades-can be minimized. IT managers are all looking for 100 percent availability these days. But you can't have 100 percent availability without a comprehensive service program. Just like your automobile, data centers are built to be reliable-but you still need to do regular maintenance or that reliability will decrease over time.

Also, business continuity depends on the data center managers' awareness of potential disasters and their ability to develop a plan with a partner to minimize disruptions of critical functions. A well-prepared organization should see minimal disruption of operations and enjoy peace of mind in the event of a disaster.

Businesses today depend so much on their IT infrastructure to operate; it's not worth the gamble not to invest in a trusted, experienced service program provider. Service providers help execute a strong business continuity plan that ensures not only short-term availability but considers the entire life cycle of the facility. A program created today may not suit that same facility in future years. Without a comprehensive program in times of constant change, organizations are exposing themselves to potential revenue loss, reduced productivity and customer dissatisfaction.

Additionally, unexpected costs will be incurred for repairs and replacements. Although costs can be an issue for organizations with limited IT budgets, without the right services, there can also be unknown costs in the future that can be catastrophic.

What to Look for in a Service Provider


What to look for in a service provider

When looking for a service provider, look for those that invest in the best tools and people. One way users can further minimize unit-related failures is to institute a comprehensive, preventive maintenance program that is implemented by OEM-trained technicians. It's safe to say that a service provider should be considered a candidate to be your partner if they:

1. Can guarantee a quick response time,

2. Have expertise on the equipment you own (to be able to fix the equipment right the first time),

3. Guarantee parts availability,

4. Invest in their engineers through comprehensive training programs and provide them with the most advanced tools and instrumentation available,

5. Have a solid safety and compliance record,

6. Can give you a holistic view of your data center through the breadth of their offerings.

Today, because some of the leading service providers have such advanced equipment and top-notch technicians, situations can be rectified without sending a technician on-site. With a well-planned strategy, data center managers can work with qualified engineers to ensure that the data center is accessible to service technicians, without impacting availability.

Conclusion

As they say, change is inevitable, even in the data center. Technology is changing every hour, minute and second of the day; this is something that can't be debated. A comprehensive service program that involves maintaining, assessing and monitoring equipment is simply critical.

Luckily, the aforementioned situation in the Northeast was alleviated quickly, with little impact. However, the situation could have been much worse, possibly putting innocent lives at risk. Today, that 911 call center is not taking that risk. They now have a comprehensive service program which provides peace of mind in their system-something all data center managers should have in this technology-based economy.

Frank Bibens is President of Emerson Network Power's Liebert Services business. Prior to joining Emerson Network Power in November 2006, Frank spent 28 years in a variety of service-related management positions with the General Electric Company (GE), including general manager of the global operations and maintenance business for GE Energy. Frank's areas of expertise include precision cooling, computer room air conditioning, high density cooling, energy efficiency, uninterruptible power supplies, power generation and distribution, power protection, data centers, data center monitoring, and data center professional services. Frank is a member of the Association for Services Management International. He received his Bachelor's degree in Marine Engineering from Texas A&M University. He can be reached at frank.bibens@emerson.com.

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