IT and Facilities Try to Get in Step

Better communication between the two groups will go a long way in helping reduce power and cooling costs in the data center, say attendees at the AFCOM Data Center World show.

IT administrators and their counterparts in the facilities department traditionally have had little need to work together on issues related to corporate data centers.

The IT folks were in charge of the technology brought in, while the facilities were more concerned about not only the data center, but all aspects of a companys operations, from heating systems in the offices to the parking spaces outside.

However, with power and cooling rapidly becoming top concerns in data centers, communications between the two sides is becoming crucial, and something that not enough businesses are addressing, according to attendees at the AFCOM Data Center World show in Orlando, Fla., Sept. 10-13.

"Its a pretty significant problem," said Gerard Gallagher, president and CEO of Total Site Solutions, an engineering and design company in Beltsville, Md., that includes data centers among its expertise.

"Ninety-nine percent of [businesses he deals with that are building data centers] have the facilities client side and the IT client side. Rarely are these two guys on the same page."

Steve Carlini, director of product management for American Power Conversion, in Kingston, R.I., agreed.

"Youd think that with all these problems, thered be more collaboration. But no," he said.

Five to 10 years ago, when the rush was on to bring more technology into the data center and power costs and real estate were not concerns, such a disconnect wasnt as big a deal.

However, increasing densities in the data center with technology such as blade servers and rising energy prices have pushed power and cooling costs to the top of the list of issues for data center managers.

Companies like Google, which are building out huge server farms, estimate that by next year, it will cost more to power and cool their data centers than it will be to buy the systems that go into them. Those IT administrators who have more traditional data centers also are feeling the squeeze.

Technology vendors such as chip makers Advanced Micro Devices and Intel and OEMs such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Sun Microsystems are building more energy efficient products, with the goal of increasing the amount of work they do while dropping the amount of energy they consume. Virtualization will also play a role in easing energy costs.

In addition, the concerns have brought power supply companies like APC and Emerson Network Powers Liebert division to the forefront, and have reinvigorated debate over the use of such technologies as DC power and liquid-cooling devices.

Power and cooling concerns have also put a spotlight on the need for IT and facilities people to work closer to efficiently design and run their data centers.

"The need for optimized modular data centers will force closer cooperation between facilities design, data center operations and line-of-business management, particularly because superoptimized design may require periodic modular changes in floor space and cooling capacity to handle spikes," Forrester Research analyst Richard Fichera wrote in a March 8 report titled "Power and Cooling Heat Up the Data Center."

Poor communication can lead to lost time and money, Gallagher said. For example, IT may order systems that cant be supported by the existing data center infrastructure, or maintenance schedules may not be in sync with whats needed to keep the technology running most efficiently.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read about what Congress is doing about data center cooling.

"The IT guys will no longer just be able to buy a server and toss it over the wall to the facilities guys and say, Get it done," said Arun Kamath, IT infrastructure consultant for Fusion Infotek, of Westmont, Ill.

There has to be planning and cooperation before a purchase is made, he added.

Some companies are trying to bridge the gap between IT and facilities, "but they still have a ways to go," Kamath said.

Bradley Chilcote, manager of network services for the American Heart Association in Dallas, Texas, ran into that problem. When appointed to his job three years ago, he found that some of the UPS (uninterruptible power supplies) were running at more than 80 percent and needed to be upgraded.

Next Page: Reasons for the disconnect.