IT’s Emerging Role In Data Center Operations and Management
“How does the integration of IT and facilities happen successfully in real life?”
Data center operations and management have traditionally been handled by the core facility management team. However, careful integration of the IT personnel into the data center team allows the IT staff to understand the interplay of IT with data center mechanical, electrical, plumbing (MEP) systems. By integrating IT expertise into the data center system, it allows for improved racking and stacking of the IT systems and more effective use of the MEP infrastructure to make efficiency gains and better manage capacities.
The push for efficiency gains is driven by the almighty dollar and the demand for social responsibility, because data center sizes and expenses have been growing disproportionally and environmental concerns have targeted data centers over the past two decades. Last year, the United States government released a study of data center energy use, which estimated that U.S. data centers consumed 70 billion kWh of electricity in 2014, equal to nearly 2% of the country’s total energy consumption. Put another way, a single data center can consume as much energy as a medium-sized town.
So, how does the integration of IT and facilities happen successfully in real life? In our experience, it has been IT that must change the most, but facilities personnel must also adapt. First, IT must study and learn the infrastructure design of the data center and how their IT systems impact the MEP ecosystem.
IT must also develop or procure tools to model the interplay of IT systems with MEP infrastructure and assume the responsibility for racking and stacking their systems in locations that utilize existing infrastructure without breaching established safety thresholds.
Herein lies the big change and challenge for IT. No longer can rack and stack locations be selected by convenience, nor can IT assign the responsibility to select locations to facilities team members who do not know the unique requirements of the many and varied IT systems. Now, IT must own the responsibility to locate their systems to effectively and efficiently utilize the MEP, space, and network and cable infrastructure.
In turn, facilities personnel must assist in the selection, deployment, and integration into their MEP systems of IT infrastructure management tool(s) and learn to use them so both IT and facilities personnel are working from and maintaining the same digital tool set.
The traditional data center operations team predominantly manned by facilities personnel must become a composite of dedicated IT and facilities personnel working together, both needing the other to be successful. Integrating IT and facilities personnel in the data center will not only increase energy efficiency and capacity management, but also enable companies to meet their sustainability mandates while maintaining uptime.
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