Business Processes to Increase Power Availability
There should be uniform, documented refresh and maintenance practices, not ad hoc or seat-of-the-pants approaches that rely on intuition.
When IT was internal to the enterprise it was considered a business resource. Today however, many businesses are in the IT business; consider the growth of the cloud. The reliability of the data center and network closets has become essential to the success of IT organizations. When IT is down, business is down.
I was stimulated to think about best practices in power and cooling management when I read, "10 Ways to Increase Power System Availability in Data Centers", a white a paper by Eaton. Most people focus on the electrical power system best practices, which this paper covers. I want to focus on the business process management practices.
How Are You Organized?
What I mean is how do the business departments work with IT and work with facilities? Typically IT, reporting to the CIO, has a modest relationship with the facilities personnel. With the growth of the data center and network closets, the cost of powering and cooling the IT rooms has become a significant line item in the business budget. The facilities personnel have jurisdiction over the building power consumption and cooling but less or no influence over the IT rooms and closets. This can lead to undersized power and cooling systems, which can be strained and bring down IT. With virtualization, the reduction in the number of servers and greener IT products, the opposite can occur--oversized power and cooling systems.
IT, through the CIO, is at C level management. Is the facilities organization at C level management? Probably not. With the cost of energy continually rising, the organization chart needs to change to bring the facilities management into the proper perspective. This will also have the advantage of raising the facilities issues to the business as a whole.
Businesses should create an environment that provides clear procedures that cover how IT and facilities work together, not as separate islands. There should be regular interaction between IT and facilities management, especially when IT changes occur.
Do You Have Standardized Work Process for Facilities?
IT is continually looking for and adopting standardized frameworks and best practices. This helps to improve the work processes and create an organized approach to systems development, implementation, operation and maintenance. The same should be true for facilities. This means that there should be uniform documented refresh and maintenance practices, not ad hoc or seat-of-the-pants approaches that rely on intuition and experience. This latter approach depends too much on individual competence.
The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) used in IT is a good example to follow. A Facilities Infrastructure Library (FIL) could produce an environment that would deliver consistent activities that are repeatable. A FIL-like approach can reduce the possibility of power and cooling interruptions and probably improve efficiency.
Is There a Facilities Change Management Database?
Change management is an important part of the IT operation. Well operated IT change management means that the systems and software assets are known, updated and maintained for the users. IT has a Change Management DataBase (CMDB). The CMDB supports the IT staff so that they can fix problems, update systems and software and avoid service interruptions. CMDB is especially useful during emergencies, providing the information to cope with the emergency in the fastest, most efficient manner.
Facilities asset management needs the same attention. Some of the items in the facilities CMDB are:
* The battery life and maintenance of the UPS
* The loads drawn by all the IT equipment; servers, storage, test equipment, management systems...
* The configuration of the power cabling
* The cooling system and components life and maintenance
* The operation of the cooling devices in the racks
* Plumbing configuration for water cooled systems
* Status of any off-line systems
* Scheduled maintenance and upgrade status
* Utility feeds configuration and status
This incomplete list is provided to show what the facilities CMDB could contain. The idea behind facilities CMDB is to know as much as possible so that there will fewer and shorter interruptions to the IT operation.