No real surprise here. Mission critical facilities that pride themselves on and/or are contractually obligated to provide the “five 9’s” of reliability know that sooner or later they must turn critical cooling equipment off to perform maintenance. And they know that they face risk each time they do so.
This is true even for the newest facilities. The minute a facility is turned up, or IT load is added, things start to change. The minute a brand new cooling unit is deployed, it starts to degrade – however incrementally. And that degree of degradation is different from unit to unit, even when those units are nominally identical.
In a risk and financial performance panel presentation at a recent data center event sponsored by Digital Realty, ebay’s Vice President of Global Foundation Services Dean Nelson recently stated that “touching equipment for maintenance increases Probability of Failure (PoF).” Nelson actively manages and focuses on reducing ebay’s PoF metric throughout the facilities he manages.
Performing maintenance puts most facility managers between the proverbial rock and a hard place. If equipment isn’t maintained, by definition you have a “run to failure” maintenance policy. If you do maintain equipment, you incur risk each time you turn something off. The telecom industry calls this “hands in the network” which they manage as a significant risk factor.
What if maintenance risks could be mitigated? What if you could predict what would happen to the thermal conditions of a room and, even more specifically, what racks or servers could be affected if you took a particular HVAC unit offline?
This ability is available today. It doesn’t require computational fluid dynamics (CFD) or other complicated tools that rely on physical models. It can be accomplished through data and analytics. That is, analytics continually updated by real-time data from sensors instrumented throughout a data center floor. Gartner Research says that hindsight based on historical data, followed by insight based on current trends, drives foresight.
Using predictive analytics, facility managers can also determine exactly which units to maintain and when – in addition to understanding the potential thermal affect that each maintenance action will have on every location in the data center floor.
If this knowledge was easily available, what facility manager wouldn’t choose to take advantage of it before taking a maintenance action? My next blog post will provide a visual example of the analysis facility managers can perform to determine when and where to perform maintenance while simultaneously reducing risk to more critical assets and the floor as a whole.