There’s a concept in building design and construction known as “commissioning.” Most of us understand the word “commission” to mean a formal request for the building or making of something. A wealthy patron might commission a painting from an artist, for example. However, there’s also a second meaning of “commission”: to bring into working condition something newly produced, such as a factory or machine.
When it comes to, say, an office building, commissioning validates that everything is in working order so that the tenants can move in. It also confirms that all building systems are operating as efficiently as possible, and that monitoring systems are in place to alert maintenance personnel whenever a problem occurs. The idea is that you want to identify excess energy usage, poor indoor air quality or potential safety concerns as soon as possible, before they become major issues.
Data centers also are commissioned, but the process is somewhat different. Yes, commissioning needs to ensure that all building systems are working properly, and that extends to computer room air conditioning (CRAC) units and chillers, uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs), emergency generators, and other data center infrastructure. In addition, data center commissioning must make sure that systems fail correctly. For example, when the electric grid goes down, the UPSs must support the IT equipment until the emergency generator comes on.
A key function of commissioning is to establish a schedule of tests to be performed at various phases of the data center implementation process. If equipment vendors are to conduct the tests, it’s important to verify that the testing procedures will in fact prove that the equipment will perform as required. In addition, integrated systems testing should be performed to confirm that all components of the data center infrastructure work together.
Formal documentation should be completed as part of the commissioning process, including final specifications, as-built drawings, test scripts and results, and other records. Commissioning can also aid in the development of “runbooks” with detailed information about the site and standard operating procedures. Operations and maintenance staff should receive formal training on how to maintain the various building systems and ensure data center availability during planned and unplanned outages.
Although commissioning may sound like an extra set of steps in an already complex process, it actually increases the likelihood that the data center will be completed on time and within budget. Commissioning can help catch potential problems early so they can be corrected before costly and time-consuming rework is required.
Commissioning also saves money in two ways. First, it helps to ensure that mission-critical systems are operating efficiently and to streamline ongoing maintenance and management of the facility. More importantly, it reduces the risk of a data center outage, which costs nearly $750,000 on average according to data from the Ponemon Institute.
Rahi Systems offers a comprehensive array of data center infrastructure services, including assessment, engineering, design, specification, installation and project management. Our seasoned team of professionals can assist you with validation and testing, or work with third-party providers to ensure that everything is functioning as required. We are here to help maximize the efficiency of your data center and minimize problems down the road.