Data Center Planning — 26 January 2015

– Philip Fischer, Global Data Center Segment Manager, at Eaton, says:

As technology transition expands its reach within C4 operations, the challenge of achieving a balanced integration of people, technology, workspace and workflow becomes increasingly difficult. Understanding high performance console design provides the necessary freedom to deliver a high return on investment and a lower total cost of ownership in the mission-critical environment.

High performance console design is an important element of the overall facility design, and will reap productivity benefits when centers are brought on line. The console must be viewed as an integral part of the technology solution, equal to the hardware and software solutions being deployed. When executed correctly, this console perspective positively impacts how each employee interacts with the technology, the enterprise infrastructure and the rest of the working team.

As a central piece of the overall operational system, architects, designers, engineers and facility planners need to consider the four primary dimensions of high performance console design and peel back precepts of traditional console design methodology.

People

In C4 environments, people operate at high emotional states, often in anticipation of a critical event taking place. Understanding how people interact with other elements of the system within the environment is the basis of high performance console design.

It’s very important to understand who will be interfacing with the console. This information is integral to the design process as business productivity is directly correlated to individual productivity. One must consider the operator level – the individuals in the seat – as well as secondary levels of the operation including supervisors, system or network administrators, facilities engineers, technicians and even systems integrators who come into contact with the console on a regular basis. The ability to service the technology and infrastructure, while maintaining operational uptime, is directly impacted by the console design and configuration.

Technology

Technology and its supporting infrastructure are the backbone of C4 operations. High performance console designs efficiently and effectively store, cool, power, manage and secure the technology housed on or within the console.

As the primary human-machine interface, the console can essentially be described as the point at which the data center and mission critical personnel meet. Consoles tend to house technology locally. Because of this, safeguards must be designed into the console to avoid accidental power or data loss, equipment overheating or other unintentional consequences resulting from human error.

Power and data cables must be neatly managed and provide easy access for IT and facilities personnel. Yet, they must also be out of reach to avoid accidental disconnection. Airflow management solutions that include material selection must also be in place to ensure that higher density computer and network gear is adequately ventilated. In C4 applications, these measures should not be afterthoughts, because data and power downtime can result in life and death consequences.

Workspace

Physical space is, by far, the most constraining and least forgiving of the four dimensions. The space must be examined independently from the operation and from the console itself. Space planning identifies the space available for console design.

Additionally, physical and conditional attributes of the space, such as cable cut-outs in raised floors, power drops from ceilings, ADA requirements and other local building codes, also play an important role in the design of a high performance console for a C4 environment.

The main objectives in space planning are to ensure that the space can support the appropriate types of consoles and that the consoles can be adequately located to meet the workflow demand of the overall operation. Cabling, data and power distribution requirements of the operation must also be accommodated appropriately. In addition, it’s important to build modularity or scalability to allow for future system upgrades and equipment transitions as operational needs change and technologies evolve.

Workflow

Workflow is the integration of people and technology working collaboratively in the physical workspace, as well as individuals in various operations center job roles interacting seamlessly while functioning at peak performance.

It’s important to understand the relationship between the work types within the center. This includes managers, supervisors, operators, engineers, risk managers and each employee seated at the consoles. Additionally, the interaction of all people who may not be seated at a console must be clearly understood. These can be technical or administrative staff, facilities or support personnel, or even the general public in some cases.

Is an uninterrupted sight line to the entire facility required by a supervisor or manager? During critical events, will supervisors or managers need to have remote access or need to monitor an operator station? Are there specific times or physical points where there is interaction between supervisors, office administrators, other center personnel or the general public?

In C4 environments, there are two distinct workflow modes: normal day-to-day operations and critical event or crisis mode. The interdependencies of all the personnel working within any mission critical C4 environment need to be considered and evaluated to ensure that operator consoles are designed to meet these requirements and optimize operations.

Transitioning to High Performance

As the primary human-machine interface, today’s sophisticated consoles play a central, critical role in mission-critical C4 environments. Console design has evolved to the point at which it is as effective a contributor to operational performance as are the people and technology that work at them.

Higher levels of ownership and buy-in are achieved when the mission-critical team has greater input into the four dimensions of the discovery process. This detailed input ultimately enables higher performing people and more efficient operations during normal operational periods, and especially, during periods of crisis management.

Understanding the four dimensions of high performance console design provides the necessary freedom to deliver a high return on investment and a lower cost of ownership in the mission-critical environments.

Philip Fischer is the Global Data Center Segment Manager. In this role, Phil serves as the strategic leader for all of the Eaton’s activity in the global data center industry. He has over 20 years of data center industry experience in business development, strategy and execution, and various sales and marketing roles; and holds a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. An avid triathlete, runner and cyclist; you will find him off in all types of weather training/racing in events that range from a local 5K to an Ironman Triathlon.

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