Hassan Moezzi, CEO of Future Facilities (www.futurefacilities.com), says:

Why is the Virtual Facility concept useful in today’s enterprise data centers? Why should data center and IT managers care about it? How can they benefit from it?

A data center is built with fixed available capacity which includes provision for Space, Power and Cooling. However, owner/operators rarely, if ever, achieve anywhere near full utilization of the available capacity. The cause can be directly associated with the dynamic nature of the facility; IT assets as well as the type of equipment housed are in a constant state of flux.

In practice, once a data center is commissioned, IT management take over the operations. The Facility Manager (FM) has to react to IT Management (IT) requirements as and when new load capacity plans are decided – usually on short notice. Unfortunately, little thought is given to the fact that any operational decision, such as equipment deployment, has a direct engineering impact on the entire data center.

Air is the main vehicle for cooling IT equipment, and the transient nature of IT equipment deployment affects both airflow and temperature distribution. Poor airflow management can be directly caused by changes to IT equipment undertaken without full consideration. Dynamic asymmetric load distributions can therefore cause major problems over time as the data center starts to fill up; localized hotspots start to develop long before the facility is even close to full capacity, endangering data center health and encouraging facility managers to limit further equipment deployment.

This is a holistic problem and the owner/operator is dealing with a moving target in his bid to utilize the maximum available capacity. Increased thermal risk and costs due to stranded capacity and inefficient use of power are inevitable.

To address this complex interaction between the Facilities Management and IT requirements, Future Facilities Ltd (FFL) is advocating the use of simulation techniques to predict the cause and effect of any changes within the facility before actual implementation. Predictive analysis is the only way to avoid extra cost or potential disaster in a data center.

To this end, we at FFL are pioneering the unique concept of the Virtual Facility (VF) to help lead the design as well as operation and management of any facility. The VF is the full 3 dimensional mathematical representation of the physical/logical data center at any point in time, be it past, present or more importantly the future.

To create the VF for a data center, Future Facilities have developed the 6SigmaDC software suite, tailored to fit the lifeline of the facility. 6SigmaDC employs complex Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) techniques to simulate airflow movement, and also provides the means to build a perfect virtual replica of any facility, as well as its logical and physical behavior. Once the VF is built and calibrated, both the Facilities Management and IT groups can communicate through this one singular hub.

Where should the Virtual Facility (VF) rank in terms of overall priority in the data center?

The Virtual Facility is an umbrella that covers the lifeline of a data center in its entirety. It is a predictive methodology as well as a visual communication tool that should be used by the FM and IT management at all times from design, construction, and commissioning across to on-going operation of the facility. The data center industry is waking up to the importance of communication within operations, and DCIM is becoming popular. The VF is the perfect central communications hub that connects operations with engineering, and can contain as much detailed data center information (existing and predicted) as is necessary to operate the facility with improved success.

What are the biggest challenges for data center and IT managers when it comes to the Virtual Facility (VF)?

From a technical point of view the VF of the data center has to be built and calibrated in the first instance, which requires some commitment. However the most fundamental problem is for the IT and FM community to accept the concept of using a singular predictive simulation techniques as the pre-requisite for any changes within the data center, and as the entire solution for both engineering experimentation and facility management. Overcoming this conceptual hurdle reaps great rewards, as the VF acts as a buffer zone to test the cause and effect of any changes prior to the final implementation. This means optimizing facility operations without putting the data center at any risk.

How can data center and IT managers overcome those challenges?

The task of building and calibrating the VF is often taken on by qualified consultants using the 6SigmaDC toolset.

Once the VF is ready, IT and FM departments can use it as the hub for further operational matters. Future Facilities engineers are available to provide support if necessary, and those wanting to take the Virtual Facility even further can take a 6SigmaDC training course. Although it requires an initial commitment, the resulting benefits are typically more than enough to provide an understanding of the full value of the Virtual Facility methodology.

What advice can you give to IT and data center managers that have a plethora of similar solutions to choose from?

In general, the results of simulation solutions will only ever be as accurate as the tools used and the information put in; therefore it is important when considering a simulation tool to avoid short cuts and ‘quick fixes’ – after all, it will be used to improve the health of your data center, which is priceless.

Future Facilities believes fully that accuracy is the key to successful CFD simulation. We have therefore made sure our software takes into account as much physical/engineering information as possible to ensure simulation results match reality. We also actively encourage calibration of the simulation model, for the same reasons. The CFD calculations that take place behind the scenes of our 6SigmaDC software are highly advanced, providing precision and integrity in results and hopefully providing the user with peace of mind.

Whilst the use of CFD techniques is not a new concept for the data center community, the idea of building a complete 3 dimensional Virtual Facility that includes details such as the assets, power network distribution, cable management as well as dynamic power feed, live telemetry, and much much more, is absolutely unique.

Future Facilities Limited is a unique company in that:

  • We are dedicated to solving problems specifically for the data center market.
  • We develop the 6SigmaDC suite of products to bridge the communication gap between the IT and FM departments for this market. To this end we work with the full spectrum of the vendor community supplying parts and services to the owner/operators. This includes IT and infrastructural equipment manufacturers, various consultancies providing architectural, mechanical and electrical services, as well as owner/operators.
  • FFL has a consultancy engineering arm that uses our 6SigmaDC software in real engineering projects. This team also provides full calibration services for the client, and full software support. This engineering group tests and validates our CFD engine in real data centers, ensuring quality and accuracy. No other CFD vendor provides this complementary service to its software development in this market.

Our overall aim is for the common problems associated with facility design, operation and management to become a thing of the past, as 6SigmaDC and the Virtual Facility opens the door to improved communication, knowledge and understanding of the workings of each and every data center.