Chris Crosby, CEO and co-founder, Compass Datacenters.

Data Center Commissioning: What’s the Best Approach?

Would you drive your new Ferrari 458 off the auto dealer’s parking lot without taking it for a test drive? No, probably not. The same applies to data centers, while these facilities, which represent huge investments, are engineered and built to exacting standards, they still need a “test drive” to verify that the individual components work togehter and that they are fully ready to “hit the road” so to speak.

Data center commissioning is important to ensure a mission critical facility can support its workload as anticipated. Chris Crosby, founder and CEO of Compass Datacenters, and former senior executive and founding member of Digital Realty Trust, will present on “Understanding Data Center Commissioning” at the Orlando Data Center World in October. Compass also published a detailed blog post on data center commissioning recently.

With the significance of commissioning in mind, Data Center Knowledge asked him a few questions.

What are best practices in commissioning?

“Use a third party with demonstrated experience in commissioning,” Crosby said. “This commissioning “agent” should be involved during the design process of the facility to understand its operational purpose and requirements. This information will enable them to produce the most effective commissioning scripts (tests) possible.”

Further, the commissioning process should include all five phases, according to Crosby. “Many data centers are only commissioned through the fourth phase, which only documents that each individual component functions as required. Only by performing phase 5, otherwise known as Integrated Systems Testing (IST), where the entire facility is tested under full load and in failure scenarios is the inter-operability of all components and systems verified.”

To be fully commissioned, a facility must be tested in all modes:

  • Failure
  • Safety
  • Emergency
  • Test in real life scenarios—not planned

Data centers that perform Level Five commissioning have verified reliability of design and compatibility among all critical systems, such as:

  • Electrical
  • Mechanical
  • Environmental

Why is Integrated Systems Testing a preferred method?

“Only by completing IST testing can the operator be assured that all systems operate as required under full load and in failure scenarios.” he explained. “This level of assurance is essential if the site is to support mission critical operations.

“Many providers are unable to perform this level of testing due to their use of shared backplane architectures. In these structures all data halls share the MEP, so it is impossible to test an individual unit’s operation in a power failure mode, for example, since all of the attached data halls would be taken down as well. This limitation makes it important for prospective operators to probe deeper when a provider tells them that they perform commissioning to ensure that this includes phase 5/IST testing,” Crosby said.

Find out more on data center commissioning

Want to learn more? Attend the session on Understanding Data Center Commissioning or dive into any of the other 20 trends topical sessions curated by Data Center Knowledge at the event. Visit our previous post on Software-Defined Data Centers: What Lies Ahead?

Check out the conference details and register at Orlando Data Center World conference page.

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About the Author

Colleen Miller is a journalist and social media specialist. She has more than two decades of writing and editing experience, with her most recent work dedicated to the online space. Colleen covers the data center industry, including topics such as modular, cloud and storage/big data.

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  1. Comissioning of data centers is a design and conformance quality verification process required, in part, because every data center is uniquely designed and built using construction methods and a "contractors' paradigm. In the manufacturing industry, repeatable designs are usually validated and verified up front and conformance quality to the design for production units ensured through process controls and design for six-sigma methods. While factory testing may be required, a full on-site commissioning rarely is for repeatable manufactured products. While you may want to test drive a Ferrari to see if you like it, or a Boeing airliner for that matter, you certainly don't have to test drive one to see if it works! The paradigm of data center construction that requires commissioning to ensure that the delivered system meets the design requirements is a model that assumes a unique design built without repeatable standard products. Why is the data center industry not able to achieve repeatable production? Perhaps it is time to evolve from a construction to a manufacturing approach.