Cronin's Workshop: The 7x24Exchange Turns 20
Twenty years ago I had the honor of sponsoring the founding meeting of the Uninterruptible Uptime Users Group (UUUG), the forerunner of what we know today as the 7x24Exchange. I’m proud of what the 7x24Exchange has become but also because of all the personal and professional relationships that have developed over the years as a result of this organization. I feel that it is fitting that we take a look back at the early years: Much has changed, but much remains the same.
From the very start, the UUUG was bigger than the vision of just one or two people; it was the collective and sometimes contradictory visions of all the people who contributed their personal time, knowledge, and experiences. This culture of sharing binds the 7x24Exchange together even today “to promote a better understanding of the design, implementation, operation, and management issues in achieving high levels of uninterrupted uptime.”
The organization’s first meeting took place at in early summer 1989 at Shearsons’s new data center in downtown New York City. Meetings at Banker’s Trust, Chemical Bank, SIAC, and others followed. In November 1989, we had our first official meeting as a registered corporation. In the winter of 1991, we started producing a newsletter, and by May 1991, we had switched from three one-day meetings per year to two multi-day conferences.
Less than 18 months after the first meeting, we were having our second conference and had already outgrown the facilities that any user could offer to host the group. So after a previously overbooked meeting (133 in attendance) at the Sheraton Hotel in New York City, we took a chance and moved to the larger Radisson Newark Airport Hotel in New Jersey.
We still discuss today many of the topics from these early meetings. Session titles included Calculating Ride Through After Loss of AC, Networking
Three Telecom Sites, and the Effects of Harmonics.Today, some racks exceed 15 kilowatts of power demand so surviving a cooling outage still ranks right up there with the loss of power as a industry concern. Triangulating two hot sites and a distant non-synchronous third site is gaining market momentum, so networking data centers also remains current. Solving the harmonics issue rates as one of the industry’s greatest successes. Manufacturers listened to vocal groups like UUUG and made such advances in the power supplies that harmonics is now mostly just a performance notation in design specifications.
For years, “The Pass the Mike” session was a forum for exchanging ideas, but as the 7x24Exchange grew, the session lost its edge. At first, small groups of opinionated and outspoken users, consultants, and vendors could drive informative debates, but larger groups seemed to dampen the freewheeling flavor that made the session so productive.
In the summer of 1991, the newsletter contained articles like this one: “Halon – Is It Justified?” The article quoted NFPA as recording 80 data center fires a year. None of the fires started in the raised floor or above the ceiling, and two-thirds took place when the facility was normally unoccupied. Perhaps that’s why true lights out data centers never caught on.
Yet another topic still current today was addressed in an article in the spring 1992 newsletter, “Making EPO Systems Fault Tolerant.” The article described how a painter tripped an EPO in a data center during primetime operations by removing his painters tape from the EPO switch plate. The resulting outage accounted for 10 percent of the site’s unscheduled downtime that year. The painter was not scapegoated. Instead, the company took a risk management approach and developed standards for what work could be performed when.
Although the operational standards improved the process, we still find EPOs in data centers today. Plastic covers over the big mushroom buttons represent progress; however, we all continue to lose sleep over erroneous EPO activation. Some of us have discovered that codes do not require EPO switches unless there is a raised floor, but owners still have to convince the local governing authorities who place the safety of the emergency responders above a data center’s need for reliability. As a vocal industry group we continue to make progress on the EPO issues.
In January 1993, 7x24Exchange started the “Fax Forum.” Members would reply by fax to questions received by fax. It may seem hard to believe today that the first fax questioned the marketability of dual-corded equipment as a standard. In 1993, only a few manufacturers offered dual cords as an option. The answer to the question is evident in every data center today.
In later years 7x24Exchange focused on the Quality Equation and End-To-End Reliability. Other topics discussed today include energy efficiency, PUE, and carbon footprints. The organization has come a long way but, as always, depends on and thanks all those individuals who contributed their time and their enthusiasm for solving uptime issues.
Now as the founding generation of 7x24Exchange approaches its golden years, 7x24Exchange welcomes the next generation to build upon the organization’s collective knowledge, to become active and passionate participants, and take the 7x24Exchange to the next level in the evolving world of continuous uptime.