You’re probably familiar with the expression “May you live in interesting times.” And I think it’s safe to say that, indeed, we are. The impact of COVID-19 has forced us all to make adjustments in our personal and professional lives. Whether it’s a Zoom call or binge-watching Netflix, it’s become apparent that we’re a little co-dependent on the internet.

The Department of Homeland Security lists data centers as essential critical infrastructure, which means maintaining  delivery schedules by adapting processes and procedures has become more important than ever before. Compass Data Center’s recent experience in commissioning and performing Uptime certification is an excellent example.


COVID Conundrum

Construction of the data center was completed before COVID-19 made wearing a mask the new standard of haute couture. But that was just the construction part. The final step before facility handoff is Level 5 commissioning. Traditionally, commissioning involves a team of 20 to 25 people crowding into confined spaces to monitor equipment and sensors — a thing of the past … for now, at least. But, we can’t stop building data centers when they’re in higher demand than ever before. So, we came up with a solution.

In order to complete what I believe is the industry’s first “virtual commissioning” project, the Compass team, our customer, commissioning consultants, and the electrical and mechanical contractors mapped out a plan to use  live-streaming cameras, wireless sensors, and a small group of on-site personnel. Those present relayed information to off-site team members via video feeds, sensor readings, texts, walkie talkies, etc.

The team prepared for a number of potential eventualities with contingency measures to make adjustments on the fly as needed. IST testing was successfully completed in one day, and Uptime redundancy testing was completed on the following day.

We expect to adapt our commissioning processes going forward to incorporate major elements of the virtual model to capitalize on the benefits we identified during the project. For example, virtual commissioning provided far more recorded data than we would have had with the traditional process. Additionally, we’re able to review the footage — similar to coaches after a football game — to identify areas for improvement.

No one knows how long the pandemic will last, but we can be sure that demand for data center capacity will continue to accelerate.

It should be interesting to see what other new ideas and methodologies arise from this extraordinary environment.

To paraphrase an old saying, “Necessity is the mother of innovation.”