The addition of a data center to a building changes the requirements of facilities management. With businesses either wholly dependent on their IT systems or for ones where IT is their business, downtime is unacceptable. The key to efficient and reliable data center operations is continuous, efficient and reliable power and cooling. Yet, a building management system (BMS) is traditionally designed to only handle occupant comfort.
Those charged with facilities management in buildings with a data center need to understand the needs of mission critical 24x7 operations, and those charged with maintaining IT need to understand that a BMS plays a key role in keeping things running. Operations and IT staff must work together, just as a BMS and data center infrastructure management (DCIM) must be integrated, to achieve uptime.
Traditionally, the facility management and IT functions worked in siloes and the corresponding software performed independently of each other, but now forward-thinking organizations recognize that a BMS as part of a larger DCIM system can potentially offer facility managers and other stakeholders a lot of value.
A well implemented combination of systems provides a clear and concise view of what would otherwise be a complex and diverse ecosystem of disparate facilities and IT components. A BMS that shares and receives information with DCIM tools for the servers and network equipment can better ensure resources are efficiently used, planned for and maintained for high reliability. They can do so with fewer staff than manual monitoring and management.
Common pitfalls to avoid
To realize the full value and promise of an infrastructure management, three common pitfalls must be avoided.
- Choosing an inappropriate solution
- Relying on inadequate or mismatched processes
- Lack of commitment, ownership and knowledge
There are dozens of solutions that handle different aspects of data center and building management, respectively, many of which overlap in some ways. A too-common mistake that leads to failures and unnecessary challenges is the incorrect substitution of one tool, either BMS or DCIM, for the other.
For example, while some BMS tools can collect data from multiple sources, letting them gather and share information from data centers, the interface is designed for facilities users and so provides high levels of detail around mechanical systems.
BMS solutions fall short on providing the specifics needed for IT to understand the IT gear, network equipment and other components of data center infrastructure. The reverse is similarly true of DCIM; the details needed for facilities management is best achieved through BMS and electrical power management systems (EPMS).
Neither software can be all things to all users, making integration between the two all the more crucial.
Look for these features when evaluating both solutions:
- A scalable, modular and flexible system able to handle adds, changes, upgrades and create the necessary reports for users of different degrees of familiarity
- An open communication architecture that uses standard protocols to connect with all physical systems easily, and has the ability to export data in API for use in databases, web services and reports
- A solution built on previous experience; one that is pre-engineered so that all the complexity of communicating between Facilities and IT systems has been done
- Active vendor support; consider level of expertise, participation in industry organizations and commitment to the BMS or DCIM segments, and breadth of services, including experience with both facilities and IT
Automation and monitoring capabilities of BMS and DCIM tools help simplify processes and reduce the strain on employees’ time. Resources otherwise spent on these tasks can be redirected to ones that provide the organization with greater value.
Still, even the best systems rely on people to implement, operate and maintain them. Poor process is one major area in which many organizations go wrong and fail to achieve the results they are hoping for from management systems.
Beyond selecting the right system, the right processes need to be in place to:
- Accurately record, maintain and monitor assets in real-time. Management systems obviously break down if assets are mapped and recorded incorrectly
- System configuration must be tailored to the organization’s needs and objectives. Without doing so it will fail to perform as needed, important information may not reach the right people, alarms may be sent but without clear instruction, actions are not taken, etc.
- Ensuring that system alarms are set up properly and integrated into an issue resolution process, so that they are not ignored. Without this, crises that would otherwise be minor incidents can become disasters
- Ongoing reporting and clear communications around all systems to all stakeholders is critical to maintaining the health and effectiveness of both
Without buy in and commitment any process is destined to fail, so it’s little surprise that lack of ownership is one of the biggest hurdles around the successful selection, deployment and operation of a broad management system.
Management (the function) often drives adoption, but they should involve all stakeholders from the start, as well as offer continued support of the initiative. Ensuring that tool selection is appropriate and processes are top-notch demands IT, facilities and management agree upon goals and metrics up front, and, together, re-evaluate existing systems and processes to determine if they align with objectives.
Once properly programmed and commissioned, a BMS integrated with EPMS and DCIM and a facilities team working together with the IT team are the most effective tools to manage the equipment in mission critical environments.