A PERIODIC PUBLICATION BY THE ABR CONSULTING
NO. 01 VOLUME 01 - May 11, 2001
Wait Times for Long-Lead
difference a year makes. This time last year, there was a 62-week lead time
for the most popular Tate raised floor tiles. Can you believe 62
weeks!!?. The most popular Liebert A/C units had a 8-10 month lead
time. Want a new data center? Wait 15 months. It wasn't a
shortage, it was red-hot demand. Reportedly, 3 million sq.ft. was tied up
by two major telecom carriers. In June of last year, we had a large
project that was reduced in size thus producing a surplus of 15,000 sq.ft. of
Tate raised floor components. At the time, these components were so hard
to get, we were seriously considering putting them up for bid on EBay. We
didn't. We even had one major customer accept wood-core flooring because
they needed their data center in 6 months and wood-core was all that was
the Lieberts are down to the time to build them (60-90 days). The Tate
raised floor components are in stock.
Generator Testing and Rolling Blackouts
problem here. With the onset of rolling blackouts in California, some data
centers are quickly finding out that their emergency backup systems are not
functioning as they expected. In fact, some are not functioning at
all. Generators are not energizing or, when they do, electrical
connections are not correct. The result is the sudden silence of A/C
units, servers and mainframes. Hint: You never want to hear a pin drop in
a functioning computer room. The cause - improper testing, lack of
testing and/or lack of proper maintenance.
You must periodically test the emergency generator systems regardless of any
threat of blackouts. This is especially important for essential services
sites such as hospitals, police stations, County centers, 911 operations,
etc. You never know when a nearby accident or other circumstance will take out your
Hopefully, your periodic testing is a method that includes the UPS/battery as battery failure is a
common culprit for emergency system failures. Emergency systems should be
tested monthly at best and quarterly at worst. Once a year testing is not
acceptable and invites failures in the system. Lack of maintenance on the
emergency equipment will also lead to failures, especially the UPS
battery. Unfortunately, rolling blackouts are forcing the
Testing Emergency Backup Systems
Most data centers are designed so that the emergency standby
generator supports the data center and possibly other IT areas but not the
general office spaces in the buildings in which these data centers reside.
This design restricts the complete testing of the emergency generator
system in that you cannot cut municipal power to fully simulate a real
loss of power. Dropping municipal power will be fine for testing the
systems for the data center but all power to the general office spaces will be
lost during this type of generator test. Not a good trade off.
Instead, many data centers rig their tests so that (1) municipal power is not
interrupted, (2) the generator is energized by tricking it to sense a loss of
power, and (3) general office spaces are not disturbed.
This is not our preferred method of testing a generator and its capability to
keep the data center alive for two principal reasons. First, a test of the
generator by not dropping municipal power leaves open the remote possibility
that when the real municipal power is lost, the generator will not energize
properly. Second, the generator is tested without the load of the data
center it is designed to support. Testing the generator without a load is
not good for the generator.
A third reason for some data centers is that the generator testing is so
independent, that the remainder of the backup system (UPS, battery load,
automatic transfer switches, etc.) are not included in the test.
This increases the risk that some portion of the data center emergency backup
system will not operate properly during a sudden loss of municipal
Our preferred method of testing a data center backup takes a bit of courage but,
in our opinion, is the one true method of making sure you have the best possible
chance of operating fully during a loss of power. It's very simple.
Once a month, go to the main power panel and drop the municipal power. Let
the entire data center sink or swim on the results. Most data centers are
not setup to run this type of test without bringing down the rest of their
building and for those that can, they're chicken to pull the switch. Most
will opt for just testing the generator. We have witnessed CIOs and
Operations Managers that demand such a strict test actually conduct these tests
on a monthly basis. They believe, as we do, that if the
data center won't work under controlled emergency conditions, it won't work
under a real loss.
Money When Relocating Data Centers with IBM Mainframes
have several hints for you when relocating data centers containing IBM
mainframes and large IBM peripherals. First, try to time your move event
at the same time you need to upgrade your mainframe. It's not as hard as
you may think. IBM provides a good deal of installation and training
services as part of the purchase or upgrade. Money to be saved here as
many of these services dovetail with your relocation planning. The best news is that you
don't have to move any mainframes. You can install the new mainframe,
completely test the system and have it ready for the software migration all
without serious time pressures. The older mainframe is left behind as part
of the relocation event for IBM to de-install. That's part of the deal
too. Second, consider a serial number swap. That's where IBM will
pre-install a like system to the one you need to move in your new data center
and will de-install your existing system after the move. IBM will then
swap the serial numbers on the two systems so that your software connects with
the serial number and your ongoing warranties remain as is. This is
especially useful for complex systems that take 2-4 days to de-install and the
same to re-install. An IBM 3495 tape storage system would be a prime
example where this type of swap would work.
Lastly, a serial number swap can be valuable when you cannot afford the
equipment downtime. Think about a bank and its ATMs. The ATMs can
blink as you cut them over but you can't take them down for a day or two.
In this type of move, temporary or new systems are set up in the new data center
and brought online. This is referred to as seed equipment.
This can be a very expensive, but necessary method of keeping your business
online to the customer. If you're using IBM equipment, you can save money
with serial number swaps.
6 Cable Certification On The Horizon?
closer. The June, 2001 meeting notes of the TIA committee 42,
sub-committee TR-42.7, the sub-committee (the committee that deals with Cat 6),
indicates that the sub-committee is trying to resolve final issues with Cat
6. They still need to finalize and send a ballot to all members of the
sub-committee. Still looks a ways off. A fully developed Cat 6 cable
will permit the use all 4-pairs of the cable. Full duplex transmission will take
place. If you wish to follow this sub-committee or any activity of the TIA,
go to www.tiaonline.org.
Much Equipment Yard Do I Need For My Data Center?
data centers that are 10,000 sq.ft. and above, you need roughly 1 sq.ft. of
equipment yard for every 2 sq.ft. of data center spaces (includes NOC, printer
Periodically, ABR Consulting Group,
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Contact us at www.abrconsulting.com
Phone: 925.872.5523 Fax: 916.478.2814