25 June 2018
Most people have no idea what will happen if they pull a plug out at their data centre… because they’ve never done it,
says John Duffin, the managing director of South Asia at Uptime Institute.
The many data centre accreditations and guidelines can be confusing to CIOs and IT managers new to colocation. Sales will insist you don’t really need certain accreditations – usually when they don’t have it, even as they claim that the accreditations they do have are completely essential.
What does obtaining an Uptime Institute (UTI) Constructed accreditation entail, and what makes it so special? John Duffin, the managing director of South Asia at Uptime Institute and a highly sought-after speaker at data centre events in the region shares his insights to Telin Singapore.
Understanding UTI accreditation
“UTI Constructed accreditation is fundamentally a site test. Upon completion of design certification, a set of demonstrations are prepared for the physical data centre. The demonstrations list out what Uptime people want to see when they come on site,” said Duffin.
One of the first tests would be to turn off the main power to ensure that the backup power generators will start and seamlessly take up the load. Surprisingly, Duffin estimates that as many as seven in 10 of data centre fail this deceptively simple test.
“It could be a misconfigured [circuit] breaker could somewhere along the electrical path. Or one of the generators won’t start. Or perhaps the synchronization cables between generators were not installed properly,” he explained. Duffin says he has seen this happen even in facilities where integrated systems testing (IST) have already been completed with signed documentation as proof.
Problems don’t necessarily stem from shoddy or shady contractors, but from the fact that anyone can make mistakes, he says. And the only way to get around that is to test out failure scenarios to see if everything works as designed.
Duffin puts it this way: “An external party will turn up on site with a list of tests. Observe that the test loads are in place. Turn off mains power, turn on the generators. They will observe whether stability is maintained, and let it run for 12 hours,” he said. “Most people have no idea what will happen if they pull a plug out at their data centre… because they’ve never done it.”
You get what you check
Unlike public cloud providers who are essentially operating a private facility, colocation providers are interested in getting an UTI accreditation to validate their capabilities. “In your own home, if your sink doesn’t drain quickly enough, you will fix it yourself. If you are in a hotel, and the same thing happens, you’re on the phone immediately,” said Duffin, noting that colocation is akin to a hotel environment.
“The colocation hotel has a contract with the customer called the service level agreement (SLA). And if the SLA is not met, then the customer can and will complain. It is the colocation provider’s way of guaranteeing that what they’re providing meets their customers’ requirements.”
And independent verification isn’t limited to reliability, says Duffin, but also serve to ensure that the contractors build the facility based on design specifications. He pointed to the example of a data centre that was designed and built with 800 kilowatts of power capacity, and components such as the cooling accordingly sized.
During commissioning, however, independent engineers found that a different chiller unit was installed than was stated in the design documents. The result was a 100 kilowatts shortfall in cooling capacity, culminating not only in financial losses to the data centre provider – but could well have resulted in potential equipment failure if left undiscovered.
Soaring to new heights
This appeal of Uptime has not gone unnoticed by data centre providers in the region. According to Duffin, the growth in Southeast Asia has been massive, with scores of accreditations being conducted across the region including Australia.
He ticked off countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, many of which have multiple ongoing projects: “There are UTI constructed facilities everywhere, with more coming.”
And it turns out that there is a one-liner to describe the UTI constructed accreditation, too. “My boys have been there to try to break it, but they couldn’t do it. So, we gave them a certification,” said Duffin.