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"Infratech - physical infrastructure for server rooms and data centers" conference from a team leader’s point of view

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On April 25th 2013 I attended a data center conference, organized by Pure Conferences in Warsaw/Poland, and titled: "Infratech - infrastruktura fizyczna dla serwerowni i centrów danych" (in English: "Infratech - physical infrastructure for server rooms and data centers"). This was a very important occasion for me – not only Nordea Bank Polska S.A. was invited, but also my friend and team member, Zenon Ruta, was giving a presentation – titled: "Nowoczesne technologie, czy…?" (in English: "Modern technologies, or…?") – as an "independent expert".

 

I was glad to see my friend who has presented the most common mistakes which were done by few subcontractors and the ways we solved them, securing high standards of the physical infrastructure in our organization. In general, for all public trust institutions, like banks, this is crucial to secure their clients’ finances – such efforts have to be done not only on the legal and economical level, but also in the engineering domain. It’s easy to imagine that both worlds (bisuness and IT operations) are strictly connected and only as stable and secure as their weakest link. Therefore, this would be risky to offer financial services on the basis of low quality technical infrastructure – branches, all kind of telco/LAN/WAN, computer, server rooms and data centers included. Moreover, being data center professionals we even double-care about the way how organizational critical infrastructure is designed, implemented and maintained. This is the lowest layer of organizational stability, a foundation, hence one has to do as much as it is economically explainable to reduce the risk of uncontrolled downtime (this means business processes interuption or data loss - and recovery operations are always related to additional costs, too).

The presentation made by Zenon Ruta was not only related to the technical, engineering side of physical infrastructure. Its strong advantage was that it presented a legal part – thanks to that, all conference guests could realize how local law defines the rules and responsibilities of subcontractors and investor’s representatives. We should consider law regulations as guidelines, not barriers, so the trick is not in bypassing the regulations, but applying them in required areas. Especially when we talk about critical infrastructure – mostly electricity and power distribution or construction engineering fields – there is a serious risk related to the human and environmental safety, hence so good and strong law regulations are available. Furthermore, that’s why law defines high consequences for professionals bypassing defined rules – these are not only financial, but also penal. No jokes when we deal with electricity, cooling, fire prevention and suppression, physical security or construction engineering issues. To make the things clear – electric current which flows through the wires can destroy expensive equipment, seriously injure or even kill someone, if the installation was badly designed, built or maintained. Simultaneously, if the LAN/SAN cabling is designed, built or maintained inappropriately, this will only not work correctly for end-users – in worst case scenario resulting in total downtime until repaired.

 

Zenon Ruta/Nordea Bank Posla S.A. on Infratech data center conference

 Zenon Ruta on "Infratech - physical infrastructure for server rooms and data centers" conference, comparing two different solutions for data center LAN/SAN cabling. A “traditional” approach (on the left side of presentation slide), as it was called by external subcontractor who proposed such a mess for Nordea Bank Polska S.A., and the results of MDF (Main Distribution Frame) implementation according to the Nordea’s concept design by Filip Jeziorski from Nordea Data Centre Services Team/Poland (on the right side of presentation)

 

Aside of Zenon’s presentation I was very impressed by the lecture of Krzysztof Szczygieł from Skyline Teleinfo. This well-known Polish data center expert (a recognizable person not only for his commercial efforts, but also as an educator and industrial good-practices promoter) uncovered the details behind very important set of data center industry norms – EN 50600 – which are under preparation with the support of CENELEC (European Committee for Electrotechnical Standarization). The presentation titled: "Data Center w normalizacji europejskiej. Grupa norm EN 50600" (in English: "Data Center in European normalization. A set of norms EN 50600") described in details all norms which are planned to compose the full set and explained the purpose and meaning of this work. Usually, we all refer to ANSI/TIA-942 norm or Uptime Institute "de-facto" standards, when we talk about data center design concepts, reliability or maintenance good-practices. This is good to remember, that ANSI – however, known and referred world-wide – is an American National Standards Institute and, moreover, is a privately-held institution. This is an unique situation, because ANSI regulations are in most cases honoured by the government of the USA. At the same time, although very respected globally, Uptime Institute regulations should be considered "de-facto" standards, because are defined by profit-oriented organization (therefore, one can say that their origin is commercial, so these were created with the possible income in mind). Looking from such perspective, consequently and definitely, in European Union we need our own, independent set of norms and regulations for data center industry, which should be prepared and maintained by an independent (non-commercial and non-privately-held) body.

In the mentioned presentation, what I liked the most was a part related to the currently one and only published norm – "EN 50600-1 General concepts" – where it defines a 11-steps of data center investment process. There were the following steps defined: Strategy, Targets, Specifications, Initial concepts, Selection, Target concept, Approval, Design, Agreement, Implementation, Execution (my own translation from Polish – for exact terms please refer to the English original).

 

EN50600-1 data center construction process as presented by Krzysztof Szczygiel of Skyline Teleinfo

EN 56000-1 data center construction process as presented by Krzysztof Szczygiel of Skyline Teleinfo

 

My conclusion is: although the presented 11-steps process seems to be the only reasonable approach, how many times it is done the wrong way? What is the most important here – please note, that the Agreement step has to be done only after approval of target concept and preparation of designs which are based on previously made analyses of requirements (including – target concept approval). Also, a data center investment should be always a decision based on the organizational strategy. Otherwise we must lose control over costs or even fail with the investment. Well, I like the proposal of EN 50600-1 norm in this field!

To summarize, the conference was very interesting, but a little bit short. Maybe because physical infrastructure, server rooms and data center markets are still emerging in Poland? Maybe because it was very specific? There were more than 100 guests, so not bad in Polish conditions (considering the market size), on the other hand. What I liked – it was very well organized.

I was very happy to see my team member presenting his experience and knowledge to the wider public. Not only this makes a team leader proud, but also proves that it is really worth to be involved, raise the bar and develop all the time. This was an enlightening experience in both professional (when it comes to technical stuff) and personal (when we deal with interpersonal relations) areas of being a team leader. I hope Zenon Ruta had at least the same level of satisfaction during his performance. I believe that applause was the best evidence he did it well and all guests liked his lecture.

 

  • "Nowoczesne technologie, czy…?" (in English: "Modern technologies, or…?") presentation by Zenon Ruta/Nordea Data Centre Services Team (Poland) can be watched/downloaded here.
  • "Data Center w normalizacji europejskiej. Grupa norm EN 50600" (in English: "Data Center in European normalization. A set of norms EN 50600") presentation by Krzysztof Szczygieł/Skyline Teleinfo S.A. can be watched/downloaded here.
  • All conference materials can be downloaded here.

 

 

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