When you consider the point in the lifecycle of a data center when people most typically think of the need for consulting services, it’s during the upfront phases—right at the planning & design stage of a project. That’s when enterprises historically have brought in experts to help them plan, design, and build new data centers.
I want to stress “historically,” because things are changing. More attention is being given to the lifecycle of a data center, and the breadth of consulting skills needed to optimize data center infrastructure & operations over time.
We all know that data centers need to adjust and improve over time. However, in many parts of the world, especially emerging economies that witnessed very rapid growth for much of the past decade, the emphasis has been on rapidly building out new capacity.
Specifically, in many parts of Asia Pacific, where I am located, this rapid build-out mode went on for so long that there just hasn’t been the same level of focus on operational efficiency seen in data centers in more mature markets. However, recent recession, financial struggles in vertical industries, and business concern over financial crisis in Europe have all tended to tighten capital budgets. Now data center managers frequently are being told to find a way to get more life out of the existing infrastructure they have in operation.
The end result is that across the globe, data center managers are putting a high priority on operational efficiency as a means of getting more out of the assets they have. And to accomplish that, enterprises generally need help in the form of a lifecycle of data center services.
So whereas at one time, the services play with data centers was at the front-end phases of the lifecycle, today, we see two other stages in the services lifecycle rising in importance: the operate & optimize (operate) phase, and the assess phase.
Within the operate phase, companies that may have sought help in the design of a data center now are realizing they might want some remote management services to help operate the data center, or perhaps an even larger outsourcing of operations management for critical infrastructure and portions of the IT domain such as the placement of assets. After all, you can sit with experts to design a facility that works well on paper, but to have it run effectively, the assets need to be installed properly and be monitored and tuned so that the critical infrastructure and IT assets stay in synch.
We also are seeing clients who have a set of older data centers—a somewhat aging fleet, if you will—that due to capital expenditure constraints, needs to stay in service for years to come. This dynamic is driving the need for consulting services at the assessment phase of the data center services lifecycle (although the assessment phase can and will fall at various points in a data center’s life).
These services often take the form of infrastructure or energy efficiency assessments or other types of audits. These not only involve walk throughs and study of the infrastructure and IT assets on hand, but quite often, also involve detailed analysis and projections using data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software and data gathering and analysis tools and processes.. It’s worth noting that the type of services expertise needed to run this type of assessment is quite different from the type of expertise need in critical facility design. Few services companies can span all stages.
For Schneider Electric, this rise in the importance of the operate and assess phases of the services lifecycle is an opportunity—another point of entry into the data center lifecycle with existing facilities. And any way you look at it—from the customer perspective or that of the services provider—each of these points of entry is an opportunity to build trust. You establish that trust by proving you will design, build, operate, or make assessments in a way that avoids waste and achieves the optimal benefit from the data center over its whole life span.