Hyperscale data center deployments are setting a new standard for scale, speed, quality, and efficiency. Tim Stone, Director of Service Delivery at RagingWire Data Centers, shares four keys to successful hyperscale data center deployments.
Moving into a new space is always an exciting time in life, whether you’re a student decorating a dorm room, an adult settling in to a house, or a company customizing an area in a colocation data center.
Some of you might be saying, “Yeah, right Tim. Moving into a new data center space is exciting? More like painful, full of anxiety and unknowns. Often very painful.”
That’s because the old days of deploying “a rack at a time” are long gone. Today, hyperscale deployments can require thousands of racks to be set up across multiple facilities – sometimes even in different countries and often on extremely precise schedules. These complicated details and timing interdependencies require delivery teams with new skill sets, quick-thinking, and a solid ecosystem of service and technology suppliers.
With so much that can go wrong in a hyperscale deployment, many of you in this industry have probably had at least one unbearable experience when moving into a data center. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
At RagingWire Data Centers, our goal is to provide our clients with a seamless, end-to-end fit-out experience, whether they are requesting a simple cross-connect, expanding their current footprint, or moving into an entire vault or building. One of our specialties is program management that is tailored to the wholesale and hyperscale client. The more complex the project and the more challenging the schedule – the better.
We have found that even the most demanding hyperscale data center deployments can be delivered on-time and on-budget when the delivery specialists, the data center provider, and the client work together as an extended team with a common vision and shared objectives.
What have we learned from working on hyperscale deployments? There are four keys that unlock the path to a successful, happy fit-out … in other words, no pain.
1) Communicate directly with suppliers
By interacting directly with suppliers, we can streamline project timelines and complexities while reacting much quicker to modifications – all of which can keep a project on schedule.
So for instance, if the configuration of a layout needs to be modified during a fit-out, some clients may think that requires going back to the drawing board and creating a new design. They may have had that happen before. However, our team of experienced project managers can work with the client to develop problem-solving options and communicate directly and clearly to contractors and equipment suppliers, which can keep the project on schedule and within budget.
Often clients don’t know the best local subcontractors because they don’t handle deployments all the time in a given location.
If there are too many people between the stakeholders and the ones executing the plan, the result can be like “the telephone game” where details are excluded, misunderstood, or changed. We have found that by directly managing the contractors who are performing the work, our projects stay on track and costs are contained.
2) Carefully select and manage your subcontractors
Often clients don’t know the best local subcontractors because they don’t handle deployments all the time in a given location. They are data center experts, but might not be as knowledgeable about the strengths and availability of various local suppliers as we are.
We can save time and money on a fit-out by simply bringing in the appropriate contractors for the task, and managing the schedule. This sounds obvious, but we’ve heard from clients who have indicated that sometimes this step isn’t done very well. We can offer to connect clients with our recommended equipment vendors, or work with their preferred vendors and contractors.
And also, when we recommend a subcontractor, we are confident that experienced professionals will show up on time and be prepared to go to work. We make sure that contractors have been on-boarded regarding our work rules, are experienced with our type of facility and the infrastructure being deployed, and will handle task orders efficiently and effectively. We also see first-hand which subcontractors work best when they need to perform tasks side-by-side with other contractors.
Matching the right subcontractor to the task is crucial. For instance, different tasks throughout the project require different levels of expertise. Some tasks, such as tile cuts, conveyance and cabinet bolt-downs, can be done by lower-cost subcontractors rather than by more specialized, higher-priced subcontractors whose skills are a better value when deployed to more complicated tasks.
3) Be a good listener
Most data center installations have some aspects that are standard, or at least similar to the projects we’ve handled before. But typically each project has some critical path components that can put the schedule and budget in peril if not handled properly.
For example, customers often have pre-deployment plans which must be developed into a statement of work (SOW). But these plans almost always require some sort of refinement to allow them to work best in the new space. Also, customers may need assistance with the entire project, or possibly only certain components within the SOW.
We listen closely to find out what a client’s internal challenges are. Perhaps a client expresses that their purchase order process can drag a project’s pace to a crawl. By being a good listener, we may be able to determine where the barriers are in the process. Then we make sure to customize the ordering interface to reduce the time it takes to evaluate purchase decisions. We may be able to wrap what could have been multiple separate purchase orders into one master purchase order for the customer to issue. We also give customers the choice of flexible billing options, to better synchronize with their internal processes.
4) The buck stops here
Our on-site team takes full responsibility for every detail of the client’s fit-out. Around here, we call that “taking extreme ownership” of a project. We know that every client’s fit-out could be a turning point in that company’s history, and we want to make sure we’re doing our part to launch them toward success.
But saying that the buck stops with us and making the client feel that sentiment are two different things. Our clients know that the buck stops with us because they can reach me or their dedicated project manager directly, whenever they need to. We’re engaged in their project, proactively working with them to develop creative solutions to their issues. We work with the client to set realistic, agreed upon time frames for project milestones, and then achieve those tasks.
To sum up, Thomas Jefferson once wrote that “The art of life is the art of avoiding pain.” If there had been data centers back in Mr. Jefferson’s day, it is likely he would have agreed that the best data center deployment managers are masters in the art of avoiding pain by recognizing the threats to quality, schedule, and budget, and guiding the project safely around them.
Tim Stone is Director of Service Delivery at RagingWire Data Centers. Connect with Tim on LinkedIn.