13 Feb 2008

13 Feb 2008

Are “free” computer room site assessment services worth the money you pay for them?

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Category: computer room site assessment service, data center consulting, OEM

It has become commonplace for the myriad of IT and support infrastructure OEMs to offer free site assessment services in an effort to woo clients into purchasing their equipment.

While it was already difficult enough for small- to mid-size design consulting service providers to build credibility and brand-identity in the ultra-competitive world of computer room design, in the past few years these firms have seen some of their most valuable vendor partners become chief competitors.

This is not just a case of sour apples. The design services provided by most OEMs do their clients a disservice. Clients are usually only provided the part of the picture that suits the manufacturer and they are forced to fill in the blanks. Unfortunately, the blanks are often not identified. This leads to some very unhappy bean counters.

One leading power and cooling system manufacturer’s entire go-to-market strategy is based on allowing inexperienced enthusiasts to represent themselves as capable designers by providing them with access to an online configuration tool. Being an expert in its use myself, I can safely say the information it provides is rudimentary at best. Our team at PTS Data Center Solutions uses this tool only for ordering purposes and never for design. These online tools are being used by the manufacturer’s own systems engineers, reseller partners, or end users themselves to try to simplify the inherently complicated subject of computer room support infrastructure design.

The manufacturer’s configuration tool only provides solution recommendations for the equipment they manufacture. Much of the rest of the complete solution is missing, including the infrastructure they don’t sell, the labor to install any of it, and/or the engineering services to produce the design documentation required to file the necessary permits. Worse, little advice is provided as to the best project delivery methodology. While I would be the first to admit the traditional consulting engineering community has been slow to adapt to the latest design practices, the truth remains that as-a-matter-of-course changes to facilities still require the services of a licensed engineer. This includes the sizing of the power and cooling infrastructure.

That’s not to say the use of tools doesn’t have its place. Any consultant-recommended solutions should always be based on sound engineering using the latest technologies, such as computational fluid dynamic (CFD) modeling.

Individuals seeking computer room solutions are better served by hiring experienced, licensed, capable design engineers that are well versed in all of the major infrastructure solutions. This ensures that for a moderate amount of money spent in the planning stage you come away with a properly designed project with a well-defined scope, schedule, and budget.

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