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Data Centre Project Management

Ten important rules for Date Centre project management

The process of commissioning a Data Centre, with it’s indepth analysis of business drivers and physical commercial needs can be the single most valuable process in ensuring that Data Centre implementation is successful and cost effective. The documentation that is produced at this stage of the plan is an enduring foundation for all future requirements, growth and expansion and it is imperitive not to make avoidable and costly mistakes.
Data Centre commissioning is an insurance policy that helps to ensure the success of a Data Centre design / build project. A proper commissioning exercise reviews and tests the Data Centre’s physical infrastructure design as a holistic system. Data Centres are designed and built in order to address corporate business requirements. Commissioning validates the investment by providing a framework for successful operation of the Data Centre. on365 see the commissioning process as a critical part of the Data Centre build process. A well executed commissioning excersise includes review and test procedures that analyse the physical infrastructures suitability to address all corporate business needs.

Here we offer guidance on ten important factors:  

Rule 1: Engage a Project Manager to commission the Data Centre

The earlier on365’s project management can get involved, the more thorough the  planning process becomes. Coordination of vendor involvement, on site engineering and installation teams is imperitive to the long term success of the Data Centre. Unfortunately, commissioning a project manager is often an afterthought and can take happen just before the Data Centre is scheduled to become operational, this makes for unreasonable and unachievable time constrains and increases the risk of downtime at cutover.

Rule 2: Failure to Align with Current Technology

on365's testing utilises the very latest techniques to ensure that outdated procedures are not increasing risk or, at very least, confusing the IT management team with inaccurate results. on365 regularly update procedures to include the very latest device technology and demands.

Rule 3: Assign roles and responsibilities amongst project management team members

Team members are usually a set of individuals with disperate personal or commercial objectives. It is important to map the project in terms of responsibilities and team roles so that everyone, from Finance, Board of Directors, IT team, out sourced engineers right through to project management, knows where their responsibilities lie.

Rule 4: Keep the master plan validated and up to date

Dynamic and unexpected changes tp the plans and schedules are inevitable. It is imperitive to make changes to only the on365 master plan, and then communicate changes back downstream. Alterations made by specific individuals and not communicated appropriately undermine the entire project and success of the installation. Regular update and review briefings are scheduled by on365 project managers to ensure a steady flow of information.

Rule 5: Plan for unseen costs or cuts

Contingency works both ways. on365 help carefully calculate the costs involved and then advise on contingencies to help cope with unforeseen costs or budget cuts. We often see management decisions to reduce budgets towards the end of projects and know exactly how this can affect the likely success of a given project. Cost management and review meetings a part of the same process in Rule 4, again so that visibility of challenges is maintained.

Rule 6: Correctly calculate heat loads

The heat generated by higher density servers now has a major impact on physical infrastructure components which, in turn, support the uptime of the servers. For example, when commissioning an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), the Data Centre electrical load is often simulated by utilising very large, exterior resistive heating units. These heating units often arrive on the back of flatbed trucks and are wired to the output section of the UPS. The problem with this scenario is that only the UPS is tested, ignoring, for example, the cooling system. The UPS is not tested as part of an integrated system.

Rule 7: Hunt for and eradicate weak links in the system

Numerous potential pitfalls exist which must be flushed out during the project management process. These weak links can exist in several layers of the physical infrastructure element. The UPS integrated commissioning test, for example, will place critical stresses on the UPS batteries. Each test reduces the amount of battery charge available for future tests.

Rule 8: Always publish emergency operational procedures

The members of the Data Centre construction and commissioning team may not necessarily be the same individuals who are responsible for operating the equipment in the new Data Centre. Clearly viewable and accessible emergency operational procedures should be affixed to each piece of physical infrastructure equipment.

Rule 9: Consider the Impact of Human Fatigue on Test Results

Depending on the size of the Data Centre design / build project, the project can last anything from a day to weeks. The employees involved work long and hard hours and are under constant high levels of stress. Many of the individuals involved are sleep deprived and perform the project installation over weekends and long into the night. This scenario creates conditions that can lead to unfortunate and costly human error.

Rule 10: Update the project management plan documentation

Once the new Data Centre is commissioned, Data Centre operations staff personnel are likely to change over time. If the project management plan is kept up-to-date, then the Data Centre knowledge base remains with the company and not with the individuals. The commissioning documentation can serve as the principal source for training of new employees. In addition, the project plan can serve as a baseline to determine when management should consider upgrading or moving the Data Centre


Project Management is a process that, if not properly deployed, can lead to a series of problematic Data Centre performance issues. Everything from the early selection of the project manager through to the thorough documentation of test results can influence whether or not the Data Centre meets the expectations of the business sponsors. Project management requires a high level of coordination between vendors, facilities and IT department, personnel, mechanical and electrical engineers, on365 and others.


  • Pelco
  • Schneider Electric Partner
  • APC Partner