Designed for disruption - the impact of a pandemic on facilities

The pandemic has changed many things about business and technology. But perhaps one of the impacts that will be most visible in the sphere of data center design is the increased demand for certainty - in performance, resilience and ongoing flexibility.

The role of the designer is changing in our industry. As organizations seek greater certainty in just about every aspect of their business management, there will be increasing demand for predictability in data center operations. 

It’s hard to say whether, when you produce a design for a data center, the legacy of that work is one facility, or many hundreds. Because from the moment the data center goes live (probably before) the continual process of adding and removing hardware, or adjusting cooling parameters, means nothing is continuous. However these multiple imagined states are typically just that - imagined.

Leadership in resilience

The need for design leadership in developing facilities is not slowing. The Uptime Institute has shown that: “The enterprise data center is neither dead nor dying. The switch of critical loads to a public cloud is happening slowly, with more than half of workloads expected to remain in on-premises data centers in 2022.”

COVID-19 has continued to put a focus on conservative thinking in how and where workloads are deployed. In fact, the uncertainty of the pandemic appears to have further reduced tolerance of risk within core infrastructure, meaning accurate, predictive design simulations will need to become the norm.

We predict that at the design stage of any new project, more questions will be asked. "What if this" and "but what about that" are going to be more complex and more frequent. All of which means that the ability to showcase different permutations of the facility becomes a critical deliverable within any design submission.

Creating the closest thing to certainty

This difficult relationship with predictability hasn’t been for lack of trying, with various forms of CFD used in an attempt to improve modelling. Sadly these have left too much guesswork involved. A lack of quality data and insights, used to support and guide decisions, has put designers on the margins of the certainty that enterprises demand. It has forced plans to be created with a degree of speculation or educated assumptions. The aftershocks of the pandemic mean that’s no longer sustainable.

With the arrival of the Digital Twin for the data center, we’re fast forwarding the industry to this more predictable, manageable state. The Digital Twin allows you to simulate and test designs, and to accurately simulate even the most detailed changes to your client’s physical facility and IT infrastructure. It also improves the transition from design to operation, providing a data exchange format to support operators use of their own Digital Twin. 

The Digital Twin has accelerated the need to put greater control in the hands of consultants - helping them improve the speed, accuracy and granularity of thermal design, and in turn improving their own sales cycle. A win for the consultant, a win for the client.

Blog written by: Sherman Ikemoto, Managing Director

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1 December, 2020

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