Interview with VP of Data Center Planning at Citi Group, Christian Pastrana

1 May, 2017


This interview was conducted at DCD Enterprise New York (2017) with Christian Pastrana, VP of Data Center Planning at Citi Group, following his presentation on an energy savings initiative that was conducted with support from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The following transcript was edited for length and clarity.


Future Facilities: Please Introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do for Citi.

Pastrana: Hi I’m Christian Pastrana, I am an engineer in the Data Center Planning and Critical Systems Team at Citi Group. We are a technology-based team in the technology group, but with a facilities-facing focus. As a team of mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, networking folks, guys that focus on building controls, etc.— we act as a technical liaison to the real estate department, which is a close partner of ours. Real estate and technology have their hands directly involved in the data center, so seamlessly exchanging information and engineering concepts between the two teams is really important –and that’s what our team does. We get involved in anything from “onesy-twosy-type” adds, moves and changes to migration planning, new projects, energy efficiency studies, and global strategy.


Future Facilities: What led Citi Group to conduct an efficiency-operations project through NYSERDA?

Pastrana: Well, a couple of reasons. As I mentioned in my presentation, we have a lot of opportunities [to increase] energy efficiency. Citi has a global initiative to reduce energy on an annual basis by certain percentages, so that was one of the main drivers. But I really saw an opportunity for energy savings at the NYC site because it’s a legacy site that’s been around for thirty-some-odd years. It’s seen a lot of changes up to today, where now we have capacity left unused and cooling problems all over the place. This was the perfect opportunity for us to address not just energy improvements, but also show that energy is connected to other operational metrics like cooling performance and the like.


Future Facilities: Can you give us an example of how engineering simulation was used at Citi Group?

Pastrana: Engineering simulation was especially attractive to us because-- I’ve been doing this a decent amount of time, long enough to understand that often what you’re expecting to see as a result [in a data center], you don’t always get. We have been engaged in a multitude of projects where we are hoping to see something happen in terms of a performance improvement but at the end of the day we got maybe a portion of that benefit or maybe no benefit at all. We have even seen situations where taking a measure to improve certain situations has made things worse. We have become a little weary of committing to changes without actually testing them first and we are not going to be testing things in the data center. So, simulation was a really good interim step for us to understand the impact of doing something we wanted to do. Pursuing our energy initiative involves making changes to the facility in a couple of different ways which can be scary, so prior to committing to steps that were recommended to us, we wanted to see them first in a simulated environment. That’s for the most part how we are using simulation.

We have also taken steps at planning IT migrations,  and some other technology-related initiatives that we are planning such as tech-refreshes of equipment and planning for higher density deployments before actually building a high-density POD –something we are starting to get into with some of our cloud type deployments. We want to see how it performs first so simulation has been a way for us to do that.


Future Facilities: Given how quickly a data center environment can change, how do you intend to maintain the value of the model moving forward?

Pastrana: That’s a good question, and that’s especially true for a place like Citi. As an enterprise data center, the first and foremost thing that cannot stop is the work flow. So, as technology needs to change and equipment comes in and out, it’s hard to jump in and stop things that need to be stopped or halt the work flow. It’s hard to be able to pause and say let’s take a look at this and understand what the impact is. So, to kind of answer the question, it’s going to be a work-in-progress to actually implement environmental modeling into the very momentum-heavy process that Citi’s already involved in.


Future Facilities: Do you intend to roll out this technology to other sites in your portfolio either as a planning tool or consolidation tool?

Pastrana: One thing at a time, but yes, we are getting there. At this point we are at the early stages of showing the benefit of this tool to the larger organization. As I mentioned in my presentation today, we are small team on the technology side, engineering focused. We get involved in a lot like moving things, changing things, stacking things, but only from the perspective of making sure it doesn’t impact capacity in a negative away. We are subject-matter expertise, and little by little we want to start demonstrating that there is a value in how this tool can improve on our operations, improve energy consumption, and allow us to get more out of our data centers –but it’s a slow process. So right now, we have had a successful project with Future Facilities and with NYSERDA. I think the holy grail is to have this be a regular part of our processes along with the other tools we use at Citi. So, yes, hope to get there. 


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