The commissioning of data centres is a vital stage in the life cycle of any data centre project, whether it is a new facility or a retrofit. Fahad Jabarti, data centre engineering supervisor at Saudi Aramco, takes you through the dos and don’ts
In its simplest definition, the commissioning of the data centre is the verification of the data centre capability to meet its design intent. The commissioning basically is a series of tests performed on the data centre electrical, mechanical, automation and fire equipment and systems to ensure they are safe, reliable and efficient for the data centre operation.
The data centres’ commissioning has its greatest value from the benefits to the data centres’ owners by minimising the risks associated with any unplanned downtime which could occur when the data centre starts operating. It is definitely a check gate to ensure that the large investment of building a data centre is not wasted. In other words, you wouldn’t buy an expensive Mercedes before going on a test drive!
The planning of the commissioning starts early on during the project. It starts during the planning of the project when the cost and schedule are determined. This is because of the fact that it involves external organisations such as commissioning agents, or even extended support from the equipment manufacturer, and it also impacts the project schedule since there are several testing scenarios that have to be conducted on several weeks throughout the project timeframe.
I can divide the process of the data centres commissioning into 5 steps; these are the following. First is Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT), where the equipment is tested in the factory floor before getting shipped to the site. Next is Material Receiving and Inspection (MRI) when the equipment is constructed on site, Pre-Functional Testing (PFT) of the small components of the equipment, Functional Testing (FT) of the system as a whole, and finally Integrated System Testing (IST) which combines the systems together and test the interaction with the designed load through distributed loadbanks.
From my prospective, high reliable mission critical facilities require this complete commissioning program to ensure the investment is not wasted.
Commissioning data centres is not only about the process it follows, it is also about the people who plan it and execute it. This is why involving the right taskforce is crucial for a data centre project to succeed. This includes the project designer, construction contractor, data centre owners, equipment vendors and commissioning agency.
Nothing short of perfection
Getting commissioning right has never been more important. This comes from the fact that data centre owners tend to lower the risks of unplanned downtime of their facilities and avoid any unforeseen faults that could occur when data is processed through the facility.
The reason behind that is the high availability requirements that businesses mandate these days, where the data centre equipment must be tested extensively and stressed to their limits – to the level where the data centre owner knows how every backup system will react. This testing maintains the availability and protects the business, including what needs to be done in terms of failover to other sites.