Vern Burke, SwiftWater Telecom
I’ve just been reading about the wear and tear problems with the Social Security Administration’s National Computing Center. The interesting part of this isn’t the race against the clock to get it replaced before it falls apart, but just how badly it was designed in the first place.
Granted, 30 years of un-upgraded wear and tear on a data center is bad news. The interesting thing to me is that the SSA Deputy Commissioner for Systems claims that the data center was built to the industry best practices of the time. Let’s take a look at those “best practices”.
1. “Let’s build it with only one HVAC system!”
Redundancy shmundancy, these things never fail, right?
2. “Let’s build it with only one UPS system!”
3. “We’re special, let’s custom build one single huge UPS system!”
Sure, take your number one most critical system in the whole data center (just ahead of the HVAC), provide no redundancy for it, and build a custom one-off that nobody may remember how to maintain in 10 years, much less 30. Brilliant.
4. “Let’s use a raised floor!”
I’ve written before on this blog about the evils of computer room raised floor, but the picture with the original article pretty much says it all. Pack 30 years of cable higgledy piggledy under your raised floor (probably with tons of defunct cable left in place, since I doubt you could pull anything out of that mess) and see how well your cooling air gets to the server racks. Brilliant again.
5. “Let’s run infrastructure pipes through the electrical spaces!”
It’s common knowledge that water and electricity don’t mix, so running any water pipe where a leak can effect anything electrical is fairly dumb. Even worse, think about having plumbers working directly over a battery string or another electrical system. Picture that plumber dropping a water pipe into the battery string bus bars.
6. “Let’s make sure we provide a non-redundant water feed for our critical but also non-redundant HVAC!”
I’m sure these are “best practices” on a planet in some alternate universe. In this universe, they just make you look like a bozo.