Key Lessons for Successful White Space Installations

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Today the only constant in the data center sector is change. Whether that means changing rack densities, adopting new ways of thinking about power and cooling, the shifting of workloads to the cloud, or changes in where hyperscale workloads are located, things are in constant flux. The lessons that endure, irrespective of the latest technology trends or macroeconomic shift — are what helps you to thrive, no matter the landscape.

Understand your customers’ pain points
It’s no secret that transactional vendor-customer relationships no longer hold water in the data center sector. Organizations, whether they’re hyperscale cloud providers or colocation operators, expect the benefits of a strategic partner — someone who can bring real expertise to the table and tailor their offerings to the customer’s requirements. Understanding those needs, the pain points that stand in their way, and how to remove them is essential.

As a strategic partner to organizations throughout the data center sector, Instor must be intimately familiar with the challenges that affect this industry, at both the macro and micro levels. Right now, Tier II and Tier III data center operators, for example, are experiencing a period of significant opportunity, as hyperscalers increasingly turn to their sector to meet their demand for new capacity. A challenge synonymous with this opportunity, however, is speed of deployment.

Hyperscalers have different expectations when it comes to the level of comprehension and responsiveness they need from their customers, often asking challenging questions and expecting definitive answers in short timeframes.

One of the main issues we’re seeing is the demand for faster white space buildouts, at greater speed and with lower margin than ever before. Many operators are also used to working with enterprise customers on a smaller scale, and don’t have access to the resources or experience that allows them to move at the speed which hyperscalers demand.

Whether they face the need to reduce overhead, to be faster and more agile, or to reduce their carbon footprint in the face of stricter environmental regulations, the more you understand about your customers’ pain points, the better equipped you are to eliminate them.

There’s no room for generalists
White space installation projects are complex — relying on the successful implementation of multiple interconnected systems. Power, conveyance, connectivity, and containment all must work in tandem, but also be individually designed to the highest possible standard.

In my experience, white space projects are no place for generalists, because being okay at everything and the best at nothing delivers a result that’s just “okay”. The challenge, then, is applying a specialist approach to each element of a large and complex undertaking, and the way we’ve learned to do it is to break down the project into smaller, manageable tasks.

When it comes to solutioning the white space, it’s important to understand which parts of the project you can break down most effectively, whether that’s conveyance, fiber connectivity, power, containment, or the whole thing in the form of a rack or a pod.

Once that process is complete, the next step is to adopt more of an assembly line approach, where you have competency-specific solutions engineers who are going to be able to focus on their own area of expertise. This approach means these specialists can apply their experience and skill to the area of a project where they’re going to have the most impact.

By breaking down each project into individual elements – power, containment, fiber connectivity, etc. – and then having each element handled by a specialist in that field, the quality of the work is much higher and yields a far better return on investment (ROI).

Look to the past to understand the future
A decade ago, you designed data centers for resiliency, and in some cases, efficiency. There wasn’t the foresight to recognize that data centers would become places where many different types of applications would be run. We had a very binary, black-and-white view of things like the power train, cooling systems, and different types of connectivity.

As an industry, we should’ve had the foresight to understand that our industry is mission-critical and would grow exponentially – 1 kw per rack would become 250 kw per rack in a decade and we could’ve made more accurate and educated guesses then by looking back and reflecting.

Instead, the industry designed for the present with little thought of the past and what it might mean for that future. Today there are massive amounts of legacy infrastructure systems that aren’t sustainable or inherently energy efficient, they can’t meet today’s connectivity needs, and have large amounts of stranded power, and other issues.

In an industry that moves this fast, when you build for today, you either need to think as though you’re building for the next ten-to-fifteen years, or whatever you do will be outdated by day one.

Design for customization
The most valuable lesson when designing data center white space today is that you must design with customization at top of mind. If you design, build, and fit-up a white space environment to serve a single application, you will have built something that is immediately out of date and not as useful to the operator as if you’d built something more versatile. It comes back to understanding the pain points your customers face today — and will face tomorrow — as well as the lessons of the past.

Designing and fit-up for a single application is the epitome of waste and inefficiency. Customization is everything to white space design. When you offer customers a single lane to use a product, it puts people in the uncomfortable position of having to do one thing at a fixed speed and not be able to deviate from the plan.

As a solutions provider this means you stand in the way of their success, and rather than solving pain points; you become the pain point.

Final thoughts
Just like the data center sector is always changing and evolving, so too are we. We work to understand the forces that affect our customers on a macroeconomic level all the way down to the individual rack.

By better understanding how our customers’ pain points are created, we can help to mitigate and avoid them in every element of the installation process, primarily by using a data-driven approach to break down any complexities and ensure that every element of a project receives attention from a world-class expert.

Looking to the past doesn’t let us see the future, but it can show us the shape of things to come, allowing us to avoid creating inflexible infrastructure that’s at risk of becoming legacy from day one.

If you want to know more about how we apply these key lessons to our white space design, build, and fit-up process, you can download our new white paper on the Prism Process here.

“By better understanding how our customers’ pain points are created, we can help to mitigate and avoid them in every element of the installation process, primarily by using a data-driven approach to break down any complexities and ensure that every element of a project receives attention from a world-class expert.”

Sam Prudhomme

President, Accelevation Data Center Business Unit

Contact our team for your next project!

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INSTOR SOLUTIONS: Founded in 1996, Instor is a global leader in data center design, build, management, structured cabling, power infrastructure, data center moves & migration, specialized containment, and cooling solutions. Instor has designed and installed infrastructure solutions for high-growth startups to Fortune 100 companies and public institutions. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Instor operates throughout the U.S. and in the European Union and has offices in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, Hillsboro, Oregon, and a European branch in Dublin, Ireland. Additional information can be found at https://www.instor.com.

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