Lesson 3: Saddle a project team member with detail duty
We did get some good advice from APC on our cooling solution, though even here a consultant would have helped. APC consultant or no, it would have been a good move to assign one of our project team to detail duty. We had a project lead coordinating activity and making sure the work was getting done. But we had no one tracking those critical little details -- product specifications, order status, supporting documentation -- that set us back time and again.
The order for our cooling solution was a case in point. Originally, we’d hoped to use the building’s chill-water cooling, because that’s typically the most cost-effective choice for small datacenters like this one. However, the chill water capacity was already taken up cooling existing labs. We’d have to use something else. APC’s product engineers put their heads together and recommended the InRow RP, a solution that uses two roof-mounted condensers matched to two APC SX rack-mounted compressors and evaporator assemblies. The InRow RP was the next-best thing to chill-water from a cost standpoint, and installation promised to be straightforward. Install the appropriate mounting brackets on the roof and run the right piping to HIG 319-319a through the pipe chase behind the room, and we'd be good to go. The best part is that the InRow solution is significantly more efficient than traditional datacenter cooling units, so we’re banking on significant energy savings as well.
After the adventure with the just-in-time structural inspection, SOEST's lead facilities manager, Phil Rapoza, insisted on proceeding with extreme care. Phil flat refused to begin construction on the condenser roof mounts until the condensers actually arrived. A good thing, too, because the two multi-ton condenser units we received were somewhat different than the unit described in APC's submittal drawings — different enough that the mounting brackets originally spec'd would have been useless.
One last condenser problem came to light only shortly before the units were ready to ship. Our project team assumed that APC’s sales team would know to coat the condensers with outdoor sealant for Hawaii’s highly salty, rust-inducing atmosphere. But without an APC project manager on the job, or any of us minding the order, the APC sales people weren’t even consulted. As a result, immediately upon arrival the condensers had to be moved from the shipping company’s truck onto a university truck and taken to a weather coating professional elsewhere on the island. This at considerable additional expense to SOEST, and the additional cost of a five-day delay during the construction phase of the project.
Putting a project team member in charge of tracking order details and other minutia likely would have avoided these difficulties. Weather-proofing would have been included in the original condenser order. Changes to the condenser models would have been noted long before they arrived, eliminating confusion over the mounting brackets. If you're diving into a datacenter project, you'll want to make sure that a dedicated, detail-oriented project manager is at the top of the budget list. Trust us when we say that the position will more than pay for itself as the project moves along.
Lesson 4: Hold your team close, and your vendors closer
One area for a project manager's special attention is the vendors. There are plenty of places a vendor can trip you up. Watch them like a hawk.