What makes a good data centre consultant engineering firm?
Working with the right consulting engineering firm is a critical success factor when it comes to data centre new builds, upgrades and refurbishments. The question is one of selection criteria – how do you choose the best fit for your project? With a pedigree that stretches back to the beginnings of the dotcom economy and beyond, i3 Solutions chairman and founder, Ed Ansett offers the following list of attributes to look for and when formulating a shortlist.
1. Data Centre Specialisation
In a highly complex market beset by risk, being a data centre specialist is vital. Many design consultancies claim decades of experience of specialist expertise in the data centre space but then often struggle to show evidence of accumulated years. Experience also informs changing priorities, so in areas such as sustainability it is the specialist who is likely to be a leader not a follower in efficiency. Being one-hundred-per-cent data centre focused also brings the ability to deliver flexible, adaptable designs that not only optimise power, but also deliver added value from reduced installation costs to lower operational expenses.
2. An In-depth Understanding of Data Centre Use Cases
A good engineering consultancy works across all use cases found in the data centre sector from hyperscale cloud to wholesale colocation, large commercial and every type of enterprise facility. It should be able to demonstrate whole engineering lifecycle experience that spans new build, green field and brown field sites, the modernisation and renovation of existing facilities, and M+E plant and infrastructure replacement.
3. Don’t Underestimate Practicality
Specialists can deliver complex data centre projects through a practical approach to design which foresees both problems and opportunities. These problems and opportunities can often remain largely invisible to engineers whose primary experience has been gained providing services across multiple sectors such as commercial office space, retail and large residential projects.
The best data centre design engineering consultancies think in terms of getting the job done. This doesn’t mean cutting corners but rather it means understanding complexity without becoming swamped by it. Getting the job done properly is based on employing proven methodologies, established industry practices and professionalism with the flexibility to meet changing priorities.
4. What about Complimentary Skills?
Skills in risk analysis, risk assessment, cost benefit, due diligence and expertise in constantly pushing the science of data centre energy efficiency are vital. Good design engineering consultancy is only possible through schemes designed with installation, maintenance and upgrade in mind.
For a whole of life approach, it is useful for design engineers to come from different disciplines including client side and consultancy. This enables the design engineer to ‘walk in the client’s shoes.’ Schemes can and should be designed with installation, maintenance and upgrade in mind. All of these things increase convenience and reduce cost over the lifecycle of the site.
5. Client-Focus. Do They Walk the Talk?
Client-focus is not simply a buzz phrase, it means being committed to remaining flexible to client requirements, understanding that design is iterative and that it may demand change as projects develop. Data centre clients need an understanding of ROI and return on effort to squeeze costs at the design stage and but also to recognise where upfront investment can show great returns on Opex. Client success should always be at the forefront of consultant engineering thinking. Whatever the client objective, the consultant must demonstrate a results-based approach to getting the job done properly. It begins at first engagement.
Project flexibility can extend to new drawings and documentation at the design stage, managing third party contractors right through to engaging commercial data centre prospective clients as part of a sales engineering team.
6. A Track Record of Collaborative Working
Establishing trust-based collaboration helps companies deliver projects, protect their data centre investments and grow their business. Constant thinking about client objectives is where true value lies. There is no substitute for specialist knowledge. A good data centre engineering company understands the nuances of design and project management. It does not cut and paste design solutions. It knows the value of working closely with architectural and structural engineering partners.
7. Is Flexibility on Offer?
Specialist data centre consulting engineers offer flexibility unconstrained by bureaucratic rigidity often found within large engineering organisations. Responses should be quick and accurate. Communications should be clear and concise - specialist understanding means avoiding problems that can beset and delay large projects, incurring additional costs and damaged reputations.
8. Company Culture?
A culture of learning and cooperation is baked into how the best engineering firms constantly develop their people. At i3 Solutions Group, for example, some designers started life ‘on the tools’ whilst others have worked client-side, for contractors and as consultant engineers. They bring all that experience together with the new ideas of graduates just entering the industry for the first time, to support and delight clients.
In an industry that doesn’t stand still, new skills in fields of expertise and across new disciplines bring a true end-to-end perspective to the best data centre engineering consultancies.