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How IsBank’s Istanbul data centre achieved Tier IV Gold Operational Sustainability

One of only ten data centres worldwide to secure the Uptime Institute’s highest certification for operational sustainability.  Reaching that standard was very much a ‘people process’, explains RED’s Kerim Oktay.

The Uptime Institute's Operational Sustainability standards are designed to ensure that well designed data centres live up to their promises. This means delivering full performance potential, avoiding errors and identifying opportunities to increase energy efficiency and minimise risks, on a continuous basis. The Tier IV Gold standard asserts that the technology and processes in place are so strong that they will be good for at least three years. Achieving it is very different from achieving design standards, because it is essentially all about how people will operate the data centre. In particular, it considers the following categories:

  • staffing and organisation
  • maintenance
  • training
  • planning, coordination and management
  • building features
  • infrastructure
  • operating conditions
  • pre-operational
  • natural disaster risk
  • man-made disaster risk

At the heart of the Operation Sustainability standards is an acceptance by all parties that, whilst negative data centre incidents and sub-optimal performance can often be attributed to human error, the likelihood of such errors occurring can be greatly affected by management decisions regarding matters such as staffing levels, training and maintenance. When all aspects of the site infrastructure and management practices are properly aligned, the highest operational standards can be realised. Our aim from the outset was not only to obtain the credits defined in TCOS Tier IV Standards but also to achieve bonus credits.

IsBank is the largest bank in Turkey, with tremendous experience in stringent rules and procedures. Even so - perhaps partly because it is so large - it took six months of hard work to both define the required resources, procedures and policies, and to then verify their implementation by the bank operators. Achieving the Tier IV Gold standard thus involved real commitment by all parties. Central to the process were weekly, four hour meetings. At each meeting, works completed during the past week were reviewed and tasks for the week ahead coordinated, all set against a general progress schedule.

All targeted dates were met. This involved a huge amount of meticulous preparation and administration. For example, in some categories, it was necessary to stipulate that regular tests should be completed by the contractor at every level relevant to testing and commissioning. Great attention was given to Site Acceptance Tests, Factory Acceptance Tests and Integrated System Tests. All minutes, service forms and test sheets were signed by all parties and be kept for inspections. In some categories, both natural and man-made risks were questioned.

Achieving Tier IV Gold ensures that a data centre fulfils its potential, reducing downtime, running costs and energy use, in the process. Getting there, though, depends as much upon the operator, as on the technology and the consultant engineers involved. In this instance, the determined commitment of the IsBank, was thus crucial.

The Uptime Institute’s Operational Sustainability standards essentially certify that the data centre has the right level of human resources to operate it, and that those people have the very best tools, systems and processes to work with. In summary, there are three elements:

  1. The development of effective processes, documentation and flowcharts: equipment maintenance; systems monitoring; fault identification, escalation and resolution – among many others.
  2. The ‘people’ side of data centre operations: such as skills assessment and acquisition; facility ownership; training; rostering; contractor and vendor management.
  3. Continuous improvement: informed by continuous reporting and analysis of performance; capacity planning; process enhancement; project, change and risk management.

Certification is a lengthy process because it involves full disclosure and a demanding audit by the Uptime Institute. Operational Sustainability is an ongoing endeavour and certification is only awarded for a set period; only those facilities that demonstrate truly sustainable practices and operations are awarded Gold, which is valid for the full three years. Silver (two years) and Bronze (one year) certifications are awarded where there is any doubt of sustainability.

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