There are times when it will necessary to move a computer room or relocated systems within the computer room to another location. This can be a complex task depending on the type of system to be moved, whether it can be moved complete or requires dismantling and re-commissioning and whether the equipment is sensitive to handling and transportation.
Complete Server Room Relocations
Like any server room development, every server room relocation project requires planning and preparation. The first thing to consider is the IT service continuity and the shutdown procedure for the servers and associated systems within the facility.
We often come across server rooms and datacentres that have not been closed for a long term, sometimes running into years. There is a general fear to power down a complete IT facility for several reasons. Firstly, there may be legacy systems running with software and hardware configurations that it may be difficult or even impossible to find manufacturer or technical support for. The second is that electrical and electronic equipment typically fails when powering up following a shutdown. Think of a light bulb that blows when the wall switch is turned on. This in turn creates a power surge and short circuit that can trip upstream circuit breakers.
The first step therefore in any server room relocation is to generate a comprehensive Risk Assessment and Method Statement (RAMS) document that covers every stage and task associated with the relocation. Each stage must be documented with identified areas of responsibility and a risk factor associated (scaled 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest) and what can be done to mitigate the risk factors. Whilst this approach can lead to a longer project timescale, it will prevent unnecessary issues from arising and lower any overall risks in the project.
One of the next steps is to ensure there is a complete electrical and network cabling diagram for the IT room including a hardware location map. This should include each cable whether AC, DC or network cable being identified with a unique tag number and this then being shown on the relevant maps. A complete manifesto of the hardware on site is required together with a post-installation power-up and commissioning plan.
A further consideration is packaging and logistics of course. No doubt, the original packaging will no longer be available. When new kit arrives on site, the packaging whether it’s a cardboard outer and polystyrene insert and/or a palletised delivery are typically removed for disposal or recycling.
Equipment may also have been installed within the server room space following delivery as a semi-knock down kit. This is common for server cabinets and more complex UPS systems as it helps the overall logistics plan.
Here the specialist logistics team at Server Room Environments can provide several services. These include full logistics planning including disconnection, decommissioning and route planning as well as specialist packaging. Equipment routes may have to be reviewed for obstacles all the way from the server room to the vehicle point-of-loading and then at the new site.
For sensitive IT equipment, it may be necessary to provide metal transportation cases with shock-proof foam inserts. For other systems shrink wrapping to a pallet may offer sufficient protection during transportation.
In terms of IT continuity and the complete facility shutdown, plans can differ. As part of any business continuity plan it is important to ensure that data is backed-up appropriately and clouded where possible. Before a server room move it is important to recheck back-up lists and ensure that there is a sound copy of every software system and database.
For small organisations having a good archive and data storage system in place may suffice. Larger facilities may already have datacentre mirroring and disaster recovery sites in place. These again need to be reviewed before the datacentre facility to be moved is powered down.
Related to this is the fact that post-power down, the organisation whether a private or public company or public sector or blue light emergency service could have no IT facility. For obvious reasons, this type of service outage must be planned into operations timetables and alternative IT services put in place or done without.
A complete server room or datacentre shutdown will most likely require sign-off and approval by a committee, management team or even a CEO. Often, they will be consulted not just for approval of the operation but also the timescales and disconnection and reconnection dates and times. This is because ultimately there will be operational and potentially health & safety issues to consider for the wider organisation.
As part of this stage of the planning process it is important to also consider recommissioning issues and delays and what to do if the server room or datacentre facility does not come back to full operational capacity by the set reconnection and ‘live’ time and date.
UPS System Relocation and Removals
Aside from server rack relocations one of the most common server room sub-systems that we are asked to relocate is an uninterruptible power supply. There are many reasons for this and often this can be due to either the need to free up space within server cabinets or on the server floor itself or removal as the UPS system has been replaced with a new device.
The complexity of relocating an uninterruptible power supply depends on its size and the number of battery packs. With a small UPS system weighing less than 20Kgs it can simply be a case that the UPS is powered down and disconnected from the powered down servers and IT systems it has been running. The switched-off UPS system may or may not have a DC isolator on its rear panel and once completed powered off can be boxed.
For larger systems, a more complex removal process may be required. Consider an old 100kVA transformer-based UPS sitting on a metal plinth on the concrete sub-floor so that its foot level is to the height of the raised access floor, and with a separate battery cabinet.
Firstly, the UPS system must be powered down. This process could interrupt any IT facility loads powered by the UPS system. Alarm and notification scripts should be reviewed to prevent triggering of other processes. Whilst the AC and DC isolators on the UPS system itself will be turned to the off position, it is also important to consider the UPS battery pack. The batteries within the battery cabinet or on the battery stand may be charged and therefore act as an energy storage system. The battery cabinet will be connected to the UPS system and when disconnected the DC cables can still be live. The battery cabinet DC isolator needs to be put into the ‘off’ position to allow the battery cabinet to be safely moved or the dismantled. If the batteries are on a stand the isolator in the ‘off’ position also allows for safe dismantling of the battery set and stand. It is also important to note that as with an AC electrical system, only approved, trained and certified engineers should handle the DC side of any system.
Weight is always an issue with UPS systems and especially transformer-based UPS. The UPS on a plinth may require specialist lifting gear to remove it from its plinth and then onto a pallet. The device may then be moved from its location but again specialist gear may be required to move the device including stair-climbers, a crane for roof-to or high-floor buildings without a lift. Lift capacities also need to be checked as do transportation routes which if they have special floor finishes may require additional boarding and protection.
Post Relocation Clean-up
Any system or server room relocation will leave the facilities requiring a clean-up. In the new facilities, it may be necessary for a post-build surface level computer room clean as the facility should already have been prepared. For the decommissioned room, a deep clean may be necessary to remove as dust and particulate matter will have been disturbed from places not normally accessed. This can include air conditioning ducts and vents, suspended ceilings, server cabinet tops and raised access floor voids.
There are many aspects to consider when moving a complete datacentre or server room facility or any critical sub-system within them. For any such project, we always recommend a ‘kick-off’ site survey and project discussion to map out the scope of the relocation projects and start to build a relocation RAMS document.