Don’s Corner: Who’s Responsible For The UPS, the IT Staff or Facilities Maintenance?

Posted by on September 5, 2012

Don Melchert, Critical Facility Specialist

Who’s responsible for the UPS, the IT Staff or Facilities Maintenance?

I have been asked this question many times, for all sorts of infrastructure equipment.  From the structure windows to the CRAC, I’ve heard this same question asked both before and after an expensive catastrophe has brought everyone into the boardroom.  To properly entertain answering the question, we have to approach it from two fronts: Old School and New School.  Without first defining those two parameters, there’s no way to stop the finger pointing if it all goes wrong, so let’s start there.

The “Old School” Platform

In times long ago (now if that doesn’t sound like the beginning of a new Tolkien novel, I don’t know what does) anything and everything that did not physically house the critical network was placed under the governorship of Facilities Maintenance.  Quite literally, the only exclusions were the racks, servers, telecom equipment and associated cords and peripherals.  If one wanted to relocate a server to another side of the room, powered from a different breaker, the first mission was to request approval from a Facility Manager.  Wait a second! There still are data centers out there that live under the iron rule of Facilities Maintenance, but that topic is best kept in the file labeled “Future Don’s Corner Topics”, at least for now.

If I were to provide an answer to the “Who’s responsible for the UPS?” question, based on the Old School platform, the answer is:  Facilities Maintenance, with operational approval from the IT Director. The reason for this is, originally, IT personnel focused on the devices and the network itself, and so did the educational institutions that certified the personnel of yesteryear.  This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Consider this; imagine asking a Facilities Engineer in 1987 that works in the sun, rain, wind, and snow maintaining the building’s HVAC system to log into the network.  Just speaking that way to a member of the facilities staff would have caused them to panic, possibly invoking memories of scenes from the movie War Games!  However, this works both ways.  Can you imagine asking a member of the IT staff to check the run hours on the CRAC unit?  They probably would have called security on you, knowing you must have lost your mind.  Few IT personnel would have considered dirtying their hands, and no self-respecting member of the facilities staff had the patience for “C://”.   In my answer, I said “with operational approval from the IT Director.”  If you’re not immediately in agreement, give UNS a call and we’d be happy to help bring you safely back from cryo-stasis and into the new world of today’s IT management!

The “New School” Platform

IT has fought hard for the past 30+ years to improve every aspect of network operations.  This is fact, as I have, willingly enough, seen this from both sides of the fence, first, as a Facility Manager, later as part of the IT consulting community.  Unknowingly, though, we were all working toward the same goal of efficient operations, more with less.  The UPS, the In-Row Air Conditioner, the servers, even the programs we were running…everything associated with the critical IT network became self-serviceable or hot-swappable in some way.   What used to require a shutdown of the network during a midnight to 7am all-nighter to swap out a bad component now requires little or no notification, no shutdown at all, and it all takes place in about five minutes, including unwrapping it from the box!

However, all of this new technology means two things: First, it’s easier for us to access the critical network, so we just expect it to be there waiting for us, whenever we open our iPhones; Second, all of our devices expect the exact same thing, only just like The Matrix, our numbers pale in comparison to theirs, and so does our priority levels on the network.  We, the custodians of our NCPI and its assets, must maintain this uptime requirement and now, more than ever before, the IT community is prepared, both technically and internally, to do so.

If I were to provide an answer to the “Who’s responsible for the UPS?” question, based on the New School platform, the answer is: IT, with operational approval from the Director of Facilities Maintenance.  Together, with sound communication, both are providing a service to the company’s critical network and should be able to count on each other to continually provide primary and uninterrupted back-up power to the company’s Network Critical Physical Infrastructure.  Again, if this does not make immediate sense, please, don’t hesitate to call UNS for an explanation of why this shared responsibility is so important.  The job you save may be your own!

Don Melchert

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