Thursday, December 22, 2016

Season's Greetings

Warmest thoughts and best wishes for a wonderful new year. May peace, love and prosperity stay with you throughout 2017.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Control Systems for Data Centers

System uptime is the crucial objective of data center operations. Distribution Control System (DCS) proposes design topologies and attributes for critical network, electrical, and mechanical systems to attain these availability. If the control system does not respond quickly and appropriately, a data center may experience a destructive and rapid failure - even if redundant chillers, air handlers and power sources have been installed.

Yet in spite of these stringent requirements and the serious consequences of failure, most data centers are built with the same commercial DDC (Direct Digital Control) style control systems used in office buildings. This is in contrast to other mission-critical environments (semiconductor cleanrooms, pharmaceutical labs), where industrial controls, such as PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers) or even Distribution Control System (DCS), perform many of the same functions.

We are going to provide an overview of the main areas where industrial and commercial style controls differ, and to help data center owners and system designers understand the value to be gained from industrial PLC control systems.

PLC systems offer more robust options

Compared to commercial systems, industrial control systems feature more accurate and rugged sensors and devices, signal types and wiring methods. Industrial controllers are more robust, have higher performance, faster networks and more flexible programming capability. Redundancy options with industrial controls can address the most difficult control issues without relying on "passive automation."

Passive automation involves providing distributed control in which small, inexpensive controllers can be dedicated to individual machines or processes. In this case, the loss of a single controller cannot shut down the entire facility if there are redundant pieces of equipment installed each with their own controller.

Commercial systems typically use a mix of "unitary" controllers to control a single piece of equipment, with larger building controllers used for facility-wide programming tasks or monitoring general I/O points. Industrial systems use PLCs, which also come in a range of sizes and intended applications. The differences between these controllers can be discussed in terms of form factor and physical robustness, I/O type and capacity, and processor programming capability and flexibility.

Performance, flexibility and higher cost characterize PLC systems

The difference between PLC and DDC programs is essentially one of flexibility. The programming functions in a PLC are more numerous and powerful. There is a richer instruction set for math, logic and bit manipulation. Many PLCs allow encapsulation of instructions to create user-defined function blocks. This is a powerful tool that sophisticated users leverage to create simple, re-usable code. These differences allow creation of more sophisticated and powerful programs. Finally, modification of PLC programs can be done "on-line," which means the controllers do not need to be stopped if the program needs to be changed.

The two types of systems conceptually can look very similar. The distinction, in a word, is performance. Industrial systems are designed for "real-time" control. Like a DDC, a PLC program looks at sensor data input, performs logic or calculations and writes outputs. However, the speed of processing and communication in PLC systems allows inputs to be read from anywhere in the system, logic solved, and outputs to be written to anywhere else in the system in real-time. Scan rates for PLCs, even in large programs with distributed I/O, are generally measured in milliseconds. DDCs have program execution times measured in seconds.

There is a cost premium for industrial control systems. A rule of thumb for control systems is this: Industrial controls total installed cost is approximately $3000/point. Commercial systems cost approximately $2000/point. For reference, a recent data center project was completed with 500 I/O points. This represents a difference of $1.5M versus $1M. This estimate does not take into account the difference in maintenance and service contract costs (which is typically higher for commercial controls) but is a reasonable idea of the difference in up-front costs.

Owners and system designers should not expect to achieve industrial control system performance on a commercial control system budget. But consider: The control system represents just 1-2% of the total facility cost. With today's ever more demanding environments, it pays to consider the long-term value represented by the increased performance, flexibility and reliability of PLC systems.

About us

Strategic Media Asia (SMA) is one of the approved CPD course providers of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) UK. The team exists to provide an interactive environment and opportunities for members of ICT industry and facilities' engineers to exchange professional views and experience.

SMA connects IT, Facilities and Design. For the Data Center Consideration Series, please visit 

(1) Site Selection,
(2) Space Planning,
(3) Cooling,
(4) Redundancy,
(5) Fire Suppression,
(6) Meet Me Rooms,
(7) UPS Selection, and
(8) Raised Floor

All topics focus on key components and give technical advice and recommendations for designing a data center and critical facilities.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Project Management for Mission-Critical Facilities from Design to Commissioning

2-day Advanced Training in Project Management for Mission-Critical Facilities from Design to Commissioning

Building, upgrading or relocating new data centers / mission-critical facilities requires extensive coordination. Project management team shall ensure all components come together smoothly. It is typically fast track from design and planning to testing and commissioning.

Further to the comprehensive training in electrical and air conditioning systems design for data center and mission-critical infrastructure, we are going to introduce a specialized course which highlights the oversights required by a project management team who directs the manufacturing, the outfitting and the preparation for a data center / computer room while simultaneously oversees site work, infrastructure for facility, utility installation and facilitate IT installations.

This is an advanced 2-day training details about how to structure the project management activities with a common language (for data center and mission-critical purposes), avoid cost increment, responsibility gaps and duplication of effort and achieve an efficient process with a predictable outcome.

Most importantly, the course outlines how to meet the project goal and SLA (Service Level Agreement) before, during and after completion of the project defined by the owner.

Day 1

  • Reviewing the Project Management Basics
         - Planning and Programming a Successful Project for Mission-critical Purposes
         - Managing a Project on Time, Cost and Quality

  • Contract Management for Data Center Design and Build
  • Roles and Responsibilities
  • Liaising with Clients (Facility Owners, Project Owners, etc.)
  • Liaising with Stakeholders
  • Liaising with Design Consultants / Architect

Day 2

  • Managing Facilities / Services Suppliers
  • Managing Contractors
  • Assessing the Project Progression and Status Meetings
  • Conflicts Management
  • Change Management and Accommodation
  • Project Handover, Testing and Commissioning
  • Cases Study

For the course information (date, time, venue and the trainer profile), please visit  OR

About the Course Organizer

Strategic Media Asia (SMA) is one of the approved CPD course providers of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) UK. The team exists to provide an interactive environment and opportunities for members of ICT industry and facilities' engineers to exchange professional views and experience.

SMA connects IT, Facilities and Design. For the Data Center Consideration Series, please visit 

(1) Site Selection,
(2) Space Planning,
(3) Cooling,
(4) Redundancy,
(5) Fire Suppression,
(6) Meet Me Rooms,
(7) UPS Selection, and
(8) Raised Floor

All topics focus on key components and give technical advice and recommendations for designing a data center and critical facilities.

Get ready to Data Center Industry Boom

This article is extracted from SCMP (South China Morning Post) published on 2 May, 2016 for the data center industry and development in Asia Pacific - "Hong Kong needs to be equipped for data centre industry boom". For details, please refer to

Today, many of our business and leisure activities are closely tied to technology and data, be it mobile apps and cloud storage or banking transactions and big data analytics. None of these would be possible without the back-end support of data centers.
The data center industry is therefore rapidly emerging in Hong Kong and globally as one of the fastest growing sectors, with demand for data center space from technology firms, telecom service providers, financial institutions and even small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
The capital investment required for the data center sector is significant, and cities are eager to attract users to their market by offering suitable space. Hong Kong is no exception, with significant effort in the past few years devoted to capturing and nurturing these economy-boosting opportunities. However, the chronic shortage of space across all real estate sectors is a glaring barrier to Hong Kong’s hope to further develop as a data center hub.
Despite the limited land supply, Hong Kong is still being targeted by international investors, developers and occupiers due to its role as a gateway to China. Keppel T&T has recently announced a plan to co-develop an international carrier exchange in Hong Kong with PCCW Global. The 1,000 sq m telecommunications center is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.
Mainland China players have also been active. China Mobile is operating a large high-tier data center in Tsuen Kwan O industrial estate while China Unicom is due to open its flagship data center close by. This estate is home to the bulk of high-tier data centers in Hong Kong.
The space requirements for data centers vary with respect to the scale of data to be stored and the specification of the devices. Nonetheless, big and small players find it equally difficult to secure suitable space due to low vacancy and a lack of available sites.
The number of purpose-built data centers in Hong Kong has increased substantially over the past few years, growing from 3.3 million sq ft in 2012 to 6 million sq ft as of the end of 2015. While this has been a challenge to some operators due to competition of new business, for the most part, take-up has been solid, particularly from Chinese e-commerce players.
However, with the expected accelerated growth of the industry in the mid-long run, supply in Hong Kong will not be sufficient without more proactive policy initiatives. If the momentum of growth continues, Hong Kong will be in danger of losing opportunities to other markets in Asia, such as Singapore, Taiwan and Japan.
It is encouraging to see that the government has recognised the urgent demand for data center space. Efforts to set up the Data Center Facilitation Unit some years back was greeted with praise from industry players. The government has also allocated three commercial sites in Tseung Kwan O for the establishment of high-tier data centers.
While the Industrial Revitalisation Scheme terminated last month as planned, the government announced the extension of the concessionary scheme for data center developments, which had originally been scheduled to finish at the end of the first quarter of 2016. The approval time for waiver applications has also been shortened to around two weeks.
The government’s continued promotion of data center development is welcome news for this emerging segment. Converting industrial buildings to high-tier data centers can potentially unlock property values through increased rents.
Goodman, one of the largest holders of an industrial property in Hong Kong, recently disposed a 260,000 sq ft warehouse in Kwai Chung. The building has been mostly converted to a data center based on the strong interest from many willing buyers for the asset, particularly international funds. In some cases, converted buildings have recorded rents in excess of 50 per cent higher than those achieved prior to conversion.
The feasibility of conversion depends on building specifications. Unlike other industrial users, the technical requirement of a data center is a lot more complicated. The electricity consumption of a modern data center is typically some 20 times higher than that of an office of the same size. The ceiling height has to be higher for cable trays to be installed overhead or inside the raised floor. Most available spaces tend to be too large or in proximity to certain hazards, such as petrol stations or chemical storage, which again rules them out for conversion.
The vertical nature of Hong Kong industrial buildings is also a challenge as modern data center development tends to prefer large floor plates and significant common areas to instal equipment.
Based on their highly specific and detailed requirements, many investors and operators prefer to construct their own high-end data centers given the existing industrial buildings rarely meet their needs. To date, only one new data center of 90,000 sq ft has been built following a lease modification.
That being said, our research indicates that over 800,000 sq ft of industrial buildings has been converted from warehouse to data center in the past five years, with big names like Equinix, iAdvantage, PCCW and HGC leading the way. With more innovative designs and greater flexibility in terms of base building requirements, we still foresee further successful cases of conversion, particularly now with general warehouse rates stabilising.

Marcos Chan is head of research, Hong Kong, southern China and Taiwan at CBRE