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Interview with Derek Roy, Data Centre Manager at Brightsolid

Can you provide an overview of your role as a data centre manager at Brightsolid?

As a data centre manager, I oversee the daily operations, maintenance, and management of the data centre facilities. My job is to ensure that all critical systems function optimally. To develop and implement strategies to optimise the data centre, including capacity planning, energy, and sustainability initiatives. 

I establish and maintain robust policies and procedures for data centre operations. Ensuring adherence to industry best practices and compliance with relevant regulations. I also lead and mentor a team of data centre professionals, fostering a culture of collaboration, accountability, and professional growth.  

Collaborating with cross-functional teams, I support the development and execution of new business initiatives. I am also a key point of contact for customers, providing expert advice and support for all data centre-related enquiries. 

Managing data centre fit-outs and expansions is also one of my responsibilities. I ensure the seamless integration of new infrastructure and systems. Additionally, I oversee budget planning, monitoring, and control for all data centre operations, ensuring alignment with overall company financial goals. 

How do you ensure the reliability and performance of Brightsolid’s data centre infrastructure?

Singlehandedly, the most critical part of any data centre is the people who look after the infrastructure. The Building Management System or BMS aids this. This monitors and alerts us when a system is either failing or not performing to its optimal levels. So that we can investigate and rectify it in a timely manner.  

Just a few of the systems that the BMS monitors include cooling systems, fire panels and suppression systems, generators, UPSs, and environmental monitoring. This lets us know how hot or cold it is in any data centre aisles. We ensure everything is well-maintained according to the manufacturer’s scheduled service and testing requirements. 

We have upgraded our power monitoring to ensure we know what each individual Power Distribution Unit (PDU) is drawing. This means we can tell you exactly how much power our customer’s rack is drawing. Their maximum and minimum loads are at any time in the day, month, or year.  

How do you address energy efficiency and sustainability

In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion in the industry about different measures that can be taken to improve sustainability. However, it’s important to note that not every idea discussed has been implemented or may not have the desired impact. For example, switching to LED lights may be more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly. Still, it may make little difference in your facility’s overall operation, depending on its size and scale. Focusing on the more significant aspects of your facility’s operation is crucial. And the cooling units also play a vital role. If a room is poorly designed, achieving adequate cooling within the facility can be challenging. You can sometimes find yourself expending more energy than is required. 

In 2019, we were informed about the Scottish Industrial Energy Transformation Fund (SIEFT) grant. Which we applied for and were awarded. This grant enabled us to thoroughly analyse one of our older rooms and identify ways to improve its cost-effectiveness. 

We installed hot and cold aisle containment areas in this room. Previously, we supplied cold air into an open room, but now we have cold aisles where only cold air is supplied. As a result, when hot air is expelled, it doesn’t mix with the cold air. Mixing hot and cold air would interfere with the environmental system and play havoc with the airflow. By separating hot and cold air, we’ve maintained a cooler temperature more efficiently. 

When designing a data centre, it is essential to consider the power usage efficiency or PUE factor. PUE is a scale used by data centres to measure their efficiency. The lower the PUE factor, the more efficient the data centre is. You will only achieve the designed PUE level if you run your data centre at its maximum IT load capacity. 

We also switched our energy provider to a REGO system, which stands for Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin. This means we receive a significant portion of our energy from renewable sources. Ensuring the total energy we get from the grid is 100% renewable. We are with SSE and are happy with our decision to switch to a more sustainable energy provider. 

How do you stay informed about emerging technologies and industry best practices? 

I look to social media platforms for about 80 to 90% of the information I need. The remaining 10 to 20% of the information comes from my network. I follow industry leaders on LinkedIn, observe them, and see how they develop their data centres.  

I am interested in learning about the development of Google and Facebook’s data centres and how they impact the market. Even though we may have different financial resources than these companies. We can still gain valuable insights from them and incorporate the latest technology in our data centres.  

Assessing whether our technology is compatible with current market trends and needs is important. We don’t want to waste money investing in technology that isn’t being adopted or fall behind in the industry by not keeping up with the latest developments. Therefore, it’s crucial always to be open-minded and adaptable to change. 

A company visited our data centre in Aberdeen to find a new location that met their high-security standards. They wanted to ensure that all their equipment could be placed in a secure room within our data centre. We devised a solution that freed up space in the racks by moving equipment around and creating a closed-off caged area for their equipment. This design ensured that only they would have access to their equipment and added to the security value they sought. 

However, we also had to address the issue of cooling their equipment. Putting up barriers in front of the airflow could make it difficult to cool their equipment effectively. We needed to ensure that their equipment could be cooled down without any risk of overheating and keeping the security levels high. We worked to devise a solution that met their security concerns and ensured that their equipment could be cooled effectively. 

The customer has been using this solution for more than a year now. Recently, due to a rationalisation of their IT equipment, they are looking to decrease the footprint of this secure area. We thankfully knew this might be the case, so we considered this in the design phase. Ensuring we caused little to no disruption. While we achieved this with them, we are glad that we were able to meet their expectations once again.  

What professional achievement are you most proud of? 

Before I joined Brightsolid, I went to a job fair where I came across a stand for the company. I approached Peter Telfer, the marketing manager at that time, and introduced myself. I mentioned that I had an interview with the company for the facilities data centre manager role the following day. Peter was kind enough to introduce me to Ian Davidson. During our conversation, Ian informed me that only two candidates were being considered for the position. Another candidate who had built Brightsolid’s Data Hall in Dundee in 2005 and me. I was surprised by this information as I realised that I had some tough competition. 

The following morning, I drove to Edinburgh and arrived three hours early, as I wanted to be responsible and professional. I started doubting myself, wondering why they would even consider me. When they had the person who built the data centre. Thankfully, I didn’t talk myself out of the interview. I was invited to a second interview with the CEO at the time. After that, I was offered the role, and within the next two or three days, I gratefully accepted.  

When I first walked into the building, I was expecting to be a facilities manager, but then I was shown the data centres. Which I had never seen before and was told that this would be my workspace.   

So, I then spent hours, days, weeks, and months learning about data centres. How best to look after and run them effectively. I am still learning because things are continually evolving within the world of data centres. I want to ensure that I can deliver the best to Brightsolid and its data centres.  

How do you incorporate technology into your personal life?

I installed smart home technology to make completing tasks easier for our family. We can turn on the heating before we return home and ensure it’s warm by the time we arrive. 

I rewired the house and installed copper cabling throughout for our Wi-Fi connections.  

We also have installed good CCTV cameras for our safety and security. This is particularly important when we are not at home, and the kids are. They need to know they are secure and can do what they want without worrying about their safety. 

Do you have a favourite book, movie, or leisure activity that you’d recommend? 

During my time in the army, we used to go on a six-week exercise. We would spend six weeks living out in the field, and I was never one to pick up a book. However, during some spare time, I saw a fellow soldier finish a book that caught my interest. I asked if I could look, and it seemed like a lot of pages at first. But that was it. I got into reading, starting with authors like Stephen King and books such as IT, Pet Sematary and Salems Lot.  

I also recently got my wife to indulge in the bagging of Munros, which is a passion of mine.    

Further Reading:

Colocation

Considerations for selecting your Data Centre partner