Accelerating data center delivery through collaboration

The architecture of data centers is becoming more diverse as the ways in which we use computation, and where we use it, change. Companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are still building hyper-scale data centers, but we are also seeing increasing use of co-location centers to host cloud service providers’ computing resources, and edge data centers to enable services such as 5G and the IoT.

In the face of this trend, data center architects are having to design facilities that are more highly optimized for their specific roles – a one-size-fits-all approach to design and integration. The challenge for data center architects is to find equipment providers with the flexibility, organisational set-up, and know-how to suitably customize their offerings and develop innovative solutions at the pace necessary to serve the rapidly growing market. These suppliers must also demonstrate a willingness to work collaboratively and at a pace necessary to meet customer needs.

At Kohler, we can provide generators to serve all data center requirements. The Kohler range of engines are optimized for use in these facilities, and we can offer supporting services right along the value chain, from data center design and contract tendering through to installation and in-service support.

We are also structured to provide the kind of fast-moving, close collaboration necessary to respond to customers’ needs, quickly and effectively. Our aim is less to sell a product than to partner with our customers to achieve the best solution for their design. This approach means that our engineers don’t spend time trying to guide a customer towards using a standard product, but instead draw on our ability to customize and innovate rapidly to offer a solution that is highly optimized for their needs. The fact that we make most of the equipment that goes into our gensets ourselves gives us the engineering insight and flexibility needed to innovate and iterate quickly.

Since deep collaboration on engineering matters demands that engineers talk to engineers, Kohler has invested in a substantial in-house team. Among their tasks is providing a single point of contact for supporting our customers’ lead consultants or principal engineers. We back them up with a multi-disciplinary team throughout the project life cycle– including engineering, tendering  sales, project management and after sales support – to provide a full life cycle design and engineering process. We often use this approach to help potential customers respond to a Request for Proposal. Since we work to this discipline ourselves, we know that speed is of the essence, and have systems in place that can quickly provide CAD drawings and 3D models for integration into a client’s tender documentation.

BIM approaches make it easier
to visualize the integration of gensets
 into data centers

One way we have made this possible is by investing in building information modelling (BIM) software, a collaborative 3D modelling process that gives architects and engineers tools that help them plan, design, construct and manage data center projects. A key advantage of BIM is that it provides a ‘single source of truth’, which reduces the amount of time that would otherwise be dedicated to documenting version control. It also makes it less likely that errors creep in because people are working with different design documents. This is particularly effective in improving collaboration between customers and suppliers, since it enables designers to plan, design, and construct in a smarter, faster, and more sustainable way, and provides better visualizations of the project throughout. This also assists with the ongoing operation and maintenance of the installation after completion with a full record of the engineering process and as-built installation details.

Kohler has been providing power solutions for more than a century, and now provides highly optimized integrated industrial power systems for emergency, prime and continuous applications worldwide. Most of its data center generators for EMEA are designed, built, tested, and inspected at its 42,800m2 plant in Brest, France, where it hosts its headquarters functions, design facilities, in-line and cell-based manufacturing systems, test cells, laboratories, and training areas. The facility gives Kohler the end-to-end design and manufacturing facilities necessary to enable rapid customization, fast innovation, and close control over its supply chain necessary to respond quickly to evolving customer needs.

Such rich collaboration, both within Kohler and between Kohler and our clients, really can help accelerate data center delivery schedules.