Moderator: Stephen Spinazzola, RTKL
The role of the data center has become critical for hospital operations. Some of these necessary functions include not just cooling systems, but radiology information systems, nurse call interfaces, fetal monitor servers, cardiology information systems and pharmacy information systems.
Vender-provided servers and hardware threatens standardizations. Administration support may vary system by system. Technically some servers provide tertiary functionality, but the staff's perception is that the end result is critical.
A data center is a facility used to house computer systems and associated components, such as telecommunications and storage systems. It generally includes redundant or backup power supplies, redundant data communications connections, environmental controls (e.g., air conditioning, fire suppression) and special security devices. Data centers have a raised floor space with a computer unit, power distribution unit and aisles with rows of servers. A third of the energy in a data center is fans. Servers generally take up less space today than in data centers built a few years ago. Another consideration is that with hospital data centers there is no return for their investment like there would be with a hospital operating room or an emergency room.
There are basically four different tiers when considering a data center. Tier I is the basic set up that is susceptible to disruptions both planned and unplanned. It has computer power distributions and cooling, an optional raised floor, an ups or an engine generator. Tier I is considered the most basic and is at the bottom of the ratings system. It's the lowest standard, gradually adding more redundancy until we reach Tier IV, which is at the top and considered immune to planned and unplanned downtime.
A Tier II data center has redundant components, maintenance of critical power path and other parts of the site. When building tiers, it takes in and considers every need from every angle and includes in it a cost-effective manner adding components the hospital needs for their data center and considering what is most critical. Most data centers are Tier III or IV.
In order to be considered a full Tier III or Tier IV data center you need to be able to shut down any component of your power distribution or cooling systems, and have a redundant system working uninterrupted by the maintenance.
The most stringent level is a Tier IV data center, which is designed to host mission critical computer systems with fully redundant subsystems and compartmentalized security zones. All practical measures have been undertaken to ensure stability and reliability. You can't design around everything from everyone's needs and point of view. You can't lose the critical mission.
Most data centers are manned by one or more security guards, or manned by a building operator who is an expert at ups or critical systems. Some significant industry trends are also replacing clinicians with computers.
The 10-year forecast calls for two to three times the need in terms of space requirements and five to seven times the increase in electrical load. Most facilities are not aware of the risk, and the needs for space and power go up yearly.
- Kimberly KimmelHealthcare Building Ideas 2008 June-July;4(5):67