Improving Data Center Construction through Earlier, Standardized Commissioning

Improving Data Center Construction


Commissioning plays a critical role in the overall success of data center construction. Unfortunately, the process and resources needed to complete it efficiently can be at times neglected. This has subsequently led to a high incidence of data center projects today experiencing cost overruns and schedule delays, according to Uptime Institute. In fact, a lack of thorough commissioning during data center construction in some cases led to failures, delays or cost overruns1.

One way for data center owners to prevent problems that can lead to project failure is to address commissioning earlier during data center construction and adopt a standardized approach to factory-witness testing (FWT). Doing so can garner 3 main benefits for improved data center construction.


1. Scalability due to compressed commissioning timelines: Delays caused by complications during commissioning can cost data center owners millions of dollars in the form of lost revenue from paying customers. In short, multi-tenant data centers (MTDCs) who are behind schedule due to unforeseen commissioning delays risk losing tenants and revenue.

Consider this scenario. An institution looking to build out a new data center began speaking with two different colocation providers who could complete the project. The provider that stated they could complete the construction process three weeks faster than the other—but at a premium—is the one who won the job. For the losing provider, just a three-week difference in timeline was enough to lose the job. Mind you, this scenario may be the exception rather than the rule. And rushing through a timeline is not necessarily the answer either. The takeaway here is that there is significant value in being able to develop advanced planning around commissioning tasks and conduct them concurrently with construction.

Standardized factory-witness testing (FWT) essentially flips the script on traditional processes to remove custom, system assembly and wiring. The process of wiring all components together on temporary walls only to take them apart and install them again introduces unnecessary risk that can lead to project delays. With a standardized FWT process, pre-integrated, pre-assembled and tested systems can be shipped to the data center and installed for faster deployment. Overall, the approach enables owners to avoid delays, shorten the project schedule and move paying customers into their facility earlier. 

2. Maintained uptime and reliability: All data centers have a zero tolerance for downtime given its high price tag ($9,000 per minute of downtime2) but unfortunately, downtime does still occur. For a colocation or MTDC provider, the risk can be even more threatening as its overall outage can affect several tenants, counting as individual outages for each business3.

Moving commissioning activities up in the project timeline ensures owners that their redundant data center is built and designed with uptime and reliability from the ground up. Doing so better ensures earlier identification of issues with equipment and system integration. In addition, moving FWT offsite and adopting a standardized approach allows for the creation of a clear and repeatable means to verify equipment performance and functionality, which is very difficult to do when using custom-built test assemblies and undefined scripts.  In short, proper commissioning can lead to optimized performance and efficiency, thus, creating a reliable and maintained data center environment.

3. Achieved cost savings: As mentioned previously, pushing out the completion date of a data center due to problems discovered during commissioning can have serious cost implications for a project owner. Engaging early on with a commissioning agent (CxA) can prevent added costs and improve savings by reducing the need for undefined test scripts and custom designs which can contribute to roughly $100,000 in added cost for every data center project. Additional cost savings are also achieved by reducing the occurrence of late-stage change orders.

Overall, the cost benefits a data center owner achieves through early commissioning are two-fold. First, by compressing the project schedule, the facility becomes cashflow positive as quickly as possible. Secondly, by taking a more comprehensive approach to commissioning, savings are captured throughout the data center’s lifespan in the form of increased reliability and flexibility, and fewer outages. 


Early engagement is key
Engaging early with an experienced commissioning agent in the onset of data center planning and design is the first step for any data center owner looking to adopt this approach. Doing so, the owner can set their data center up for success by delivering speed-to-market and data center reliability and improving cost savings.

Keep in mind: while a commissioning agent is responsible for seeing the end-to-end commissioning phase of a larger data center construction plan, the owner essentially has the decision-making power and would best benefit to oversee the commissioning process.

Ready to improve the commissioning processes of your data center construction or simply want more information? Contact us today.


1. Uptime Institute LLC, “Avoiding Data Center Construction Problems,” 

2. Ponemon Institute, “Cost of Data Center Outages,” Jan. 2016

3. TechTarget, “Minute by minute, data center outage costs stack up,” Jan. 2016