Why a Crisis in a Data Center Can be Considered a Gift

This audio was created using Microsoft Azure Speech Services

Facebook builds some of the most advanced, energy-efficient data centers in the world. Yet doing so at scale — enough to support billions of people — doesn’t come without challenges. One of these challenges brought James Swensen, head of global data center facility operations at Facebook, and I to 7×24 Exchange as co-presenters.

In our presentation, we discussed an arc flash incident that took place in Facebook’s Lulea, Sweden location.  The Lulea Data Center has a high amount of voltage in a comparably small square footage space and used a unique busway configuration to meet data center specifications.  Such complexity means when there’s an incident, the cause is complicated as well.

Typical questions asked after a failure in the data center are: What happened? Who was there? Why did it happen? That can turn into a finger pointing exercise, with any involved stakeholders hoping it’s not their work or equipment at fault.

However, when collaborating on a solution to mitigate future arc flashes, the Facebook team took a different approach and set a tone of learning (versus finding fault).  Instead of assessing blame, they created a culture of collaboration in order to get the gift of knowledge.

This gave everyone permission to be open. In that spirit, and even though Schneider Electric was mainly a components provider to Facebook at that time, we took the opportunity to become a bigger part of the solution.

Bill Westbrock
Bill Westbrock, Strategic Account Executive for Facebook at Schneider Electric


About the author: Bill is the Strategic Account Executive for Facebook at Schneider Electric, responsible for leading the sales efforts at the account & ensuring a positive customer experience. Prior to joining Schneider, he served as Vice President of Sales for Apparent Inc renewable energy business, responsible for system sales and business strategy. Before that, Bill held sales and management positions over a 17 year period with Schneider Electric, Power Measurement Ltd., MGE UPS, Westinghouse and Johnson Controls. Bill is co-author of numerous white papers and patents. Bill graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. He also is a member of IEEE. Bill lives in San Rafael, CA where he enjoys cycling, running, tennis, swimming and surfing.

Tags: , , , ,