Becoming the client’s extended team during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pandemic Impact Project of the Year
One of Green Mountain’s company values is to put “the customer in focus”. The team who delivers on this value every single day is the Operations Team. They take care of the daily requests, maintain the client relationships, and support our clients in their small or big projects. The current Covid-19 pandemic and its restrictions on international travel and deliveries have resulted in an increased amount of a different type of assignments from our clients. Many tasks and projects that clients or suppliers usually have performed themselves, with their own crew or subcontractors, was now trusted to the Green Mountain Operations team. These types of projects cover everything from installation of physical hardware (racks and IT equipment), structured cabling projects, to quality assurance of installations. In addition, we had to document the work meticulously, using alternative means such as video and photos.
In this entry we would like to emphasize one of these projects as an example of how we have shifted the focus to handle more complex projects from both clients and suppliers, in a difficult situation caused by Covid-19.
Example Project: Installation of HPC clusters and Quality Assurance
A dedicated Green Mountain team was trusted the task of installing new HPC clusters for an international automotive company at DC2-Telemark. The supplier, NEC Deutschland GmbH, was unable to send their full team due to Covid-19, and Green Mountain therefore served as their extended team on site. The team proved their capabilities and delivered the project on time and to the client’s and NEC’s satisfaction. In addition, the client trusted us the task of Quality Assurance of the work performed.
The team was established in the beginning of June. The clusters were to be delivered and installed by NEC, but due to the pandemic situation they could not send sufficient personnel to Norway to perform the task. Green Mountain was asked to contribute, and we gathered a team of 6 experienced technicians, to work on the project. The objective of the project was to receive, unpack and install four server clusters in the client’s data hall. The task was to be started in August and completed in late September.
It might not seem like a large project, but it required close dialogue and planning to execute the task. The main milestones were as following:
- Delivery of all the servers in three separate shipments.
- Unpacking and checking of all equipment.
- Installing the 4 HPC clusters in 24 racks according to detailed drawings.
- Complete cabling work according to specifications.
- Labelling of all equipment.
- Performance stress test (with NEC and client participating remotely).
During the whole progress of the project, NEC contributed remote technical support and expertise by highly experienced system analysts, working closely together with the onsite team members.
The project progressed smoothly, and the supplier, NEC, and the client received regular updates from the team. In September, the work was completed, and we could perform a stress test on the equipment. NEC and the client participated in the testing via digital tools and were satisfied with the results. “We are very happy with the support we received from Green Mountain in this challenging Covid-19 situation.” Says Martijn Brizee, Project Manager, from NEC.
In addition, the automotive client also asked Green Mountain to perform a Quality Assurance test of the completed work. Green Mountain accepted the task and naturally assigned it to an operations engineer from another DC site. It was important that this person had not been involved in the work itself, in order to give an objective assessment of the performed tasks. “We perform quality assurances quite frequently for clients when they have had other suppliers to install for them. This time it was different as we had to verify work performed by Green Mountain. I am pleased that they trust our professional integrity in managing these two separate roles.” says Service Management Team Lead, Runar Espeland.
A strong team
The biggest challenge of this project was to establish a team of the right resources in a time with limited capacity. The team was led by operation technician Abhishek Jagga, an experienced professional with many years’ experience with these types of projects. His team members were gathered from all Green Mountain’s three DC sites, in addition to two persons from an external partner.
The team leader is an expert IT professional with extensive knowledge and experience with this type of HPC equipment. The other team members have their professional background as electricians and automaticians. All of them have of course experience as data center technicians. This combination of skill sets was valuable in the project.
Jagga served as the main contact point for NEC and the client and was responsible for coordinating and training of the staff. Setting up these clusters required a focus on the details as the set-up and cabling had to be precisely as described.
Health & Safety first
Apart from convening the right resources for the team, we also had to adapt the work to the current Covid-19 situation. Green Mountain implemented a strict control regime to avoid any cases of infection on the site. The team members adhered to the rigorous procedures and did an extra effort to avoid social contact also in their spare time. It was essential that everyone remained healthy in order to avoid project delays. Although time-consuming, health and safety were the highest priorities during the project. So far in the pandemic, no Green Mountain employee has been infected with the virus.
The most satisfying achievement was the good feedback received from both the supplier, NEC, and the client. The team was described as efficient and competent. “The quality of the work held a very high standard.” Martijn Brizee from NEC confirms.
“In these uncertain times where our employees have an increased workload, it is very satisfying that we still deliver projects of high complexity without compromising on quality.” says Runar Espeland.
Green Mountain has an operations team you can trust, also with more complex projects, and even in challenging times. When Covid-19 restrictions threatens to delay our clients’ projects we can be the extended team that can complete the job. The successful deliveries of several projects similar to the example above have proven our capabilities. The results of our recent customer satisfaction survey and feedback in client meetings show the same.