How Telstra axed modular from Clayton data centre design

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How Telstra axed modular from Clayton data centre design

'Value engineered' out of the project.

When Telstra's managed data centre general manager Jon Curry first outlined his master plan for a revamped data centre campus at Clayton in Victoria two years ago, he'd already learned a thing or two about design and construction.

Two years on, and with the modernisation and expansion works complete, he has a couple of key learnings to add.

Speaking for the second time at the annual Australian Data Centre Strategy Summit last week, Curry said his initial learnings on design centred on taking it slow: you don't want to be redesigning elements "because somebody missed something".

He is also now urging anyone going down a similar large-scale transformation to get involved in the design process - and stay involved in it.

"There's a process called value engineering, which is code for cost cutting," Curry told delegates of the 2015 summit. "It was a new concept to me - very new, because I'm an IT person."

Once Curry and his team had specified requirements for the Clayton revamp, they were sent off to the designer to incorporate.

The designer then worked with the constructor - which, during the early stages of the project, was Telstra's Properties division - to create a design that fit within the construction budget.

"There were a couple of times when our Properties division value engineered some key design elements out of the project, which at the end was quite disappointing," Curry said.

Bye bye modular

One of the major exclusions was that the new Clayton data centre was specified in the requirements to be modular, enabling the carrier to scale up capacity as and when it was needed.

"We were looking at a modular build for this facility but due to value engineering we ended up having to build the whole thing at once," Curry said.

Fortuitously for Curry and for Telstra, this did not cause too many issues. Demand for space grew faster than expected, and Clayton is now home to Telstra's burgeoning portfolio of cloud services, including the first Australian region for Cisco cloud services.

"Even though we lost what we thought was quite important to us, in the end it's irrelevant because the demand [for space] is here," Curry said. "The market changed.

"The whole acceleration of cloud adoption has been quite phenomenal."

Still, Curry would prefer to get involved in the design process should he have his time over.

"You've got to be involved," he told iTnews on the sidelines of the summit.

"That was the problem - I was the sponsor [of the project] and somebody else was the constructor, so during those first few [value engineering] processes I missed out on being involved.

"Now, had I been involved, would the same decisions have been made? Maybe, maybe not, I don't know. But the lesson for me was always be involved - you've got to immerse yourself in a project like that.

"You can't just stand back and let the constructor construct."

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