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Data Center Noir II – The Phase Build Scam

Data Center Noir II—The Phase  Build ScamIt had been a long week. I’d spent my days investigating a slip and fall insurance scam and my nights gathering evidence to prove what my client already knew—his wife was stepping out on him. Same old story, guy marries some gal who is way out of his league. He thinks it’s love, she sees a meal ticket, and the next thing you know the poor sap is begging me to find out where she goes when she tells him she’s “going out”. I’ve taken hundreds of these cases and they all end the same way. I tell them they don’t want to know. They never listen.

I’d just gotten back to the office and told Velma to call it a day. I tossed my hat in the corner and sat down to write up my bill for “Mr. Lovelorn”. I felt like a hundred miles of bad road, and my throat was dry so I grabbed the bottle and one of the glasses I kept in the desk drawer. I filled the glass about half full of some of Ireland’s finest and grabbed a crumpled pack of smokes from my jacket pocket. I took one and twisted it back into a tortured facsimile of its original shape and lit up. The harsh smell of sulfur mingled with tobacco hung in the air as I jammed a sheet of paper into the typewriter.

I’d been working for five or ten minutes when the sweet soft scent of Gardenias interrupted my thoughts. I didn’t look up. I didn’t have to.
“Hello Raze”, she said in the kind of breathy voice that shuts the door on a guy before he realizes he’s entered the cage.
“Hello Sheila”
“It’s been a long time”.
It had been at least ten years since I last saw her. She looked the same. Skin as white as marble, green eyes that held you in their gaze until they decided to let you go, and a head of copper colored curls that framed her face like a halo.
“Yes it has”, I said as I gestured towards a chair.
“Drink?” I asked as she folded with cat-like grace into the cracked leather.
“No thanks”.
There were a million things I wanted to know. Where she’d been. Why she’d left. I settled on “What can I do for you?”
Within five minutes she’d doped it out for me. She had a company and was looking for data center space. She was concerned about the site’s reliability. The salesman had assured her not to worry since it was a phased build in a commissioned facility.
“Have you signed anything?”
“No. I’m supposed to sign the lease tomorrow”.
I’d seen this scam before. It was effective. Even some of the hardest data center managers I’d ever run into had fallen for it.
“Don’t do it Sheila”, I said. I was hoping she’d let it go at that. This was the unseemly side of the business that no one wants to talk about.
“This site is perfect for what I’m looking for. They’ve got the space, the power and fiber connectivity. They’ll even double the power density for me when I need it. Don’t try to tell me I don’t know what I’m doing to get back at me for something that happened years ago”.

I felt like I’d been slapped. She’d hurt me then and she’d hurt me now, but letting someone make a foolish mistake out of spite isn’t in my job description. I leaned across the desk and working hard to control my voice I began to explain the scam.
“Listen sister, you need to wise up. Remember, you came to me. A lot of data center providers are using this ‘phased build’ approach to rope in suckers who don’t understand the importance of Level 5 commissioning”
I took a drink. I could feel its warmth spreading along my neck and shoulders. I continued:
“In a phased build the entire shell is built out at the same time so the data centers can be added later. That’s the phased part. The problem is, in order to reduce cost the provider builds out the entire MEP backplane up front. Good for them. Bad for you. As new data centers are added they can only be commissioned up to Level 4. This means that they can only test each of the data center systems individually, and none of them in failure mode since that would bring all the other attached data centers down as well”.

She looked at me with the wariness most people reserve for when they try to pet a Rottweiler. “So what’s the catch?”

“The catch”, I answered, “ is that only during Level 5 commissioning can all systems be tested under full load to ensure that they all work together, they are also tested in failure mode to make sure that they respond as designed. Level 4 commissioning only tells you that each individual system works. Level 5 commissioning is the only way to make sure the data center works as designed”.

She looked at me through hooded eyes and murmured a thank you that hit my heart like a sledgehammer.

She got up, shook my hand and walked toward the door. She reached for the handle and hesitated. I could have asked her to stay but instead I wished her good bye. Data centers had brought us together originally and probably driven us apart. Ten years was I long time. I didn’t want to repeat the cycle. I finished my drink and turned back to the typewriter. The only sound in the room was the staccato rhythm of my fingers hammering on the keys.