In Ireland’s new economy, Data Centres are taking centre stage in the news for all the right (and unfortunately, some of the wrong) reasons. We spoke with Brian Roe, Commercial Director at Servecentric to find out more about what does it mean to be a Data Centre and why we need them.

What exactly is a Data Centre?

By definition, a Data Centre is any facility that is used to house computer systems and associated components, such as communications and storage systems. This is obviously a real catch-all and in the modern world where connectivity is ubiquitous, arguably, everything from a new car through to a purpose-built facility that fills these criteria can be considered to be a Data Centre!

For us, a Data Centre is a dedicated building or set of buildings (usually purpose-built) that offers the security, resilience, environmental conditions and importantly, connectivity density to deliver highly available Internet-facing solutions. There are generally three types of Data Centre in the market now, HyperScale (such as Microsoft, Facebook, Apple etc.), enterprise (such as SAP, DHL where the Data Centre supports the company’s IT requirements) and multitenant Data Centres that are home to a variety of companies and applications.

So what does the modern data centre look like?

Largely, Data Centres are pretty non-descript on the outside. They are generally unmarked industrial looking buildings with secure perimeter fencing and entry/exit barriers or gates. Once inside, the Data Centre is usually divided into Data Suites of various sizes and power capacities. Each suite has rows of cabinets with warm and cold aisle separation to ensure that equipment runs at the optimum temperatures and multitenant data suites are often divided into caged areas for individual clients.

The Data Centre also includes (generally at least two) Meet Me Rooms which are home to the telecoms carriers in the building. Each carrier will link back through underground ducting to a larger fibre network system (in our case at Servecentric, we have over a dozen carriers with access to dual diverse routing out of the building to Dublin’s T50 Metropolitan ring for redundancy). The carriers then offer variable bandwidth services to clients within the Data Centre.

Security is important, so what should I expect when visiting a Data Centre?

Most Data Centres are pretty much rock solid when it comes to access control and pre-approval for visits is a must. Perimeter fencing with 24/7 monitoring by onsite security personnel is a given, but once inside, multiple levels of authentication are required to pass through man traps and access the Data Suites. These can include the presentation of government-issued ID to acquire key cards and various levels of biometric security at Data Centre, Suite, Cage and even cabinet levels. Finally, inside the building, closed circuit TV monitors all movement (at our primary facility, there are over 160 cameras installed).

Tell me about the belts and braces involved in ensuring uptime within the Data Centre?

Absolutely, all critical services have multiple levels of redundancy in the Data Centre. You want to keep your infrastructure available, so each cabinet has A and B power feeds that are fed from separate UPSs and backed by generators. In our primary facility, there are 8 UPSs, each with 1,200kVA and five generators, each with 2.5MVA output and enough fuel to deliver a minimum of 72 hours of power without refuelling. All cooling systems again employ redundant configuration and finally, all suites have actively monitored fire detection (e.g. VESDA) and suppression systems.

The other area is obviously connectivity which I mentioned earlier and resilience can be attained by using multiple routes and/or multiple carriers. For example, we are a registered ISP and have a 99.999% SLA on our service. We do this by creating a mesh of three distinct carriers with automatic failover and multiple physically diverse routes both from cabinet to MMR and from the building to the T50 metro.

So finally, now we know what the Data Centre is all about, can you tell me what the impact of Cloud is and what are you doing about this?

I’ve seen different approaches to this. Some Data Centre operators are committed to providing colocation and connectivity services only and sticking to this model. For us, we believe that we need to provide a range of ancillary services including hosting, managed services, security services and hybrid cloud solutions and are engaged in a programme to improve our existing portfolio. We aim to be a go-to trusted advisor that provides best of breed, secure multi-platform services to meet our clients’ growing requirements, and we have the pedigree, infrastructure and the people to deliver improvements on what is already a strong business proposition.

With the approaching explosion of requirements relating to IoT, AI and analytics, I’m utterly convinced that the private Data Centre will continue to be critical to the success of the ecosystem. Some of the narratives would indicate that everything is moving to the Public Cloud, but this is simply not the case. Public Cloud adoption is growing faster, but the general Data Centre market is still enjoying double-digit annual growth. In fact, we have observed a number of clients taking workloads back to the Data Centre because they have found running production systems on Public Cloud to be unexpectedly cost prohibitive and this ‘boomerang’ effect is well documented globally.

For more information on Servecentric Data Centres click here.

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