Posts Tagged racks

You will be taken to a secret location…

Monday, and I felt like I was taking part in a clandestine operation. My mission – to travel to Wiltshire to meet up with someone I’d never met or seen before, and then to travel to a secret location.

Actually, it was much less exciting than that, though still very  interesting. I was visiting the Eduserve data centre facility near Swindon, to talk to them about their service and whether it might be of interest to us.

We have a temporary breathing space in terms of our data centre needs as a result of the move to the new secondary data centre. However, in the next 12-18 months we’ll be thinking about longer term needs and how we might meet them. One of the options is to look at some kind of shared service model for our 2nd data centre. This has a number of possible advantages but specifically giving us better disaster recovery/business continuity provision by not having the two data centre so close together as they are, relatively, now. Depending on the kind of shared service, we might gain other benefits too – a purpose build and designed DC is likely to be more power and cooling efficient, therefore being both cheaper to run and more environmentally friendly.

After being met at Swindon I was taken to an anonymous-looking location outside Swindon where there was a large unmarked building that houses the facility. Unless you know about such things, you would simply mistake the building for another unremarkable logistics company, although perhaps a shy one given there is no logo or other information outside. The giveaway is the generator and, if you dodge the trip beams, the air con units.

Inside, once passed the keen security (good job I took my SHU card, I needed photo ID to get beyond Reception) there was a single door that leads to the main workings. Through this, the massive space has been deliberately planned and constructed to create individual ‘vaults’. Each of these might be able to house 4 x 20 racks and the associated cooling and other provisions needed to support things. Each of the 20-rack assemblies (called a pod) is sealed with glass across the ends and top of the racks, and cool air is blown in through underfloor grills. Not the best place to visit wearing a skirt by the by.

The vaults are constructed of material that is strong enough for someone to walk across a 6m span, and with thermodynamic properties that give 3 hour burn protection I was told. Each vault is independent of the others.

Power and data is fed from two sides of the building and each rack has redundant power and data for each element of equipment. Considerable thought has gone into making the facilities resilience and the centre runs 24/7.

A number of central Government services are supported here as well as some HE sector ones. Eduserve, a not for profit company, is now offering provision of DC services to Universities.

It was very interesting, and certainly as a model for mass DC provision you can see the merit in the approach and how it has been planned. I’m interested to see if they would be able to offer a complete data centre service – that is, the equipment as well as the serviced space.

Whilst we are some time away from looking seriously at our 10-15 year DC needs, it would be useful to understand whether this might be an option to consider when writing the new DC Strategy.

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