Operational excellence in a modular data centre

By: Victor Smith - 28/06/2012

Victor Smith, Director, Product Development for Colt Data Centre Services. Victor joined the team on 28th May. In his new role, Victor is key in cementing Colt's data centre product and service strategy as we look to innovate and extend our reach. Victor works very closely with the design team as well as with the marketing to ensure our future roadmap takes into account not only market requirements and further engineering innovations, but also continues to be optimally positioned in the market.

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Demand for data storage is growing at a tremendous rate in European markets such as France, where Colt recently made an additional 1,000 m2 of modular data centre space available at its flagship site South of Paris.

Exponential growth of data means that the modern business organisation must have cutting edge access, speed and security simply to stay competitive in a global market. Fortunately, France is well placed to meet this demand with a data centre sector primed for expansion thanks to its secure electricity supply and the high calibre of its engineering skills base.

French legislation, in particular, provides for the security of data and data processing while, at the same time, meeting industry needs for a secure legal framework. Indeed, according to the Invest in France Agency (IFA), estimates indicate that investments in data centres in France will reach €1 billion a year, having supported more than 26 data-centre projects since 2006.

The significant challenge facing the sector, however, is the need for easily scalable solutions to meet businesses’ growing data storage demands. The Cloud and new web-oriented, virtualised applications, indeed the very nature of applications themselves is constantly changing, now more than ever.. Data centre capacity planning in this fast paced environment is difficult with a solution that can take years to build. This is where the traditional data centre is struggling to keep up.

Being able to effectively manage capacity and therefore capital expenditure and operational expenditure is a distinct competitive advantage. Commissioning a new data centre in the traditional way is no longer the answer for businesses operating in extremely competitive local and international markets.

Modular approach

By combining the modular concept with flexible design variations, Colt’s approach allows complete data centres with industry-leading efficiencies to be installed and fully commissioned within just sixteen weeks, thereby eliminating most of the uncertainty around capacity planning.

The modular approach provides customers with higher flexibility than ever before in power, size and infrastructure capacity previously only associated with bespoke builds. This is achieved using modern production line techniques to manufacture an extensive range of standard data centre variations including options for layout, floor size, power density, cooling technology and tiering.

By adopting a manufactured approach, the performance and reliability of the completed hall can be precisely predicted and optimised. The result is large-scale data centres that match or exceed the durability and quality standards of a traditional data centre, but are ready for work in a fraction of the time.

Improved power efficiency

The new data centre in Paris is a case in point with a proven industry leading design Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.21, representing a significant improvement over many traditional data centres and could result in significant cost savings for customers. Some traditional data centres have a PUE as high as 2.50 and based on these levels, a 500m2 modular data hall centre with an IT load of 750kW and taking into consideration inflation at five percent per annum, could result in a cost saving of 3.6 million Euro, the equivalent of over 10 years in power bills in France.

Improved reliability and reduced downtime

Since data centres are the heart of today’s business processes, a single downtime event has the potential to impact significantly on the profitability of an organisation. But, it is not only the obvious initial cost that is a burden. There are far reaching repercussions: the cost of fixing the problem, the data recovery and, most importantly, the potential damage to the company’s reputation which could cost millions in future business.

The Colt technology at the core of our Paris data centre has been developed to offer exceptional standards of performance and reliability. Standardised, proven components, factory built and tested into designs that are themselves standardised can offer performance which is absolutely predictable.

This is supported by a sophisticated system architecture, which will keep the system running even in the event of the failure of individual elements. Protecting it all is state of the art power supply, fire protection and security systems. It all contributes to the reliability that any modern data focussed operation must have.

The business case for a modular data centre

The greatest benefits of utilising a modular data centre are actually commercial rather than technical. The costs of design and build, capital and time operations, power and downtime add up to improved total cost of ownership, offering early adopters clear competitive advantages. The modular approach provides several key advantages over conventional builds:

• It can provide a new data centre within 16 weeks
• It allows the use of standardised, highest-quality components
• It ensures that cutting edge technology can be used in both servers and ancillary systems
• It provides a proven design with predictable performance
• It provides the flexibility to grow easily with your demand for capacity


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