From state of the art on paper to state of the art in practice

Why do companies outsource their IT infrastructure to a colocation data centre? One of the reasons is that they trust a data centre provider for their knowledge, resources and expertise. Often, companies are not able or not willing to invest in this themselves. A data centre offers, for example, 24/7 technical support, security, the possibility to flexibly scale up capacity and the guaranteed use of the latest technology to allow for centralised, efficient management. However, before a new data centre, such as Interxion’s AMS8, can guarantee this service, it must be certain that the data centre’s facility performance is within the capabilities of the Employer Requirements, Design and Service Level Agreements. Only then, after the construction work has been completed, can the data centre be transferred to Interxion’s Operations team, so that they can conduct the final tests together with the construction partner.

AMS8 will be put into operation in three phases. Now that the date of commissioning of the first phase is approaching, we are focusing to implement the activities listed in the Handover Strategy. This is including agreement of information required for commissioning, training, handover, asset management, future monitoring and maintenance. Especially because soon, part of AMS8 will still be under construction, while another part will be operational.

Commissioning

Before phase 1 becomes operational, it is necessary to be certain that the data centre operates within the capabilities of the Employer Requirements and Design. Each phase will be individually commissioned by an independent third party, the commissioning agent. The entire commissioning process consists of more than 3,000 Commissioning Tests, classified into five different levels:

Level 1 – Factory Testing

Level 2 – Quality Assurance/ Quality Control
Level 3 – Start-up Witness Testing
Level 4 – Functional Performance Testing
Level 5 – Integrated Systems Testing

At the time of writing, the first phase of Interxion’s new data centre, AMS8, is at Level 4, the Functional Performance Testing. All the systems, such as the cooling system, the gas fire extinguishers and the emergency power systems, are verified to see whether they perform correctly, independently from each other. The Provisional Acceptance phase can begin once the commissioning agent has accepted that the individual system and major equipment operation verification is completed successfully.

Provisional Acceptance

This is the last level of testing, the integrated system operation verification. In other words, do all the systems operate correctly together? When a component cuts out, do the other components react as expected? Do all of the redundancy systems work? Does the cooling system remain operational? During this phase, full occupation of the data centre is simulated, as if the entire data centre is filled with our customers’ IT infrastructure. Using a load bank, the infrastructure is subjected to a load identical to the final situation. Unique about this situation is that the Operations team can, in principle, test as much as it wants. Customers have not yet installed their IT and the team can turn anything on and off to see what happens. Only by doing this is Interxion able to guarantee its customers the best quality possible.

Documentation

The Operation & Maintenance manual is drawn up in parallel to the tests. This manual contains all the information about the building, such as drawings, maintenance contracts, warranties and guarantees, and as-constructed information. The manual is approximately 18 GB in size and contains about 8,000 documents for each phase. Only the documentation itself represents approximately 12,000 hours of work for each phase. The documentation ensures that the Operations team knows the building inside out and is always able to find out what happened when and where.

Separation between construction and going live

Once phase 1 becomes operational, there will be a temporary situation in which one part of the data centre is live, while the other part is still under construction. This means that both construction workers and Interxion’s customers will be on the premises at the same time. The preparations for this situation are fully underway. There is already a physical dustproof separation between the area that will shortly go live and the rest of the site, so that all the parties concerned can get used to the situation. The data centre is already a clean room area and everybody must wear an overcoat and overshoes. For everything that potentially can have an effect on the live phase, a very strict access policy and work permit policy will be in place. This takes place in close cooperation with Operations.

Security is now also present at the AMS8 site, so that they can get to know the building long before the first phase goes live. This way, the construction workers can also get used to the partially operational situation, which will soon be the case.

In brief

Every component is tested both individually and integrally. Before a phase becomes operational and available for Interxion’s customers, the Operations team makes sure that AMS8 is in exactly the same condition as Interxion’s other data centres. And that is a state-of-the-art data centre of the highest quality!

 

 

The internet economy as the biggest cash cow for the Netherlands

“There is, once again, a miracle going on in the Netherlands.” This is how Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, described the role the Netherlands has as digital gateway to Europe, when he appeared on VPRO’s Summer Guests (Zomergasten) television programme on 4 September. Rutte was referring to the third gateway in the Netherlands. Alongside Schiphol and the Port of Rotterdam, the Netherlands also has a third important transit role for the rest of Europe: The digital infrastructure.

Since the end of 2015, the Dutch government has designated this digital infrastructure as the gateway to Europe, placing particular emphasis on the economic importance of this infrastructure and on maintaining close relationships with stakeholders in order to jointly formulate an economic vision to maintain and strengthen this position as Digital Gateway to Europe. This is not surprising, considering the following image:

Digital gateway to Europe

Digital infrastructure encompasses housing and hosting as well as connectivity, and these are exactly the areas of expertise of Interxion and its partners. In these fields, Amsterdam easily competes with cities such as London, Paris and Frankfurt due to entrepreneurship, innovation capacity and active participation in the internet community. And these are not so much “miraculous” as more permanent advantages of the Netherlands. In this blog I will explain why.

  1. Location

    Geographically the Netherlands is ideally situated for the role of transit port. That is precisely why the Port of Rotterdam is so large. Add to this the excellent infrastructure and you have a flying start for servicing the rest of Europe. This applies not only to the road, rail and waterway infrastructure but also to the digital infrastructure. For example, 11 of the 15 transatlantic submarine cables have landing stations in the Netherlands.

Transatlantic submarine cables Netherlands

The AMS-IX is the second largest internet exchange in the world, with a maximum throughput of 4711Gbit/s. In the Netherlands there are more mobile subscriptions than people and 91 percent of households have an internet connection. The broadband and telecommunications providers also offer one of the most reliable, fast and available (wireless) connections in the world.

  1. The people

    The Dutch have always been a nation of entrepreneurs . In addition, they are exceptionally highly educated nowadays: 40 percent of 25-34 year olds have a bachelor’s degree or higher. 55% of those working in the IT sector have a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree. The Dutch are proficient in the English language and, as a society, they are extremely technologically oriented. Therefore, many businesses view the Netherlands as the perfect test market for the adoption of technological innovations. That is also partly due to the Netherlands being one of the top 10 business friendly countries thanks to the attractive tax environment, the stable industrial relations and the fact that it is the sixth largest economy in Europe. Also, the Netherlands is the only European country where three out of the four large public cloud players have their own data centres, and that is why many foreign companies choose to base themselves here. That number currently stands at more than 6,300 companies. It seems unlikely that they are here just for the tulips. In fact, I think that this number may rise further due to Brexit. In any event, Interxion is preparing itself ….

  1. Tech Hub

    Lastly, the Netherlands is a source of technological innovations. 60 percent of the top 2000 IT companies are based in the Netherlands. In addition, the Dutch are exceptionally innovative . 70 percent of all innovations in the Netherlands are IT related. Protocols and standards such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, iDeal and the programming language Python are innovations of Dutch origin. And the Netherlands also has a presence at the top of the hardware sector – roughly 60 percent of all the chips in the world are produced in the Netherlands, mostly by ASML.

Digital gateway & data centres

There is little doubt that there are many factors supporting the important role of the digital gateway. Not only the geographic location of the Netherlands, but also the Dutch themselves and the entrepreneurial climate ensure that the Netherlands leads the way. It is of the utmost importance that one realizes that the Netherlands is not only a transit port for goods, but also for data. And that means that data centres are becoming increasingly important, for both the Netherlands and for Europe.
Now that the internet economy is becoming an increasingly large part of the total Dutch economy, it is logical that the demand for data centre capacity is also increasing. It is great to see that a data centre such as Interxion is fully aware of this. Not only is Interxion taking account of this by anticipating the growth of the internet economy, but also at client level, Interxion is ready to contribute to potential growth scenarios, with long-term planning and flexibility being the norm. In the Netherlands, the construction of our eighth data centre is in full swing . Interxion already has 42 data centres spread over 11 European countries and we offer our clients comprehensive security and availability for their business-critical applications. With more than 600 connectivity providers, 21 European internet exchanges, and leading cloud and digital media platforms, we really can state that these data centres truly are cloud, content, financial, and especially, connectivity hubs. And these connectivity hubs offer fertile ground for business growth, and with it, economic progress. Actually Mark Rutte is right. To be able to contribute to this, does indeed feel like a “miracle”, especially now that the Netherlands, as Europe’s digital gateway, has an even bigger pull factor for businesses and their data needs. The internet economy continues to grow, largely dependent on connectivity hubs.

 For more information about the Netherlands as the Digital Gateway to Europe, view the infographic here.

 

Seasonal cooling underground

Have you ever wondered how a data centre is kept cool? The most advanced data centres have long moved on from using enormous coolers buzzing 24 hours a day to cool the equipment. In fact, at Interxion’s new data centre, AMS8, the coolers have only been installed as a back-up. Cooling will primarily be provided by so-called dry coolers, which simply use the air outside, as long as it is cold enough. In addition, the AMS8 data centre also has an underground well system, meaning that seasonal effects can be reversed. Normally a cooling system has to work hard on a warm summer’s day (it has to use a lot of energy), but with the help of these wells, a summer’s day can actually become a very energy-efficient day. In this blog I will explain how the advanced, energy-efficient well system at the new AMS8 data centre works.

Approximately 10-15 years ago data centre cooling was much less efficient than it is nowadays. The equipment was set up haphazardly in a room and very cold air (sometimes less than 10 degrees) was blown around the area. Much has changed in recent years, both in terms of the servers – which are now resistant to much higher temperatures than previously – and also in terms of the generation and distribution of the cooling. This has been partly stimulated by the increasing concern about energy use in the IT industry and the sharply increased focus on low-energy design and build. The use of wells is a good example of this; the total energy needs of a data centre can be drastically reduced by using a well system.

Before the wells are dug, the soil structure needs to be examined. The area where the AMS8 data centre is being built has proven to be very suitable for constructing the well system. The wells are constructed by drilling to a depth of 160 metres and installing a system of pipes. At this depth there are various aquifers which can be tapped into. At AMS8 the so-called duo-wells are used. In total, there will be ten wells for AMS8, which will together form five duo-wells. Drilling a well is precise, specialist work. The pipes in the wells have filter units which will allow water in but keep sand out. The water in a well is brackish, a mixture of fresh water and salt water, and therefore the well system is made of corrosion-resistant materials.

‘It takes two to tango’
The operation of such a duo is as simple as it is ingenious. A duo consists of a combination of a cold well and a warm well, interconnected and positioned at a considerable distance from each other. At the start, the wells are all equally cold, the natural temperature of the water being around 11 degrees. In the summer, cold water is pumped up from the cold well and warmed once by the data centre and then fed back into the warm well. In the winter, this process is reversed. On cold winter days, the dry coolers easily provide more cooling than the data centre needs and the additional capacity is then used to cool the warm wells back to their original temperature. This means that the wells can be used sustainably, year after year, season after season.

Closed system
The well systems are closed systems so no ‘well water’ passes through the data centre. The cooling is extracted via a heat exchanger to which the data centre’s cooling system is also connected.

Renewable and efficient
Interxion wants to consciously manage its energy needs and so the use of these wells is a very good fit for fulfilling these energy requirements. It is a wonderful system that works together cleverly with the natural environment and the seasons to provide a reliable, energy-efficient cooling system which respects the environment and helps our clients further reduce their costs!

Uptime is not guaranteed by certification, but by reliable operation

If somebody spends € 100 million on building a data centre, there is no doubt the data centre will function perfectly on paper. At least with regard to the applicable requirements and guidelines. However, you only know if a data centre actually functions and performs as it has been designed to do once it becomes operational. It is specifically not about the certification and the technical requirements, but the uptime.

A high-tech, state-of-the-art data centre must meet more than just the technical requirements. It is mainly the operation, the way in which the data centre is managed and maintained, the way in which inspections are held and how the equipment settings are optimized and adjusted, which determines the uptime. And that is, ultimately, what it is all about. No number of certificates, upon which the design is based, can guarantee uptime.

Responsibility
Providers of high-quality data centre services must look further than the guidelines set by the industry or manufacturers. This is not only in their own interest. After all, they know better than anybody else the best way of guaranteeing uptime. At Interxion, we use our maintenance programme to see how critical a certain component is, what the chance of failure is and what the impact will be if something does not function correctly. The manufacturer of a component, such as an air conditioning unit, only looks at the individual component and does not see all the various components in the data centre as a whole. By accurately looking at how the systems work, suitable maintenance plans can be drawn up, which can prevent faults and unnecessary risks when the maintenance is performed.

Commissioning and maintenance
When delivering a new data centre, Interxion uses the level 5 commissioning principle. This principle makes us look much further than the usual guidelines and certification by checking, inspecting and testing the components and systems throughout the entire construction process in five steps. This starts from the moment that a component leaves the factory and continues through to the integral acceptance test, which takes place just before the data centre becomes fully operational.

Once the data centre goes live, an extensive maintenance programme based on a detailed FMECA study (Failure Mode and Effect Criticality Analysis) is started. This methodology originated in the aviation industry in the nineteen forties and nineteen fifties. When carrying out maintenance, we critically look at the risk and the impact of systems breaking down and we also take into consideration the various scenarios that arise if a component becomes faulty. By doing so, we ensure that the entire data centre does not shut down. By regularly checking all the critical components, the maintenance programme can be adjusted to the actual condition of the systems and any unnecessary risks are prevented. All of this forms the basis for achieving uptime.

The importance of people
Besides the thorough testing of all the systems in our data centres, uptime also depends on people. A technically perfect data centre can still fail as a result of the wrong action or intervention by somebody.

Training, education and certification are essential in controlling the human factor. Although external certification can contribute to improving knowledge and increasing awareness when working in a critical environment, it is the internal processes that are able to guarantee that no mistakes are made when maintenance is performed. Interxion uses various processes which guarantee that the work is carried out correctly and which ensure that the correct feedback is given if any deviations are observed. The risk of a mistake is minimized by accurately planning all of the maintenance activities and by recording everything in a maintenance management system. Furthermore, in the event of an external audit, this system enables Interxion to easily prove that all the maintenance tasks have been carried out correctly.

Uptime is at the centre of the services we provide. Uptime is achieved by running an excellent operation, which subjects the state-of-the-art data centre to extensive testing, which carefully draws up a maintenance programme and which uses well-trained employees to perform the maintenance work. With these critical success factors, uptime is achieved day after day, also long after a data centre’s certification plaque has been hung up on display.

More to security than just cyber security

Nowadays, data is the world’s most valuable asset. Quality content, personal records, photos, camera images and big-data initiatives that bridge the gap between IT and business: all this information is digital. It’s not surprising then, that businesses are getting more and more concerned about the security of their data. Research carried out by Interxion this year confirms that the large majority of medium and large sized financial institutions, government organisations and IT companies are worried about data leaks or cyber attacks.

Due to the ever increasing amount of company data stored in the cloud, the first port of call for these businesses are virtual security measures. The adoption of cloud computing means that businesses exercise less and less control over the administration.  Moreover, many cloud-like services are based on the principle of multiple participants sharing the underlying infrastructure so as to take full advantage of economies of scale. This shared usage leads companies to believe – albeit, wrongly – that others are in a position to gain easy access to their data. The organisation’s individual requirements, application and data set will determine whether a cloud service is appropriate, and if so, which cloud format that is. For most organisations, the best solution lies in a combination of a public cloud, private cloud and ‘on-premise’ infrastructure. There is good reason, after all, why this type of hybrid solution comes out on top as most popular in a number of studies.

 

Virtual and physical

Whereas cloud service providers are theoretically in charge of virtual security, colocation data centres – where the cloud solution is housed – are in charge of physical security. This is why our newest data centre, AMS8 on the Schiphol Campus, needs to satisfy the highest security guidelines and has numerous levels of security. At the very least, this means ‘perimeter’ security around the site and at the entrance, ‘mantraps’ in the data centre, access systems at the entrance to the various areas in the data centre, locked data centre cabinets and biometric checks such as fingerprint scans. In addition, no person is allowed into or out of the data centre without their identity being confirmed by security. Every visitor must be registered in advance and only authorised persons have access to the data floor.

But the protection of your data goes even further. Other additional measures have been implemented to guarantee the security of the data in the data centre, including 24/7 camera monitoring all around and in the data centre, combined with specialist security guards who patrol the area. Within the data centre itself, the various areas are locked, with the only key holders being the data centre administrator and the client. This means that even the data centre staff only has access to the servers when the client grants them permission. This guarantees the owner of the data a safe environment.

 

Certification

As with all Interxion data centres, AMS8 will be governed by a number of strict regulations. For example, processes are according to to ITIL standards, the SLA includes guarantees on power supply, cooling and humidity, and physical systems and security processes are ISO 27001 certified for information security management and BS25999 certified for the proper management and monitoring of the Business Continuity Management System. ISO 27001 is the most comprehensive international standard for physical systems and security processes. The audit and certification process covers all aspects of the data centre, from physical infrastructure and access management, to back-up systems and the authority of staff. With processes, it’s also about seemingly logical codes of conduct that could represent a threat to the physical security of data, such as no eating and drinking on the data floor and banning flammable materials and substances inside the data centre. They represent an important confidence factor for businesses.

 

Stratification

Whenever someone visits one of our data centres for the first time, they are generally surprised by the very noticeable security measures in place. This is because the security measures at an independent collocation data centre are usually far more extensive than those at a company with its own on-site data centre. The result is often an enhanced sense of confidence in the total cloud concept. Which is understandable, given that the physical security measures are far more visible and tangible than the virtual security measures of cloud providers and IT service providers. The security of the cloud is, however, not limited to cyber security alone: the physical location of ‘the cloud’ enjoys just as physical a protection.

Data centres are good for the environment

While the financial and scalability advantages of the cloud and data centres are clear to everybody, the environmental aspect remains a topic of much discussion. It is often said of providers of data centre services and cloud computing that they do not do enough to be regarded as ecologically sustainable. Of course, it cannot be denied that these parties consume a very large amount of energy, but the cloud is still much better for the environment than most people initially think.

 

We are in the middle of the “Information Big Bang” and mankind is expected to generate more data in the next five years than in the last 500 years. Although only time can tell whether that is true, one thing is certain: data can be found everywhere these days. It is created by everybody with a smartphone, tablet or PC. Even our cars, houses and many other appliances now produce data. And an increasing amount of storage and processing capacity is required for this ever increasing volume of data. The systems that facilitate this capacity run in data centres. These data centres use energy to provide the systems with electricity and to run cooling systems to guarantee a conditioned environment. AMS8, just like all of Interxion’s other data centres, has a large power supply capacity with a phased modular architecture to facilitate the most efficient use of energy.

To the advantage of cloud providers, they have a high-quality IT infrastructure which is extremely homogeneous and has a high occupation rate and good scalability. This ensures that cloud providers generally waste less energy than traditional IT models. Furthermore, the concentration of servers in a single location results in a large ecological advantage compared to if these servers were located in the many individual organizations. In addition, cloud providers are in a position to select energy-efficient data centres, thanks to their size and the uniform way in which they save and process data. The large independent providers of colocation data centre services, in particular, lead the way in the use of sustainable energy technologies and the innovative methods used to increase energy efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions and decrease the amount of waste.

Taking the above into consideration, cloud providers and data centre providers are generally much more energy efficient than traditional IT models and enterprise companies. On top of that, cloud providers and data centre providers are doing everything to further reduce their energy consumption. For this reason, we continuously monitor our data centre environment so that we can optimize our energy consumption every day. However, the image that many people have of data centre suppliers and of the cloud is not going to change overnight. It will require time, and data centre suppliers and cloud providers will, therefore, have to continue coming up with innovative ideas to continue contributing to the cleanest possible environment. It is for good reason that Interxion has committed itself to using sustainable energy technologies, such as using outside air and groundwater for cooling and recycling residual heat.

Electricity, more than just a question of inserting a plug into a plug socket

The electricity supply in a data centre is not just a question of inserting a plug into a plug socket. Firstly, a data centre requires a different type of current to the one that you and I get from a plug socket at home and, secondly, there must be electricity at the location where you wish to build a data centre. The second point is not always the case, mainly because it concerns a huge capacity (the so-called medium voltage, or 10,000 V).

Every grid operator works systematically so that the network has an optimal structure and so that it operates as efficiently and as effectively as possible. For that reason, network expansions are determined through a long and intensive process. Which location is, in the long term, strategically the best place for a new substation and what should its capacity be? It is not that Interxion tells the operator what its electricity needs are and the grid operator simply provides the electricity. The Dutch electricity network is rather complex, with a great many connections and branches going off in many different directions. This is also the reason why a grid operator cannot always just say “we will add a 50 kV station if a customer requires it”.

On the other hand, it is also not true that we do not have any say in the matter. A data centre supplier is, after all, an important customer as far as electricity consumption is concerned. But at the same time, it must be put into perspective, because the electricity consumption of an independent data centre is still many times less than if all the servers ran separately in the individual companies’ own data centres. As a data centre supplier, it is, therefore, very important to sit down with the grid operator as early as possible to discuss the plans and preferences of both parties.

In this case, “at an early stage” means very early, because not only does the design process take a long time, so too does the subsequent permit process. The complexity of the network and all the laws and regulations sometimes make it difficult for grid operators to keep up with developments in and the demands from the market. BV Nederland, which has officially labelled the digital infrastructure as the third main port of the Netherlands must, therefore, in my opinion, make sure that the electricity supply does not become a factor that stands in the way of further growth of the IT and cloud sector.

All the more reason to continue investing in a good relationship with and good consultation between data centre suppliers and grid operators, because only if the various stakeholders in the entire chain work together with an eye on everybody’s interests, can the Netherlands continue to fulfil its important function as a digital point of intersection and business location for foreign companies.

Start with the end in mind

Have you ever wondered how many cables there are in a data centre? There are so many that they have to be taken into consideration when building a new data centre, even before the construction work is started. This blog tells you how Interxion, one of the leading suppliers of carrier-neutral cloud services and connectivity, deals with this issue in the construction of their 8th data centre.

Just as for Interxion’s other seven data centres, AMS8 will have many kilometres of cable. AMS7, which is smaller than AMS8 will be, has roughly 1,350 kilometres of cables, and that is just for electricity and monitoring. To give you an idea of the length, that is further than the distance from Amsterdam to Barcelona as the crow flies. So how do you stop that from becoming a confusing jumble of spaghetti?

Plug and play
The cable structure has been taken into consideration when designing the new data centre. The philosophy is: Start with the end in mind. A practical application of this philosophy is the fact that, even before the construction work has started, a large number of pipes are laid, under ditches and roads, and they come out of the ground outside of the data centre’s premises. By doing so, it will be easy to increase the number of cables that go to the outside world. Everything will be ready and the cables can be laid in the pipes very easily: plug and play. By doing it this way, there is minimum risk for the operation and no more digging will be required after the construction work has been completed.

The data connections with the outside world enter the data centre via a fibre entry room. The underground pipes lead to these rooms and the incoming glass fibre cables are led to one of the two carrier rooms. The telecom and Internet providers set up their equipment in these carrier rooms and the glass fibre cables are connected to the equipment, so that the lights can be turned on. In other words, in the carrier rooms, the beams of light from the glass fibre cables are sent to the clients’ data connections. In order to actually connect the clients, the connections go from the carrier room along two separate (and, therefore, redundant) routes, via the meet-me room, to the end client’s location in our data centre. In turn, the clients can provide their own services via their chosen connections.

The meet-me room can be compared to the old telephone operator, who, once upon a time, used to connect your telephone call with the person you wanted to talk to. It is the central location where all the connections are made which are necessary to ensure that our clients have the connectivity they desire. A large number of cable routes have been prepared from this room. They run throughout the entire data centre and a connection can be made to them in every desired location. This also takes place via separate routes, so that redundancy can be guaranteed at all times. Good administration of all these connections ensures optimal use of this infrastructure and allows the optimal route from the meet-me room to the client to be chosen. The meet-me room is, therefore, critical to the data centre’s operation.

Separation
The large number of cables in a data centre are separated from each other in a number of different ways. The cables for data and electricity each have their own routes and the glass fibre data cables are separated from the copper data cables. These different forms of separation are included in the design of the data centre. The power cables are laid in the server rooms under a raised, antistatic floor, under the clients’ server racks. That way, the cables are safely tucked away and clients can safely work on their equipment without coming into contact with the high voltages that these cables carry.

The data cables are laid in cable ducts which are hung from the ceiling and, as has been said before, the glass fibre cables are separated from the copper cables. This allows the specific installation requirements of glass fibre cables, which are more sensitive to sharp corners and damage, to be taken into consideration. The choice of data cable is based on a number of different factors, but the distance to be bridged is nowadays the decisive factor in large data centres. An Ethernet connection is restricted by distance, so it is often a better idea to use glass fibre.

Motorway network
Our clients always have the flexibility to make their own choices. As a carrier-neutral data centre, Interxion allows its clients to choose the supplier they want for their connections. We also give our clients the freedom to set up their own room and the cabling needed in that room. Clients can design and set this up fully independently, or they can call on the help of Interxion’s specialists, who can provide this service as a turnkey project. Since the final situation is taken as the starting point of the design of every Interxion data centre, the centre already has an entire motorway network of cable routes. All future connections can be added to this network, without any problem. Partly thanks to this aspect of designing and building with the future as the starting point, the new data centre, AMS8, is a true Interxion data centre, with guaranteed availability and performance.

Good project management shortens lead times

Good project management is crucial to deliver a data centre. It is the project manager who has strong focus on the overall process, programme and cost management. The project manager translates the business demand into a project deliverable and keeps the stakeholders informed to keep the main objective in sight.

Strong project management begins long before the actual construction work commences. The start of a project is the development of a business case strategy and the specification of the project brief, which includes the lessons learned from previous projects.  As a project manager you ensure that the project brief is successfully implemented according to the critical activities and milestones, outline cost planning, the project scope and the high level requirements. Such as the required m2 of parcel/ building, total m2 of white space, genset configuration, UPS configuration, cooling and/or ventilation system, total power capacity in MW and also the capacity in kW/m2.

Based on this we have carried out the site selection and feasibility studies for the Interxion’s AMS8 data centre facility, looking at current logistics buildings and new developments. Following the identified most efficient and sensible solution we decided a new development, situated at Interxion’s Schiphol campus.

For the construction of this data centre it is key that the project manager is capable of securing and realizing the critical success factors within the established milestones. Here are a few examples. We have to ensure the design is compliant to local rules and regulations and closely monitor the permit application process; a process that takes 14 weeks.  In addition, Interxion wants to operate energy efficient so we have decided to implement an aquifer thermal energy storage into the design to achieve a PUE of less than 1.2. This has a lead time of 50 weeks including environmental approval. And, as project manager, you should of course order the grid and fibre connections well in advance. The lead times for these vary from 26 to 52 weeks. Furthermore, we have purchased all the critical installations for the realisation of AMS8 ourselves to ensure that the building partner can immediately start connecting the installations.

It’s not without reason I mention these specific items; on the one hand, because they are essential to deliver a well-functioning data centre, and on the other hand, because of the huge market demand for square metres versus the long construction period. As project manager I invest a lot of time in programming, and also in creating a team with all the involved parties to cover the life of a project. The programme is an essential tool to monitor project progress, whatever stage a project is at. Because there are so many inter-dependencies influencing the progress of the process, you need to keep the stakeholders informed and ensure they are present at the right time. I believe it is important to have all parties at the construction site to enable face-to-face conversation and not just by email or phone. The result, you are all truly working together to deliver the project on time within the expectations.

At this construction project we are working within a very tight programme. We are going to construct the AMS8 facility in just one year whereas the normal construction process – a hospital for instance – takes three years. This can only be achieved by working in parallel; simultaneously designing and constructing. Once we have specified eighty percent of the project we start the construction activities on site. The last twenty percent will follow during this construction phase. This means we have selected a construction partner before the design is fully defined and completed.

In addition we are working in phases with a modular construction model. We will deliver the data centre in phases, and we are able to offer phased delivery for each client. This makes the coordination between the various parties even more crucial. The construction activities of the modules to be built cannot impact the already delivered and operational modules. We are already keeping this in mind in the design; we consider upfront whether we need to add additional equipment based on actual demands, how we can physically separate the construction site from the operational modules and how to test and commission the installations during live operations and construction activities.

This demands a different way of thinking, from us and from our partners. Stringent project management and structure is essential for the success of this method of working. We therefore use the GOKIT method (Dutch), continuously managing the cost, organization, quality, information and programme aspects of a major construction project. We constantly look ahead and anticipate risks to allow us to reduce the lead time for delivering a data centre. The project managers have to ensure that everything is described and recorded down to the last detail so that quality can be guaranteed, not only during the construction phase but also in the future.

Partners are everything

It is never easy to build a data centre, not even if it is the 42nd time that you do so. On the contrary, it is a complex process that brings together many different disciplines. You can only achieve the best result by working with partners who are all specialists in their own field.

The basis of the design is determined by our own Engineering department. When drawing up the detailed designs, we gain advice from a number of preferred engineering firms and consultancies, one of which is Royal HaskoningDHV. Our design is ambitious with regard to energy efficiency. This ambition has been translated into a PUE factor that is less than 1.2, which makes us a leading force in the market. Energy efficiency is only obtainable if you have the optimal design, which seamlessly joins the various components together. That is why an important part of the cooperation with the technological consultancies is about fine tuning the design.

Although the basis of a modern-day data centre is not so very different from one from twenty years ago, a lot has changed under the “bonnet” with regard to technology and innovation. One of the principles that we apply at Interxion with regard to technology is that it should be about evolution and not revolution. We are continuously innovating to improve our data centres and to make them more sustainable, but at the same time, we do not always use the latest technology in our data centres. And we have a very good reason for not doing so. We choose to use proven technology, because we want to be able to guarantee to our customers that it works. An important consequence of using proven technology is that you have a greater choice of suppliers.

We select partners who are best able to realize the design and deliver the various components. Our standard practice is to put out a tender so that we can take the best possible decision. Our most important criterion when selecting a partner is always quality in combination with a competitive price. We always want to be certain that the components that we select do what they have to do. Since we use standards for operation and administration, practice has shown it is often the trusted partners who offer the best solution, certainly if it concerns company-critical installations.

We want to be one hundred percent certain that the data centre functions optimally once we hand it over for operation. This translates into strict safety guidelines and detailed procedures for testing and commissioning components. Where operational reliability is concerned, we expect quite a lot of our partners. In turn, our partners also benefit from this. They know that their components have been optimally tested and are being put to use in the best possible way. Suppliers can be sure that they do not have to come back because something is not working correctly. They do not incur any extra costs for altering installations and rectifying faults. Looking at it like that, we also invest in our partners, to help them improve their products.

And it is this type of partner care that Interxion wishes to achieve: to stimulate each other to raise standards to a higher level.