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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.