External data centers and hybrid IT environments are on the rise


As a company you have various options for your IT environment: your on-premise data center, an external data center such as LCL, the cloud, etc. Which option did your company choose? Or does it combine multiple options? The combination of on the one hand the cloud and on the other hand the use of your own physical infrastructure, on-premise or external, involves the much-discussed “hybrid” IT environments.

Hybrid environments are gaining popularity today. Sometimes the link is made to a declining success of external data centers. Nothing could be further from the truth. According to a study by Uptime Institute (’19), the need for data center capacity, both on-and off-premise, is increasing in almost half of the companies surveyed. Furthermore, the study “predicts a fundamental, structural evolution towards the increasing use of external data centers and cloud services” in the long term. The choice for own data centers would decrease sooner, although they will not become superfluous.

The lack of flexibility and the high investment costs at a data center within the company undoubtedly contribute to this. You don’t just expand your own data center due to lack of space, let alone arrange it quickly. Setting up your own data center infrastructure is a costly affair and also maintaining a server room has a considerable price tag. And then you don’t have a good DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management) for the control of all important parameters in the room, such as the temperature and the power consumption.

According to Uptime Institute, external data centers will remain crucial in the vision of many companies regarding IT capacity. In general, the impact of the cloud on the need for own or external data centers is not significant. In a hybrid environment, the cloud is often just one of the various components of an IT environment, just as external data centers are.

The cloud naturally has a number of advantages. For example, it forms an easy backup option, without the need for investment in additional hardware. In addition, economies of scale of the cloud can ensure reasonable rates, and you no longer need to arrange software and security updates yourself. However, the benefits of data centers continue to exist and differ from the benefits of the cloud. Is the security of the data important for your company? Or the legal framework under which they fall? Then a local data center offers the ideal solution. A common advantage is the flexibility. Both the cloud and an external data center offer more expansion options to keep a close eye on things, compared to an in-house data center.

Anyone looking for a backup solution with a hybrid environment can use an external data center as the first storage location for the data. The cloud can then act as a backup. Be aware of the characteristics of a hybrid environment. Data security requires extra attention and your IT environment becomes more complex. For a good backup you can also rely on two data centers that are sufficiently far apart. It is partly because of the distance between Diegem, Aalst and Antwerp that LCL chose these data centers for these locations.

The different IT solutions each have their own specific advantages and disadvantages. Depending on the IT need and the business context, one will already be more suitable than the other. With a well-considered approach, they can complement each other nicely. Hybrid IT environments are on the rise and as a data center at LCL we are happy to grow along with that trend. We are ready for it!

Externe datacenters en hybride ICT-omgevingen samen in de lift


Hybride omgevingen winnen vandaag de dag aan populariteit. Soms wordt bij die vaststelling de link gelegd naar een afnemend succes van externe datacenters. Niets is echter minder waar. Volgens een studie van Uptime Institute (’19) stijgt de behoefte aan datacentercapaciteit, zowel on- als off-premise, bij bijna de helft van de bevraagde bedrijven. Verder voorspelt de studie ‘op lange termijn een fundamentele, structurele evolutie naar een stijgend gebruik van externe datacenters en clouddiensten’. De groeiende keuze voor on-premise datacenters zou eerder vertragen, hoewel ze niet overbodig worden.

Het gebrek aan flexibiliteit en de hoge investeringskost bij een datacenter binnen het bedrijf dragen daar ongetwijfeld toe bij. Een eigen datacenter breid je bij gebrek aan ruimte niet zomaar uit, laat staan dat je dat snel kan regelen. Het inrichten van een eigen datacenterinfrastructuur is een kostelijke zaak en ook het onderhoud van een server room heeft een behoorlijk prijskaartje. En dan heb je nog geen goed DCIM (Data Center Infrastructure Management) voor de controle van alle belangrijke parameters in de ruimte, zoals de temperatuur en het stroomverbruik.

Externe datacenters zullen volgens Uptime Institute cruciaal blijven in de visie van vele bedrijven omtrent IT-capaciteit. In het algemeen blijkt de impact van de cloud op de behoefte aan eigen of externe datacenters niet aanzienlijk. In een hybride omgeving is de cloud gewoonlijk slechts een van de verschillende onderdelen van een ICT-omgeving.
De cloud heeft uiteraard een aantal pluspunten. De voordelen van datacenters blijven echter evengoed bestaan en verschillen van de voordelen van de cloud. Is voor jouw bedrijf de veiligheid van de gegevens belangrijk? Of het juridisch kader waaronder ze vallen? Dan biedt een datacenter de ideale oplossing. Daar kan geen enkel schaalbaarheids- of kostenvoordeel tegenop. Een gemeenschappelijk voordeel is de flexibiliteit. Zowel de cloud als een extern datacenter bieden meer uitbreidingsmogelijkheden om kort op de bal te spelen.

Wie met een hybride omgeving vooral een back-up-oplossing zoekt, kan een extern datacenter gebruiken als eerste opslagplaats van de gegevens. De cloud kan dan als back-up fungeren. Wees wel op je hoede bij de overstap naar een hybride omgeving. Het vergroot de risico’s en de complexiteit. Je kan ook beroep doen op twee datacenters die voldoende ver uit elkaar zijn gelegen. Het is onder meer omwille van de afstand tussen de locaties, dat LCL koos voor datacenters in Diegem, Aalst en Antwerpen.
Hybride ICT-omgevingen zitten dus effectief in de lift en als datacenter zijn we bij LCL blij om met die trend mee te groeien. Wij zijn er alvast klaar voor!

A good DCIM, the all-seeing eye of LCL


LCL has relatively large data centers at 3 locations. For data centers of this scale, good management of the infrastructure is crucial for reliable, smooth and organized operation. We use sophisticated software for DCIM, developed specifically for LCL. This includes our exact floor plans and the electrical diagrams for each data room. We work together with Perf-IT for this. Their application brings all our hardware together in one DCIM system. For example, cooling systems from different brands can be seamlessly integrated into the system.


What is mainly being watched at DCIM? It is about checking all important parameters in a data center: the temperature, power consumption, capacity and efficiency. At LCL, one system controls all these factors. In this way, employees can monitor their proper functioning day and night at a glance. This central, comprehensive approach makes the information much clearer than when you have to consult different systems. In the event of a warning or problem, the application also immediately gives an indication of the cause. The seriousness of the report becomes immediately apparent, even remotely.

Regarding temperature for example, we see the values ​​in the various halls and the impact thereof for each customer at a glance. In addition, the redundancy is closely monitored. Everything must be able to work redundantly in terms of temperature, but also in terms of electricity. Capacity management is also much simpler, both for the data center in general and for the customers individually. For example, when a customer consumes 80% of his available capacity, a warning may appear.

Thanks to our DCIM system, our customers enjoy extensive and clear reporting. This way they are informed in detail about the status of their servers. Thanks to our extensive analyzes, we can also inform them well in advance of evolutions that are best addressed. A too high power consumption can, for example, cause the redundancy to be too small. In that case we contact our customers preventively and indicate what the possible solutions for this are.

A good DCIM system bears fruit not only for our customers, but also for LCL. The “Power Usage Efficiency” (PUE) is closely monitored: after all, the ratio between customer power usage and infrastructure load should be as close as possible to one. This way we avoid unnecessary costs. On the other hand, it helps us to work more efficiently and sustainably. For example, the cooling has already been fine-tuned. Our energy consumption decreased significantly by changing the temperature control in the server rooms and by adjusting the rotation speed of the fans of the air-conditioning outdoor units.The DCIM application is also linked to invoicing, which means that the consumption per customer is thoroughly documented and calculations are made automatically.

After almost 2 years, the DCIM project at LCL has almost been finalised. The project took a lot of time because it was tackled one site at a time. Moreover, many analyzes preceded: for example, every power board and every flow meter was checked. The customized user interface required a large investment, but we think it is more than worth it. In the future we will also have a mobile DCIM app, so that employees can consult all the information via their mobile phone. That is something to look forward to!

By Laurens van Reijen

Driving down energy consumption


With a wave of climate related protests sweeping Belgium and several other European countries, it is clear that climate change has taken hold of the public’s attention. At LCL we are well aware of our position in this problem. Data centers consume a lot of energy. The ICT-sector is responsible for 2 percent of worldwide CO2-emissions, according to the United Nations. With the advent of further digitalisation and cloud computing, that figure is set to climb even higher in the future.

This gives us a responsibility to act on and save energy wherever we can.

Fortunately, at LCL, we have the right men and women for the job. Over the last few months we have been optimizing our cooling regulation and equipment to decrease our energy consumption without any impact on our customers. This has allowed us to cut energy consumption in the testing part of our data center by no less than 65 percent. Needless to say this makes a huge impact on the effect our data centers have on the environment.
How did we achieve this? Until now we have had a certain way to keep the temperature low in our data centers. As our customers’ equipment creates a lot of heat and is sensitive to high temperatures, this is crucial to our operations. As is common practice in data centers, our server rooms have a ‘cold corridor’.  At LCL, these corridors have been around for year. Where we have been innovating during the past 6 months, is in temperature management. Our engineers have been experimenting with our temperature settings.

In the past we would maintain a constant temperature inside our server rooms themselves, extracting the air as it heats up and injecting cooler air. However, maintaining a constant temperature inside the cold corridor turns out to be a more efficient way of cooling, thus saving a lot of energy. The servers pull up the air from underneath the raised floor, into the cold corridor. The temperature is allowed to rise inside the room, without any effect on our equipment inside the cold corridor. This way there is less cooling to be done, hence less energy that needs to be used.

Another breakthrough was realised by modifying the speed of the fans of the cooling system outside our building. Before these would be either off or running at full speed, with no setting in between. By making the speed of the fans variable, these do not have to work at full capacity all the time, thus saving extra energy.
By using these techniques we are implementing a key part of the ‘European Code of Conduct for Energy Efficiency in Data Centers’. We are the first endorser of this code in Belgium and believe very strongly in its goals. Implementing this new cooling solution has been a challenge, especially in a live environment. Realising this project gives a great deal of satisfaction. We will now work towards expanding our test area and implementing this solution in all of our data centers.

Data centers and the ICT-sector in general inherently use a lot of power. They are also indispensable to our modern world and economy. All that does not mean that we must not strive to cut that power consumption as much as possible. At LCL, we are showing that we are more than ready to take on that responsibility.

By Laurens van Reijen

Data center vs. Cloud – The best of both worlds

Gartner, world’s leading research and advisory company, predicts that 80% of enterprises will have shut down their traditional on-premise data center by 2025. Companies’ IT requirements are evolving, because business and customer needs are changing. New technologies like the Internet of Things or edge services are pushing companies away from their data center. Furthermore, businesses are developing IT strategies that focus on their application portfolio, rather than on their physical infrastructure. Also, the customer experience is getting more attention. All this makes organizations reconsider where their applications and equipment should be housed, based on network latency, customer population clusters and geopolitical limitations.

You will probably think that this prediction is music to our ears. Partly it is of course, because when enterprises close down their own data center, they usually choose one of two options: migrating their data into the cloud or moving their servers to a professional data center. However, these days there is a ‘cloud first’-hype. Some companies decide to go with one of the large cloud players like Microsoft, Amazon, Google or Oracle. But at LCL, you can get the best of both worlds as we provide easy access to multiple cloud providers. Our cloud neutrality allows you to connect directly to one of our partners. By which we mean Belgian cloud providers who house their clouds at our data centers like for example Arcadiz, Arxus (Cronos Group), Cheops, Combell, Fujitsu, Nucleus, Proact, RealDolmen, Savaco or Sentia.

Another option is of course to skip the cloud and to store your data directly at the servers in a professional data center. Your own data center requires a lot of maintenance, but this service is included at external data centers like LCL. Our trained staff has the right skills and knowledge to take care of all our critical infrastructure 24/7, making sure your equipment keeps running without interruption. Power cuts, lightning strikes, fires, insufficient cooling, security breaches, … these are the things you don’t need to worry about. We take care of that, while you can focus on your core business. And let’s not forget the other services which are included at LCL: redundancy and security. Also, our carrier neutrality gives you the flexibility to easily switch between different operators.

IT infrastructure is getting more complex every day, so companies are looking for external service partners to help. Maybe you are as well? We offer you business continuity, crucial in today’s business world. And on top of that you can replicate all your critical data to one of our other data centers. If I were you, I would rethink my IT strategy sometime soon…

Data centers trying to beat the heat

After six weeks of sunshine and high temperatures, I reflected on how well the cooling installations in our data centers were performing and the fact that so far we hadn’t encountered any problem this summer. The very next day, however, one of our air conditioning units indicated it suffered badly under the extreme conditions of the persisting heat. Fortunately, we designed our systems to be fully redundant, and our team, which was on the scene immediately, kept their cool and did an excellent job in resolving the incident.

In the past, things were different. When we first opened our data center, over 15 years ago, we faced problems as soon as the weather turned hot. This was often the result of inadequate maintenance, such as when the cooling generators on the roof became clogged up with pollen. Since that incident, we have carried out additional maintenance work every spring to remove the pollen. On very hot days we had to contend with failing systems, and this was particularly problematic when a second site was affected too. While this was very frustrating, it taught us that we needed to address the issue of cooling differently.

Practice makes perfect, so when we made new investments we took into account the fact that roofs become particularly hot in the summer, for example – thus generating more heat inside of the data centers. Our new data centers were therefore designed with extra large cooling generators on their roofs to ensure they can deal with high temperatures.

Given the heatwave currently hitting our country – the second already this summer –, we are very glad that we took those decisions. We will have to take even higher temperatures into consideration if global warming continues. If climate change creates additional problems in the future, the design of data centers will have to be fully adapted to cope with that phenomenon.

In Uptime Institute’s annual global data center survey (2018) of almost 900 data center operators and IT practitioners, 46% of respondents said that their organizations were not addressing potential climate change disruption to their data centers. The advice is to conduct disaster and emergency planning in the context of a broader emergency and business continuity plan. At LCL, we take the Tier design criteria into account in order to increase operational efficiency and improve the reliability of our business critical infrastructure. We also test our backup systems once a month by simulating a power outage. Floods may not occur often in Belgium, but (heat) thunderstorms do take place once in a while… We at LCL, are prepared for the rapidly changing climate conditions.

Laurens van Reijen