A data center day?

A couple of days ago, a fiber line was damaged in Zaventem, near Brussels.

The damage was near one of our data centers. It had nothing at all to do with us, we weren’t infected.

But when the news broke, the press still called us.

 

Talking to my colleagues of other data centers worldwide, in the European Data Center Association, it seems this is the case everywhere.

We have three data centers, on different sides of the biggest Belgian cities. We invest millions constantly upgrading our infrastructure, technology, security, and other facilities. We have 39 operators offering connections in our data centers. Every fiber connection comes into our buildings by two entries, and we even have two meet-me-rooms, to make sure every potential problem in the data center is catered for.

Why is it that no one is ever surprised that we’re ‘up’ all the time, but that, when a carrier has a problem – independently from us – it’s the data center that gets the bad coverage?

We provide the infrastructure of the digital economy. If we, data centers, were to go on strike, web shops and companies worldwide would come to a standstill. No internet connections, no clouds provided, no hosting without us.

I suggest we install a national day of the data center. A day on which we celebrate that data centers are serving their customers around the clock. With not so much as a split second of any failure whatsoever, months and years on end…

Can we have some positivity and recognition, please?

Laurens van Reijen, Managing Director at LCL

Guest Blog – What it’s like to work at LCL: Matthias Borremans, Facilities Project Manager

Ecological cooling systems

Matthias Borremans is LCL’s Facilities Project Manager.

He joined the company nearly a year ago. What exactly does his job entail? And which projects does he oversee?

Matthias tells all in this guest blog.

“As the Facilities Project Manager, I am responsible for overseeing various projects at LCL. One part of my work involves advising management when technologies or topologies need to be selected.

As a data center, we have to take a great many matters into consideration, and it is impossible to study everything, or design every element, without bringing in outside assistance. I therefore work with a number of engineering consulting firms that focus on different aspects of the data center.

One of the major projects on which I am currently working concerns the preparations for the construction of a new data center in Aalst. LCL already has a branch in Aalst, and it is building a second, 1200 m² data room behind its existing site. A data center cannot simply be thrown together. A study needs to be performed first, which can take up to 18 months. I check the study and monitor the implementation and delivery of the project. I always seek out the best technology and like to think outside the box. And as data centers are extremely energy-intensive, I like to come up with new ideas to help us be as environmentally friendly as possible.

For example, I considered the various cooling options for the new data center. One way to keep cooling generators cool is to spray water on them, in a process referred to as adiabatic cooling. This uses drinking water, however, which evaporates once it has been sprayed. We discussed the ethics of this within LCL, and asked ourselves whether it is acceptable to use drinking water for cooling and simply allow it to evaporate. A system of this kind does not consume a great deal of energy, is compact and can be fully redundant, but we decided it was not an environmentally responsible choice, and so we looked for an alternative solution. In the end, we opted for a system that can collect rainwater to cool down the dry coolers in hot weather.

In addition, the temperature range of the cooling water in the data center in Aalst will not be as low as in traditional systems. The cooling water will be cooled by the air outside when the outdoor temperature is lower than the temperature indoors (this is the case most of the year in Belgium), which means there will be no need to use cooling equipment. To ensure we can use this free cooling for as long as possible, we have selected the largest possible dry coolers, which will make it easier to remove heat. Using free cooling will allow us to achieve substantial energy savings.

The cooling system in the new data center in Aalst will be dual redundant (2N redundancy). This means there will be two backup cooling systems. As we want to maximize the space in the new data room, the cooling generators have been placed on the roof. To assist us with this, we called on the services of a stability engineer.

The construction project in Aalst is scheduled for completion at the end of 2018.”

Matthias Borremans, Facilities Project Manager at LCL

66% of quoted companies have a cloud-strategy

Our survey of companies quoted on Euronext Brussels, shows that 66% of them has a cloud strategy.

Most (79%) have a private cloud. 17% set up a hybrid cloud. 4% use a public cloud.

The 33% of companies that doesn’t have a cloud strategy chooses not to go to the cloud because they feel that they have less control.

 

They prefer to manage their IT infrastructure internally, to ensure business continuity. It’s mainly real estate and industrial companies that choose not to go to the cloud.

This means for one thing that a number of companies has yet to be convinced that the cloud really can be safe. On the other hand, some companies fear that their business continuity may be jeopardized if they don’t ‘control’ their IT completely (meaning: in house, where they can actually see it). On the other hand, if they only have one data center, and they never really test their power backup, safety really is an illusion.

Our very own interpretation of the results is also that, to many people, like the 33% in our survey that chooses not to go to the cloud, ‘the cloud’ they know is the public cloud. Business people, as opposed to IT-people, don’t necessarily know that there is something like a private cloud, where you still manage your IT yourself if you want to. Where cloud technology, developed at first for public clouds, is brought to your personal infrastructure to give you the benefits of the cloud as well as full control. There are safe and less safe, and pricy as well as more affordable solutions in both public and private cloud solutions. And there’s the hybrid solution as well, combining both. The difference still is that you can’t go to your server room or data center and look at your infrastructure. So there remains a mental barrier to cross… We come across quite a few CIO’s that have difficulties convincing their management and/or their Board to go to the cloud. The lack of knowledge about the cloud is probably the reason why.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The truth is that IT is not an exact science, and the market isn’t transparent. People have their own opinion about which is the best solution. There is no such thing as an objective measurement of the risk involved in different scenario’s. Fact and myth are intertwined. On the other hand: people learn when things go wrong, but they sometimes close their eyes for the learnings of others. There have yet to come more examples of companies having to shut down operations due to a power outage or another ‘disaster’.

We at LCL will continue our plead for secure data, in a secure housing environment. That is the one sure thing we can offer you!

Watch the video made by Kanaal Z about our survey on our YouTube channel.
Dutch version
French version

Laurens van Reijen, Managing Director LCL

Let’s join forces for data center outsourcing

Over the past years, I have made attempts, with the Dutch Datacenter Association, to set up a Belgian Datacenter Association in one form or another, in order to promote the interests of data centers in our country.

This organization will put us on the international map owing to the unique position we hold in the heart of Europe, with London and Paris just 5 milliseconds away and Amsterdam even closer. You can probably relate to the idea.

Belgians not only have a brick in their stomach, they clearly also have a data center or server room in their stomach.

In terms of data center outsourcing, our country must be ranked like bottom of the list. People do not feel comfortable if their server is not in their basement, as it were.

 

When I hear CIOs talk about how their management views the potential outsourcing of their data center, I sometimes feel as if I am back in the Middle Ages.

But in those days there were fortresses, of course, and people did not need electricity. Today, the needs of businesses are somewhat more sophisticated, and internal data centers or server rooms are slightly more vulnerable than a fortress armory.

Given this, jointly promoting external data centers would be a very useful exercise.

Unfortunately, most Belgian data center businesses only pay lip service to collaboration. They limit themselves to their own daily challenges, rather than investing time in joining forces, let alone looking beyond national borders.

Of course, I am Dutch. I have seen genuine efforts in this area in the Netherlands, and they are bearing fruit. But in Belgium, LCL’s is a lone voice in the wilderness.

 

Laurens van Reijen, Managing Director LCL

A data center guideline for quoted companies: a call to action for FSMA?

1-enquete-disaster-recoveryA survey of Belgian, quoted companies that LCL ordered, showed that data security is not seen as essential within IT governance, not even with quoted companies.

One of our clients, a health care company, chose to work with us after their government control body said it was no option to work with only one data center.

In case of a disaster, you risk losing absolutely all your data. After your power shuts down, your company does too.

If you really want to be safe, at least 25 km should separate both data centers.

 

Moreover, best practices dictate that one should separate the development environment from the production systems.

What are the odds that the current mentality – we all trust that all will go well – will change in the short term?

Only a minority of companies interviewed said they were planning to set up a second data center.

2nd dc?

distance between dc's?

 

If we really want change, it will have to be directed by the stock exchange control body: FSMA.

So, in the best interest of our Belgian quoted companies, for the sake of their business continuity and employment – not to mention the shareholders who want return on their investment; data loss will almost certainly cause share devaluation – we call upon FSMA to issue a new guideline for quoted companies.

A guideline pushing quoted companies to have a second data center, and to either thoroughly test all back-up systems, including power backup, or to confide in a party that does just that for them. It’s a pain in the lower back part, but people will not move unless they have to.

Laurens van Reijen, Managing Director LCL

Data security doesn’t really seem to be a priority…

1-enquete-disaster-recoveryA survey of Belgian, quoted companies, commissioned by LCL, shows that only 3% of the targeted companies ever test their power backup systems by actually turning off the electricity. Meaning that they will only learn whether or not the power backup systems work when there is a power cut. That’s like buying skis and not trying them on before you actually hit the snow. Or going hiking with brand new boots, straight from your favourite online shop. The only guaranteed result is sore feet.

We’ve all read and heard what deficient power backup systems can lead to. Remember the power cut at Eurocontrol? The business world couldn’t believe the company shut down just like that, by lack of well functioning backup systems.

We knew that many companies are only theoretically prepared for the worst-case power scenarios. But we never expected it to be that many. 97% of the companies plug their power backup and pray; that’s like: as good as everybody. In France, they expect to have an electricity shortage of 5 GW next week. Knowing that we generally import electricity from France, next week could represent a live test for the companies concerned…

Another astonishing fact is that 53% of the surveyed companies doesn’t have a second data center. Meaning, that in case of any disaster, not just a power cut, they have a big problem. More over: only a minority of companies interviewed said they were planning to set up a second data center.

This shows that data security is not seen as essential within IT governance, not even with quoted companies. How many Board members are aware that data security is taken so lightly in their company? More and more, ICT is on the Board’s agenda, and rightly so. All we need to do now, is educate Board members so that they can evaluate the security systems in their company/ies, and make sure that they really are as safe as they should be.

Laurens van Reijen, Managing Director LCL

Comatose servers: things will get worse before they get better

shutterstock_71528611Thirty percent of servers around the world are doing nothing at all. They are switched on, ready for service, and actively draw power and consume resources such as cooling, yet no-one would notice if someone decided to turn them off.
Articles are published on the energy use of data centers with clockwork regularity. It’s said that, at a global level, data centers consume as much energy as a large country such as the United Kingdom. Their carbon footprint is claimed to be roughly the same as that of the aviation industry. On a more positive note, there are signs that the energy consumption of data centers is stabilizing, although a great deal of work still needs to be done.

Forgotten servers
It goes without saying that one of the simplest ways to waste less energy is to turn off what are known as ‘zombie’ servers. You may wonder why this hasn’t happened yet. The main reason is probably that at most companies the electricity bill isn’t paid by the head of IT. In fact, the IT staff has no idea how high the bill is. This means they have no incentive to check which servers are actually being used.

Does the cloud create more zombies?
The fact that 30 percent of servers are comatose is old news. Consultancy firm Anthesis Group and Jonathan Koomey, a researcher at Stanford University, published a study on this subject in 2015 and a number of other past studies reached the same conclusion. I’m afraid that little improvement is expected in the next few years. Companies are moving more and more applications to the cloud, but this doesn’t always lead to a reduction in the number of servers at those companies. It will come as no surprise, then, that the number of servers is growing considerably worldwide. The number of comatose servers therefore tracks the rising popularity of the cloud.
This is somewhat ironic, as one would expect the cloud to bring about a more efficient use of server space. This will undoubtedly be the case in the long run, but we need to pull the plugs on the old servers first.
But the problem comes down to more than just the tendency of IT departments to expand their collection of servers. What about the ever-growing mountain of unused data stored by most companies? Most organizations have spent a great deal of time and money collecting this information and therefore hang onto it for dear life. Data doesn’t come with an expiration date, and so no-one actually gets rid of obsolete data. Instead, it fills up servers that in turn consume power and resources.

Data centers are part of the solution
One part of the solution would be for more companies to make the transition to a professional data center. It’s surprising that so many companies still run their own server rooms, which aren’t always managed with the same level of expertise as professional data centers. Even if we disregard the questionable security of their corporate data, companies that run their own server rooms also make very inefficient use of server space, cooling and the like.
Owing to the scale of professional data centers, we can invest more in efficient climate control, leading to lower energy consumption. LCL’s ISO 14001 certification is confirmation of our ongoing efforts to reduce the environmental footprint of our data centers. If all of the servers currently kept in in-house server rooms were moved to independent data centers, the global ecological footprint of the sector would be greatly reduced.

Moreover, the IT managers of LCL’s customers know full well how much electricity their servers consume each month. They can see this clearly and transparently in the invoices they receive, which are paid for out of the ICT budget. Customers of professional data centers know that it’s in their interests to seek out comatose servers and keep power consumption under control.
When it comes to excessive energy consumption, the finger of blame is often pointed at data centers. The facts, however, show that well managed data centers contribute to a more efficient and rational use of energy in the data storage sector.

Laurens van Reijen, Managing Director LCL