A good DCIM, the all-seeing eye of LCL

header-DCIM-2

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.

lcl-data-center-infrastructure-management-screenshot-blur

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

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

Will there be sufficient people to run our digital lives?

blog januari

We’re evolving towards a digital world. Erm, no. Let me start over. We live in a digital world. And things around us will only become more digital. Our smartphones are more and more becoming the center of our lives. We make phone calls, send txt messages, FB, watch movies, buy stuff, book holidays, taxi rides and hotel rooms. We manage our finances, track and share our sports activities, we navigate to any location, we leave a trail of where we were … all with one device.

Whether we realise it or not, this device that fits nicely in our hands is backed by an immense, ever-expanding network of applications, servers, connections and infrastructure. Things that need to be continuously developed and maintained. To do that, requires people. And that’s where we have a problem in Belgium. Our workforce isn’t growing fast enough and isn’t retrained fast enough. We still have people sitting in un employment. Unless we take action now and activate our workforce at an increased rate, we won’t be able to keep up with the digital pace. I guess however, Belgium’s not the only country struggling to fill all job openings.

According to Agoria (the umbrella organisation of all Belgian technology-based companies), more jobs are appearing than disappearing (+0,9% per year) while the workforce is growing only slowly (+0,3% per year). On top of this, digitalisation is changing the content of every job; for some limited, for others quite radical. Unless we take action, digitalisation and economic dynamics will result in more than half a million unfilled posts by 2030, in Belgium alone.

Expert jobs require expert people. Keep people within their focus, they’ll perform better and will be more engaged. People sometimes assume that data center housing is an IT job. It’s not, it’s an engineer’s. Data center construction and maintenance require expert knowledge on electrical power and circuitry, engines/generators, cooling and heating, architecture, security, energy efficiency… So why would you want to train an IT person to do an engineer’s job? It’s a completely different skill set. Anyway, you could use that IT person to focus on IT projects. That’s what you hired her/him for in the first place.

And why would you want to do it yourself inhouse. Besides the skill set, a data center that has an uptime of over 99,9%, requires a state-of-the-art infrastructure which by itself is a huge investment. We already made that investment, so why not outsource yours and benefit from the economies of scale? That way, you can also save on office space, which you will need for your future staff.

Be The Change – Shaping the Future of Work is a campaign by Agoria. Would you like to find out how our workforce – and you – will be impacted by the digitalisation of our lives; will you be the change? Then visit the Be The Change landing page.

Laurens van Reijen

Managing Director, LCL Data Centers

What do YOU prefer: a ‘self-service’ cloud provider or rather a ‘services-included’ cloud provider?

It took some time to convince businesses to migrate to the cloud – and there is still a certain percentage that hasn’t done so. They didn’t quite trust their applications and data would be secure. But now that many companies – large and small – see the advantages of the cloud, we get the opposite problem: there is too much trust.

People subscribe to cloud services paying peanuts, yet not expecting monkeys

A couple of years ago now, we had a clear case showing the difference. A large data center was struck by lightning. As a consequence, the clients of the data centre saw the light. The data centre lost some client data. They pointed out to their clients that it was their own fault. It’s the clients’ responsibility to take the necessary precautions to secure their data, not the cloud provider’s role to handle this, so they said. So these clients started realising that a self-service cloud does not entirely mean services are included. Quite on the contrary. The media reported that the clients’ calls weren’t answered. Whether literally no one was there or rather that they hadn’t planned to provide any service at all and therefore wouldn’t answer the calls: the clients were left in the cold.

People really want to be cheated, don’t they?

Do you really think that paying for cloud space with a credit card and without any personal contact would get you the same service as when buying from a real person who has listened to your needs? I don’t think so.

When you purchase from a cloud provider you can actually call someone and discuss your specific needs. These cloud providers generally have custom features. And the fact that you can speak to someone, really means that you can get support, as opposed to the situation where there’s no one you can call so no one to listen to your needs and able to support you. There are plenty of service-included cloud providers around: Joos Hybrid, Nucleus, Proact, Sentia, Tobania, just to name the ones we house.

There are no miracles, sorry…

People’s salaries represent a certain cost. If you want to be able to talk to someone, get custom features and/or support, that involves a person and a salary, so you pay the price. If you buy cloud space cheaply, that just means no human time is included. Did you agree to a standard offering? Watch it when you want to change your order. That also implies service.

At LCL, we house a lot of companies, government organisations and systems integrators requiring cloud services. We hear a lot of stories about cloud offerings being non-transparent, non-scalable, and financially unpredictable once you step outside what you initially signed for. If you buy into a standard, cheap offer, and you want to scale up or down, you’re dependant on your supplier. And as there’s no one who knows you, there’s no one to discuss your Frankly? Probably no one really cares beyond the monthly turnover. Meaning: unless you fit into the standard flow and all goes well, it’s plug-and-pray time. With some bad luck, you’re screwed.

A data centre is an ecosystem

When you choose a real data centre, especially one with a customer intimacy-strategy such as LCL, you enter an ecosystem. You have access to all the cloud providers you can wish for, the anonymous ‘self-service’ ones as well as the ‘service-included’ ones. We’re there to advise and accompany you. We want to understand your needs and make sure you get the solution that’s right for you. Because that’s the only way to build valuable long-term partnerships. And as we know our clients, we care for them to stay!

Laurens

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

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