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Baking resiliency into data centres from day one 

Baking resiliency into data centres from day one 

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Resiliency – along with many other elements – is key to the design process when it comes to building a successful data centre facility with the future in mind. Paul Christensen, General Manager Data Centres and Security, Macquarie Data Centres, discusses the primal factors that should be considered in the data centre design phase and why these are essential to meeting the evolving requirements of end-users.  

We are truly living in the golden age of data. The COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing lockdowns, globally distributed workforces and a digital ecosystem that demands uninterrupted availability has increased our dependence on digital platforms, with new ways we work, play and transact converging to fuel unprecedented data growth. 

Never has there been a greater need for reliable facilities for corporate, government and multinational customers to securely store and manage their data, particularly when external business disruptions and cyberthreats are a reality faced by many organisations worldwide. 

Unfortunately, this unprecedented data growth comes at a high cost with a rising number of cyberattacks launched against businesses and individuals. In Australia alone, the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) receives a cybercrime report every 10 minutes, with many others going unreported – so much so that the government has allocated US$1.7 billion towards combatting these threats under the Cyber Security Strategy. 

However, beyond the need for physical and logical security to provide assurances to end-consumers, today’s customers have an evolving and expanding set of expectations regarding the locations in which their information is stored. 

Sustainability, scalability, security and data centre efficiency are non-negotiable requirements in my discussions with potential customers and each are elements that cannot be afterthoughts. They need to be carefully considered and incorporated into the data centre design phase, along with appropriate consideration for future technology changes and flexibility to adapt to customer-specific reference architectures.   

Ultimately, each of these elements contributes to a class of service which is reflected in the Service Levels we offer to our customers, and is supported by every element in our design, from equipment selection to the maintenance and support regime that we apply. This is why it is critical that data centres are built with the future in mind, and that resiliency is baked into each design decision from day one. 

Over the past two years, Macquarie Data Centres has opened two data centres, Intellicentre 3 (IC3) in Sydney and Intellicentre 5 (IC5) in Canberra, providing multinationals, corporate Australia and government organisations with highly secure and purpose-designed facilities to house their data.   

We have also recently announced the development of Intellicentre 3 Super West which is being designed to meet the needs of both public and private sector customers, bringing the total IT load of our Macquarie Park Data Centre Campus in the Sydney north zone to 50MW. 

The successful completion of these projects and our on-track roadmap are a testament to our ability to pool diverse skills and bring facilities to fruition that meet the expectations of Australia’s burgeoning digital economy.  

The process of designing and developing a data centre is no simple task, but here are a few considerations the industry must keep in mind. 

Understanding customer needs 

Data centres are built to serve the evolving requirements of our customers, which is why it is crucial for us to understand and integrate their requirements into the design phase. Not only should performance, sustainability and engineering requirements be considered, but an evolving understanding of the ways in which customers will use technology in the future helps to inform designs, densities and the way our facilities will support their ongoing needs. 

For instance, specific environments are built for the needs of wholesale customers while others are designed with hyperscale customers in mind. Some of the key concerns of hyperscale customers are that environments will offer resilience, stability and, crucially, scalability – allowing them to scale-out over time to service their customer base without having to invest in new locations. 

Adaptability in the design phase has allowed us to adopt different methods of cooling for different customers, such as changing the cooling methodology to high-density cooling for specific solutions or layouts depending on how the organisation wants their equipment managed, which includes optimal temperature, humidity and PUE targets. 

Sustainability 

Sustainability is becoming an undeniable business imperative as the focus on global warming, temperature change and scarcity of resources gathers pace. A recent survey of 200 global executives by sustainability consulting firm, ENGIE Impact, found that while sustainability was a priority for 45% of them today, this figure will rise to 75% in the next five years. This highlights how crucial it is to incorporate sustainable solutions into the construction of new data centres as businesses look to maximise energy efficiency across the supply chain. 

At Macquarie Data Centres, sustainability is a fundamental consideration in our design from the embedded energy in our choice of materials to the efficiency of the mechanical and electrical plant we select. Ongoing advances in technology and design innovation continue to afford opportunities for greater efficiency. An understanding of climatic considerations in Australia has had a huge influence on the way we tune our systems, from the temperatures of our chilled water to the energy-efficient features we embed into our designs. Ultimately, this translates into efficiency for our customers, energy utilisation and long-term sustainability. 

Physical and logical security 

The security of information is paramount to our customers and is one of the pillars on which modern facilities must be built, starting with the physical elements. Our facilities are designed to be highly secure and intruder-resistant with multiple layers of physical access control to meet the most stringent government security controls and compliance frameworks, including ISO27001, PCI and SOC2.   

Logical security has also been considered, from the systems that support our facilities to the security controls that we apply to our customer environments and, in turn, the personnel that operate within these environments. Macquarie Data Centres has invested in the development of security-cleared professionals to manage the data in our facilities and we now have more than 200 government-cleared engineers. 

Geo diversity 

In 2011, when Christchurch was devastatingly hit by two earthquakes, damage to hardware and software resulted in total and temporary data loss for many businesses. This demonstrated the importance of geo diversity when selecting data centre locations, ensuring adequate space between the physical locations of data stores to mitigate risk. 

Depending on risk appetite, types of services offered and the resilience afforded by the customer’s digital infrastructure, this could range from a few kilometres to a few hundred kilometres. 

Macquarie Data Centres has carefully selected locations that offer our customers the ability to achieve a combination of redundancy and low-latency connectivity for cloud workloads while also offering geo diversity for organisations seeking higher levels of redundancy. 

The design and construction of data centres is no simple feat, with ample time and resources required from the blueprint to the ribbon-cutting stage. Together we need to stay on top of customer expectations now and into the future to ensure the viability of our industry in the decades to come. 

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