Date centre tacking – Part 1

Data centre spend is high priority for many CIOs according to Gartner. Heather Wright gets some industry view on the state of play for the channel.

When it comes to data crunching, Team New Zealand yacht designer and engineer Nick Holroyd has high demands.

So it’s not surprising that three years ago the team found its computing requirements had outgrown the site infrastructure at its Viaduct building.

It wasn’t so much the technology which was proving problematic – the team had invested in some significant Dell computing equipment capable of processing the huge amounts of data used to improve the design and set of the boat – instead it was the infrastructure required to support the technology, in particular, power and cooling.

There was only one power feed into the Viaduct building, creating a single point of failure, supply was inconsistent and there was a risk of maxing out that power feed. Benchmarking of the Dell machines at Cambridge Uni had also shown 25kW peak power per rack.

“Our power density was much, much higher than traditional users,” Holroyd says.

“I had painted myself into a corner. We knew we needed this compute resource, but that meant we also needed [improved] power and cooling.

“There was going to be very high capital expenditure to install our own data centre.”

The crunchpoint, however, was the ability to have their own data centre ready by the time Dell delivered the machines, something Holroyd didn’t think could be done.

His priorities for a data centre partner included high power and cooling density at 30kW per rack, a speedy installation and no downtime in operational outages, high bandwidth and a secure connection from The Shed in the Viaduct Basin to the cluster, and having regular access to the data centre to enable Team New Zealand engineers to ‘troubleshoot’ in the early days.

Security too, was a high priority – notes Holroyd, ‘We are reasonably paranoid about security’.

Vocus’ Albany data centre, with redundancy built in with separate transformers, 2N unlimited power supply – plus 2N diesel generators on standby in case the external power supply fails – and high security, fitted the bill. The deal was done ‘within a couple of weeks’ in time for the Dell delivery.

“It’s our first real foray into high performance computing,” Holroyd says.

“The up time is so much higher in a professionally run data centre, and long term, having a really big piece of hardware in such a professional environment, which is so clean, temperature controlled… [is better for the hardware].

“The other thing that’s really good for us is that it’s very cost effective. We can completely lock in our cost structure, which is essential when you’re raising money for a campaign up-front. You want to have spent your last dime as you turn the lights off after winning.”

There’s another benefit, too, says Holroyd. “At the end of the day, I’m a yacht designer. Now, I can forget about the technology side, and just concentrate on my core job of making the boat go faster.”

For Part 2 – check back to The Channel on Thursday

This article was first published in the April issue of The Channel magazine – click here to subscribe

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