Expanding as a data centre provider requires either a serious building project, or the acquisition of data centres from other providers. Both strategies have their merits and their proponents. Building can be expensive, but you do have the advantage that you can ensure that the building is built to state-of-the-art environmental standards. Converting an old data centre to meet newer standards is generally considered to be very difficult.
Bucking the trend
However, Switch Datacenters is aiming to buck that trend. In September last year, the company announced that it had bought the old ABN AMRO data centre in Woerden, about 25 miles south of Amsterdam, at a cost of €11 million. The facility is leased to an unnamed cloud provider. The complex has two buildings, with the data centre itself being about half of the total floor space. Taken together with Switch Datacenters’ other facility in South East Amsterdam, it now has about 150,000 square feet of data centre space, around 14,000 square metres. Switch plans to connect the two facilities with a direct fibre-optic cable, to provide options to mirror data between the two.
But what’s more interesting is the way in which Switch plans to improve the efficiency of the Woerden data centre. The Amsterdam facility uses 100% green energy and is completely climate-neutral. Switch aims to achieve similar levels of efficiency in Woerden by improving cooling systems and power usage more generally. This level of efficiency has not been achieved before in Europe through upgrading, so it is quite a challenge, but one which Switch seems determined to meet.
One way in which Switch Datacenters has achieved this kind of efficiency is by taking its cooling systems very seriously indeed. In 2012, it launched an incubator to investigate the technology. In the Amsterdam facility, one of the cooling techniques used is to submerge server motherboards in dielectric fluid. It also uses StatiqCooling technology; highly efficient evaporative cooling systems, with water as a refrigerant. This makes them energy-efficient and environmentally friendly, as well as requiring little maintenance as they have no moving parts. This fits well with Switch’s approach to green energy and eco-friendliness.
Switch Datacenters’ network-neutral strategy has attracted a wide variety of international transit suppliers and internet exchanges. Its services are largely focused on ISPs, system integrators and cloud environments.
And customers are also, of course, interested in security and connectivity, as well as reliability. Switch’s facilities score highly on both, using proven technology to deliver large numbers of secured computer spaces, redundant cable-entry rooms, and, for the Amsterdam facility, a direct link with the NL-IX, and the Amsterdam internet exchange. The new facility in Woerden will enable Switch to offer similar levels of service, and attract customers who want a twin data centre solution, as well as the larger cloud providers. Switch’s services include:
- Housing and colocation services, with data centre suites, cages or racks in which to place servers and equipment;
- Virtual ‘meet-me’ rooms, which allow clients to reduce their costs by connecting directly onsite to one of the 530 international transit networks, or any major internet exchange in the world;
- Network connectivity, including a cabling service to connect client infrastructure with high-level connectivity in their ‘meet-me’ rooms;
- 24/7 onsite support, including both security staff and certified engineers, who provide a fixed response time;
- The option of a custom data centre, for specific customer demands, starting from 500m2;
- Secure office space or IT failover location if necessary; and
- Twin-datacentre solutions.
The path less travelled
Taking over an older data centre and upgrading it may not be the right choice for every data centre provider. However, Switch Datacenters seems to be making it work as an expansion strategy. Perhaps it has chosen its expansion site very carefully, or perhaps it is just very confident of its technology. Certainly, its Amsterdam site is leading the way on energy efficiency.
Image credit: Ring of pines by pisces1946