Visiting #Equinix's data centre

Equinix Info Pack

As Ruben blogged about just before, today I joined his Cloud Computing Infrastructure class in visiting one of Equinix's data centres out in Alexandria. It was a not-so-uncharacteristically hot day outside so perhaps thankfully (most of) the data centre was pretty cool. The tour was led by Steve Dumbrell and Terry Takouridis who both provided some great insight into data centre operations and the construction of the centre itself. I really hope I wasn't a nuisance with my big purple bag taking up space in the aisles.

I say I joined Ruben's class, however, because as much as I want to do this subject (I did do the previous one), unfortunately a clash in the exact same time slot prevents me from doing so - the core subject wins out in this case over an elective.

In any case, I've visited HP's datacentre out in Eastern Creek before, so this was an interesting parallel to that experience, comparing not only their designs but a datacentre in construction with a datacentre that is operation is very different. If I had visited their datacentre again when it was officially launched with the rest of HP's employees, perhaps it would have been a different story, but I digress, at least it meant I had a good idea of what to expect.

The experience was fascinating, from being reminded of the different options of hiring out a 'cage' or just 'racks', to the whole 'raised floor' concept for cooling. Of course, back then I was just being introduced to Cloud Computing so it was a massive amount to digest and was very confusing to me but I understand it a lot better now, not to mention HP and Equinix's offerings are extremely different, but they coincide in the ways that mattered here which was their energy efficient ways in running a datacentre so that it also provided 100% uptime to their clients.

While HP's centre touted some clear corridors with their cable racks and high ceilings, Equinix's design was interestingly different as they chose to minimise the sound level inside their farm rooms by keeping the air conditioning units outside. Plus the very starkly white and quiet centre at HP contrasted with the fairly warm but dim lighting punctuated by blue LEDs. I think we were jokingly told they were for ambiance, but I have an inkling there's another reason, of course. ;) Need not know.

Ruben's covered the details of the tour in much more detail in his post, but as he says there certainly was the human element present in Equinix's SY3 data centre than at HP. While there was attention to aesthetics and a focus on comfort for their clients present at Equinix, HP's data centre is only meant to be accessed by few individuals. I guess it makes sense that I feel that HP's data centre in fact had a greater level of security, with a full-body scanner one of the many levels of protection afforded, but the security within those doors did not match the level of Equinix.

All the same, in this tour I learned a great deal of all aspects of a data centre that I had not experienced before. My prior experience meant that overall I knew what to expect exterior-wise, yet their processes were different (HP predominately relies on chilled water, whereas Equinix keeps this mostly as a backup method) and hearing about the different tests and checks that were performed to ensure the data centre was running properly and would remain so were some of the more memorable parts of the tour. It's fascinating to imagine what a huge impact just this one datacentre can have on all of us — but not only that, what would happen without it.

As Ruben has also mentioned, my thanks go out to these tour guides for providing us this opportunity and to UTS and Ruben's subject co-ordinator, Dr. Min Xu, for organising this trip, even for me as an unknown tag-along!