Data Center War Stories talks to CIX’s Jerry Sweeney

And we’re back this week with the third instalment in our Data Center War Stories series (sponsored by Sentilla).

In this episode of the series I am talking to Jerry Sweeney. Jerry is Managing Director of Cork Internet eXchange (CIX). CIX is a small, currently co-lo, data centre located in Cork, Ireland (and full disclosure – I was a co-founder of CIX).

I love Jerry’s story about the chiller compressors coming on for the first time after 12 weeks – free cooling rocks! (watch the video, or see the transcript below!).

Here’s the transcript of our conversation:

Tom Raftery: Hi everyone and welcome to GreenMonk?s DataCenter War Stories sponsored by Sentilla. The guest in the show is CIX?s Jerry Sweeney. Jerry is Director of Cork Internet eXchange. Jerry welcome to the show.

Jerry Sweeney: Thank you for having me Tom.

Tom Raftery:
Jerry can you tell me a little bit about Cork Internet eXchange, how old it is, what kind of size you are talking about?

Jerry Sweeney: Cork Internet eXchange was conceived in 2006, in September of 2006, construction occurred in 2007, and it opened for business in March 2008. So it?s 3-years-old now.

We have two rooms on the technical floor area, one of them is kitted out, it?s 3,000 square feet and the other one is available for expansion and that?s also 3,000 square feet, as well as there is approximately 7,000 or 8,000 square feet for the services, offices, call center and so on.

So, whatever that works out at 12 and seven, so it?s about 19,000 square feet in total. Eventually it will be a 240 rack facility. At the moment we have about 75 occupied racks. To date it?s exclusively a collocation facility, but we are now getting into the infrastructure as a service and platform as a service business.

Tom Raftery: In the building of a facility of that size what kind of — what are the most pressing kind of issues you come across typically day to day?

Jerry Sweeney: I suppose your question had the concept of size and — so we are a very small data center, and I suppose trying to scale the expenses against our revenue stream is probably an issue with a company this size. So running 24/7 shifts, so I would say scale is probably our biggest single problem, and having people with the right resources, and having the facility occupied. If you have a 1000 racks okay, then you can spread those costs over a greater number of customers and a greater number of racks.

Tom Raftery: Any interesting things that you — any interesting problems you happened to cross and solutions you came up with to solve them?

Jerry Sweeney: We live in a city Tom with 160,000, 170,000 people. We — all of the data centers in Ireland are basically clustered around Dublin, all of the connectivity that comes into Ireland is located or lands in Dublin.

So, remoteness and scale okay were huge problems for us when we started off. And one of the big issues for us okay was to get adequate connectivity into the building so that we would be taken seriously. And we came up with a strategy very early on and the strategy was to — initially before we focused on being a data center that we focused on being a regional internet connectivity center.

And the name of the business is very interesting; the name of the business is Cork Internet eXchange. We registered the URL which was the Cork Data Center, but we never used it, and the reason for that is because Cork Internet eXchange was more vital to us at start up then the Cork Data Center.

So, in order to justify gigabit connectivity in the back-haul costs around that, we had to get serious volumes of IP transit through the building first. And we have a 30 meter, it was 24 meters initially, but we just added six meters to it this year, our address is Hollyhill and that?s a clue, we are on top of a hill. That enabled us to sign up every single wireless internet service provider in the region.

So, all of the non-incumbent supply broadband homes and businesses in Cork take their connectivity out of here and we see that as being about 20,000 homes and businesses. So that was a huge win for us in the 2000 — in early 2009. By the time we got to say March 2009, which would be a year after we opened, we had our IP transit up in the gigabits and that made cost effective procurement of transit sensible.

And it was at that time that we noticed a growth in the — people took us more seriously as a data center, because of the connectivity. We had the resilience from design in, what we didn?t have is, we didn?t have connectivity at a price okay, and at a quality level that made us attractive.

So, I think that probably was the? and if we hadn?t been successful of getting that connectivity issue; then, I don?t think we would have been able to scale as a data center.

Tom Raftery: Can you talk a little bit about some of the interesting concepts that went into the design of the data center?

Jerry Sweeney: The concept of building the data center was started in September 2006, and we made a decision in 2006 to go for cold aisle containment and today that seems like a really kind of standard idea — the argument is now do you go for hot aisle or cold aisle containment. But in 2006, it was actually even alternate hot and cold aisles were considered novel at that time.

So it seemed like a remarkable unusual thing. So we built it from the ground up with the cold aisle containment as a strategy. Also because we are located in Cork, which is a mild ? neither hot or cold climate, we have 11 degrees as an ambient temperate, average for the year and the difference between summer and winter is not enormous, so we are able to take advantage of an awful lot of free cooling.

Even in the summer at night time we can usually do free cooling here and for much of the winter okay, our chillers never start. We know that our chillers did not start from the — from November of 2010 until a warm sunny afternoon in February. So free cooling okay, took us for whatever number of weeks, that is six and six — about 12 weeks, without ever starting a compressor.

We were shocked when the compressor cut in, what?s that noise, okay.

Tom Raftery: Jerry it?s been fantastic. Thanks a million for coming on the show.

Jerry Sweeney: Yeah, it?s my pleasure; Tom, thank you.


How to build a hyper Energy-efficient Data Center

I am speaking next week at a virtual conference called “bMighty – A Deep Dive on IT Infrastructure for SMBs” – apologies in advance for the state of the website(!)

My talk is titled “How to build a hyper Energy-efficient Data Center” and is based on the CIX data center which I helped develop (and am still a director of).

This is the slide deck I will be presenting there.