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.


RackSpace’s customers ‘won’t pay a premium’ for Green products?

Photo Credit ignescent_infidel

Jon Brodkin wrote a piece in ComputerWorld UK about a survey of RackSpace‘s customers which seems to suggest that they ‘won’t pay a premium’ for Green products. John goes on to extrapolate that they:

found some results suggesting businesses are losing interest in green technology.

There are a number of problems with this assumption. First off you have to realise that Rackspace don’t do co-lo. Rackspace only do managed hosting. So, if I am an IT manager I can’t put my equipment, no matter how energy-efficient, in a RackSpace Data Center, I have to use their equipment. What is not clear from the piece John wrote is what was the ‘premium’ the RackSpace customers were being asked to pay.

Again, if I am an IT manager, I can choose to buy, for example Dell’s PowerEdge™ Energy Smart 2950 III (SV22952), which is cheaper but slightly less powerful than their standard PowerEdge™ 2950 (SV22951). Realistically, the only reason I am going to do this is if it is going to save me money.

As James said previously – the wrong people are paying the electricity bill in companies currently (no pun):

IT doesn’t pay for its electricity. No, seriously, go to your FM manager or IT manager and ask who pays to power your IT properties. The vast majority of IT systems get a free ride on electricity bills, which is one reason its taken so long to fully consider IT carbon costs.

When that changes (and it will) watch IT managers suddenly become extremely interested in the energy ratings of their servers.

Going back to the RackSpace survey, fundamentally I think Rackspace are taking the wrong approach. What they should be doing is increasing prices to their customers across the board to reflect their own increased energy bill – except for those customers who chose to be hosted on energy efficient servers. If RackSpace took that route, suddenly you’d see a an about-face in the number of their customers who are apparently losing interest in green technology!!!

[Disclosure: I am co-founder a director of Cork Internet eXchange (CIX) an energy efficient data center based in Cork, Ireland. CIX charges all customers separately for their electricity usage.]