Phillip Lydford, chief executive of e-shelter UK, explains the thought process behind this major investment: "When the time was right for e-shelter to branch out into the UK, we didn't just want to join the queue for "desired sites". We knew we had to think outside of the box. Initially we drew up a list of 100 sites, visited 30 of these and came up with a short list of three. The Saunderton site was the most compelling. It was a site which would enable us to develop a large scale campus facility that we are renowned for. Its proximity to London was a key plus point, as it meant that we would benefit from near real-time replication of databases, avoiding any latency problems."
He continues: "The Saunderton site also caters for future expansion. Flexibility for the future is one of the key offerings of e-shelter and with a site totalling 50 acres we can provide our customers with room for growth."
e-shelter's Saunderton campus will be built to Tier IV specification and will deliver 100MW of power from two separate grid points, making it the only one of its kind in the UK. The gross area of the completed facility will be approximately 829,000 sq ft – the equivalent of 11 football pitches – and it will provide over 400,000 sq ft of net lettable space for UK-based or global companies that rely on data to deliver services or manage internal systems and processes. The site is second only to Europe's largest data centre, e-shelter's existing facility in Frankfurt.
Lydford says: "Whilst the entire Saunderton site is capable of being built to Tier IV specification, we believe that this won't be a requirement of many customers. The general demand at this time seems to be for a "tier III plus" specification with some customers content with a lower and hence lower cost tier rating."
He continues: "An example of a key difference between Tier III and IV is the generator requirement. Our site will have 100 mw of available power and to fully back this up we require 50 generators rated at 2mw. A Tier III specification for generators would be N+1, therefore 51 generators would be needed for Saunderton to achieve this specification. The formula for Tier IV is at least 2N, and this equates to 100 generators.
"Due to the size of the site, we are flexible and can deliver anything from Tier I to IV, depending on specific requirements."
The facility's environmental credentials also mark a first. Once completed, it will be the first in the UK to comply with the gold LEED (Leader in Engineering & Environmental Design) accreditation.
Lydford explains: "The Saunderton facility will be one of the first in the UK to attain LEED Gold (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) accreditation. This is an independent audit of sustainability covering all aspects of the construction process, from looking at how waste materials are re-used, to analysing the energy efficiency of the building fabric.
"The main drivers for e-shelter to achieve this accreditation are our overall commitment to environmental responsibility and an agreement which we have with the local planning authority. We will work closely with designers, manufacturers, suppliers and tenants to ensure that suitable environmental and sustainable solutions are incorporated to put the Saunderton site at the forefront of data centre efficiency."
The facility will also provide the high levels of physical security and operational reliability demanded by financial institutions, service providers and Internet companies alike.
The new data centre will be built in four stages; the first stage of the development is scheduled to be completed by mid-2010. The facility at Saunderton has been custom designed for the site to minimise the visual and environmental impact on the local community – including the use of turf roofing and heavy landscaping.
According to Lydford: "The pre-construction stage will include the demolition of the original industrial buildings which will make way for the four data centre buildings to be built in four stages.The first of four fully-operational facilities is scheduled to be ready for occupation by mid-2010, with a net lettable data centre capacity of 8,000 square metres spread over two storeys. The gross is approx twice this. A building will be built each year. Therefore, we anticipate the final building will be finished by the first half of 2013, although this development schedule could be shortened if market demand warrants it. This phased approach gives us the capability of matching the speed of development with customer demand."
Lydford explains: "The UK has always been an important target to break into for e-shelter as a company and we have some ambitious plans."
Lydford continues: "e-shelter has worked closely with Wycombe District Council in the design and planning of the new facility, as it is important that we handle this development sensitively and as far as possible blend it into its rural surroundings. The Saunderton location's proximity to London allows networks in the capital to benefit from near real-time replication of databases in the new facility, thereby avoiding any latency problems."
Expanding on the environmental theme, Lydford explains: "As the site is located in a green belt area, it was important that we worked closely with the local authority to not only make the buildings aesthetically pleasing, but also be in keeping with the surrounding area. At the same time, we were determined that any e-shelter development should be environmentally friendly, both as regards its operation and construction as well as its appearance."
He adds: "The area is known for its great natural beauty and we didn't want to disturb this. The campus has been designed to blend into its surroundings much more effectively than the current mix of factory and office units. The roofs of the campus buildings will be turfed, creating a meadow effect, which will reduce the visual impact of the buildings and improve rainwater management and drainage. The buildings will be constructed using as few glazed units as possible, and will feature a timber façade, making them aesthetically pleasing and reducing solar gain."
E-shelter's ExpansionFounded in 2000, e-shelter has established itself as one of Europe's pre-eminent data centre operators, where it owns and operates Europe's largest single data centre campus in Frankfurt. Other facilities are located in Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. e-shelter's customers include financial service organisations, telecom operators and IT service providers. New sites are being developed in Zurich, Munich and Russellsheim (near Frankfurt).
Saunderton is the first venture for e-shelter in the UK, it will be the country's largest purpose built data centre site to date. Moving forward, the company hopes to add other sites to its portfolio and is constantly looking for suitable potential large scale development plots. Lydford says that: "At e-shelter we are open minded about the next site from a geographical point of view, as long as the land is big enough to house our large campus style development model, then it will be considered."
e-shelter is also currently expanding into Switzerland and is always looking to develop into countries where the campus model works, such as France. Lydford says: "We are constantly monitoring the market and waiting for the right opportunity to arise. When it does, then we will make our move to expand."
Colocation v CampusThe main differences between collocation and the campus model are size and scale. Colocation tends to be on a small scale, hosting predominantly single rack servers and charged on a licence basis. In comparison, a campus model is a large space where companies rent part of the facility to host their IT infrastructure.
And the advantages of the campus model? According to Lydford: "The first main advantage is scale. By operating a campus model e-shelter is able to provide customers with a reliable power supply at a relatively low unit cost, despite providing many more mega watts than our competitors. This is because the price of a dig for 100 mega watts of power to a site is essentially the same as providing 50 mega watts. This enables us to spread the cost of power and offer it to our customers economically."
He adds: "Secondly, by approaching the development as a campus model we are flexible to our customers' ongoing requirements. If an outstanding client has a need to expand its data centre requirement, then a campus facility can accommodate this expansion."
However, Lydford concedes: "There is definitely a place for both within the industry. Our German facilities offer both and although in the UK we will predominantly play to our strengths and be focused on the campus model, we anticipate that we may provide both options to our customers in the long run."
Questioned about the ongoing debate regarding the availability and reliability of power sources into the future, Lydford responds: "The important thing to remember is that a data centre is a collection of equipment that is providing a service. For example, a bank's data centre will store the details of bank accounts that it provides for its customers. And, as the demand on services increases, so will the amount of facilities required to store the data. Therefore the power demand rises. However, it is much more energy efficient to host a lot of facilities in one big campus-style data centre.
"I err on the side of glass half full, when it comes to availability of power moving forward. With the advancements in nuclear, wind and water generated energy, I believe that with the right research and investment, renewable energy will, ultimately, provide adequate power resources."
And what about the current credit crunch? Is it a good time to be committing to such a major investment? Lydford responds: "We are frequently asked ‘is now a good time to be building a new facility?'. But, this is a long term investment for e-shelter, rather than a short-term one. Research shows there is insufficient data centre capacity to meet short-term demand, let alone cater for demand further out. With increased use of technology, UK companies' requirements for data centre space are likely to speed up rather than slow down."
He continues: "With regards to issues affecting the industry over the next 12 months, increasing efficiency of facilities is very important. Old data centres have poor PUE (Power Usage Efficiency) rates, and with the cost of power being what it is, companies will be looking for ways to reduce this operational cost. New custom-built data centres, as opposed to converted warehouses, are the ideal solution.
"Efficiency of data centres is going to be crucial for the future. This doesn't just mean the floor space, but also the use of power. This involves stripping the data centre back down to basics, and considering the design and architecture of the facility. Old and converted warehouse data centres will cost more to run over the long term, so it is essential that companies look to house their IT infrastructures in new facilities. While I appreciate that this is a big initial decision/implementation, the company in question will quickly reap the rewards."
Tags: Hosting & Colocation