Data centres are transforming the cloud and organisations
Article originally published in Digital Transformation, a Raconteur special report distributed with The Times on 26th September 2018.
A 2017 Cloud Industry Forum study found that 76% of organisations have already implemented or will implement a digital transformation strategy within two years.
Nearly every organisation (92%) said cloud was an important factor, offering flexibility, scalability and security without additional capital expenditure.
Crucial to cloud, and often overlooked, is the data centre. If it is not fit for purpose, you can forget transformation.
The popular view of the data centre is a hangar, humming away in a desert. You sign up and forget about it. Organisations are increasingly realising that this gives away vital control.
A company called Blue Chip is changing perceptions. It started primarily as a provider of third-party maintenance on IBM hardware, but has expanded into disaster recovery and hosting customer systems. Now it specialises in providing private and hybrid cloud solutions on multiple platforms, including x86 (Windows/Linux), Z Systems and IBM POWER.
With more than 700 clients, Blue Chip provides the ecommerce backbone for several retailers and manages 10 per cent of the UK’s banking traffic.
Blue Chip owns its own tier IV and III design data centres in the heart of England. They sit in a goldilocks zone of being far enough away from risk sources, but in a place where power and telecoms links are reliable and accessible.
Head of sales and marketing Chris Smith says this helps deliver excellent customer experience and is a differentiator when many cloud providers use third-party data centres.
“If something goes wrong with these providers that do not own their data centres, who are you going to call?” he asks. “If a system goes down, they have to speak to their third-party provider, introducing significant supply chain risk and delays. A high street name using one of these recently had a 17-hour outage when they could not gain access to their data centres and could not process orders or make deliveries.”
In 2010, Blue Chip transformed the sector by delivering infrastructure-as-a-service using IBM POWER. It continues to innovate and, in 2018, the company moved to a software-defined approach. Blue Chip can now guarantee provisioning of new IBM POWER infrastructure within 48 hours.
The company’s data centres have the highest security accreditations available – ISO 27001:2013, PCI DSS service provider level 1 and SOC2 – vital for mission-critical systems.
“We monitor 10,500 datapoints dynamically and our preventive maintenance checks are second to none. We go beyond tier IV,” says Mr Smith. “We can change things on the fly in a live environment, delivering operational best practice.”
The data centres run at an average PUE (power usage effectiveness) of 1.13, far below the industry average of 1.56, thanks to environmentally friendly free-air cooling, with resilience provided by traditional CRAC (computer room air conditioning) units.
With data centres seen as a growing source of carbon emissions, being green is vital. Blue Chip is helping a local carbon offset scheme towards its goal of planting five million trees in a former industrial landscape where 20 per cent of Britain’s bricks were made.
While environmental credentials are nice to have, it is flexibility and control that Blue Chip’s customers really want.
“They want to be able to flex up for peak periods and shrink for quieter times, while reducing the risk of placing corporate data in the cloud,” says Mr Smith. “Owning our own centres is fundamental to that.”
The company also provides advanced artificial intelligence and data analytics services based on IBM POWER and Nvidia GPU systems.
“Analytics uses your company’s most precious data. As we host both the data and the analytics software in our own centres, it never has to leave the perimeter.”
In an uncertain world, the combination of security, control, engineering excellence and customer experience that Blue Chip provides is a welcome change.