The taxi rolled up to an unadorned warehouse-style building, then through a security gate. I was at Canberra Data Centres (CDC).
It is hardly surprising that an organisation that deals exclusively with Government clients (and some very sensitive data at that) goes out of its way to keep its presence away from casual eyes, but the level of security at the facility was truly impressive.
Reception wasn’t really a reception as much as a security office, and the woman that greeted me as I walked through the door was wearing blue and a badge.
To reach the data itself I needed to walk through three security doors, monitored through the lens of CCTV cameras that operate 24/7.
Once in the datacentre facility itself I was presented with row upon row of datacentre “pods” provided by APC (CDC is vendor neutral for the IT technology itself, but shares a close relationship with APC on the infrastructure level). Each of those was also locked down, allowing access only to the Government client footing the bill.
As a venture, CDC has proven successful, nabbing the lion’s share of Government business in Canberra, and half filling its entire capacity with these pods. And it’s growing. There were additional pods being built as I toured the premises.
CDC is the brainchild of Greg Boorer, a man with experience in both the European and American markets, and a background equal parts datacentre, telecommunications and banking. It was his experiences in those markets that informed the CDC design.
“A couple of things stood out there,” he said.
“The Europeans pay three or four times the amount for electricity that we do, so 10 or 15 years ago they were far more energy conscious than we necessarily were. The Americans are only just getting on top of that now, but what the American experience showed me was that they really put a dollar value on downtime.
“They invest a lot in datacentres to have high availability - some of the trading banks might cost $100 million a day when they’re down so $200 million in a datacentre is pretty cheap insurance against that.
"The mixture of the American experience of capability vs the European experience of efficiency – sticking those together in this place has been wonderful.”
CDC aims to run a very green datacentre, and leverages the APC pod design to do away with raised floors, and utilises in-row cooling in preference to perimeter cooling.
But it also runs a very redundant datacentre. While Boorer has never felt the need to obtain official certification from the Uptime Institute (claiming the standards are long since outdated), he claims the overall facility operates to a tier-3 level, while individual pods are, for all intents and purposes, tier-4 standard.
When you’re dealing with a Government keen to demonstrate its sustainability message, and requiring a guarantee of continuous uptime. Boorer said being able to demonstrate both was a vital component in CDC’s success.
Not that gaining the initial investment for the facility was easy, but Boorer said the business model was sound, and servicing blue chip clients has since made it possible to build a good relationship with the bank.
“The attractive aspect of investing in a datacentre is the longer term annuity streams they generate, which takes the day-to-day pressure off that sales side which is prevalent in the IT industry,” Boorer said.
It is also important to note that CDC runs a sustainable business model for a datacentre, based around scaling as new clients are secured (relatively easy to achieve thanks to the pod design model), rather than building a full capacity straight up and having under-utilised technology accruing costs until a client can be secured.
So what happens next? With just a few clients left to secure in Canberra itself, CDC has a lot of physical space yet to fill, and is looking to expand into new markets.
“We see opportunity in expansion to other markets, in that we provide neutrality from a telco and vendor perspective, and some customers have been hamstrung in the past to a degree with a reliance on one-stop shops,” Boorer said.
Matthew Sainsbury toured Canberra Data Centres as a guest of APC.