New Gen-i data centre unique in design

Gen-i’s new data centre in Christchurch, which was officially opened this week, uses design factors that are unique among data centres in New Zealand, says designer Ian Falconer.

The $10.5 million facility was built to the latest building code and seismic standards on a Perimeter Road site within the Christchurch International Airport campus, chosen for its geological stability relative to the wider Christchurch area. The facility is carrier neutral and has capacity to house up to 180 racks across two data halls.

Falconer, the director of Data Centre Design and Build, says he thought “very differently” about the design. “We put trenches in the floor so we could roll out the build very quickly and didn’t have to build a frame around the room. It becomes very straightforward for maintenance.”

Usually, a data centre will have a raised floor and overhead ducting. Falconer says that trenching has reduced the cost.

Data Centre Design and Build linked with two other Canterbury companies: Prolec, for electrical, and Commec, for mechnical.

The new data centre is tapping into an aquifer, using the water to cool the racks, then returning the heated water to the ground. This produces a good saving in cooling costs.

Geological safety was paramount, given the Christchurch earthquakes. The area sits on an old river bed, lined with stones and rock rather than silt. Bedrock is 40 feet down.

Falconer is relatively new in the data centre business. A former southern manager for ICONZ and general manager of Digiweb, his first data centre build was The CoLoCom, the CCL – the former Snap ISP. “On the back of that I worked for Telecom.”

He entered into discussions with Gen-i executive Jo Allison, which led to the new commission. His next build is likely to be for Mainpower in North Canterbury.

The new data centre with Gen-i is rated Tier 3. Stage one comprises 60 4 kilowatt racks; stage two will be another 60 4kw racks; stage 3, 60 10kw racks, thus allowing for plenty of growth.

Gen-i has entered into a 15-year lease, with right of renewal, with the international airport, which constructed the building.

The data centre complements a network of 14 Gen-i data centres – it will build another in south Auckland next year – and five Revera data centres (Gen-i bought Revera earlier this year).

Revera is one of three providers for all of government infrastructure-as-a-service, which Gen-i missed out on. “We’ll introduce all-of-government [to the new data centre] in the next few months,” says Cockayne.

Gen-i is also planning to expand its Dunedin and Wellington data centres, says Gen-i chief executive Tim Miles.

He says the new data centre will boost Gen-i and Revera’s ability to meet growing demand for ICT solutions that harness the speed of new fibre and mobile networks, such as cloud, mobility, video and collaboration.

Cockayne says vast tracts of New Zealand computing are moving to cloud formats. “The speed and success of this transformation depends on the integrity of critical infrastructure, which today lives inside cloud-calibre data centres. New Zealand’s youthful geology and natural disaster risk profile provide further impetus to the establishment of a nationwide Tier-3 data centre grid solution.”

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