Meet Nick Peelman – Our new Systems Administrator

Greetings!

My name is Nick Peelman and I am the latest addition to the team here at Data Cave! I took up the Systems Administrator position the end of October 2015. The bulk of my focus is on keeping our infrastucture up to date, including our monitoring systems and customer network, and I look forward to sharing some of the improvements we are planning to undertake in the future. The remainder of my time will be spent assisting the rest of the team with the continuous improvement we are all dedicated to here at Data Cave. Whether it’s our network infrastucture, our security systems, or our power protection and distribution, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our ability to keep your servers and data online and secure.

Prior to joining Data Cave, I was a Linux systems administrator in Bloomington, Indiana. Before that I did stints in app development (iOS, Ruby on Rails, and Java), and Windows systems administration. I have a passion for problem solving and crafting solutions, and my experience in development has made me a much stronger sysadmin.

My wife Kelly and I live in Seymour, where she works as a veterinarian. We both graduted from Purdue, and we have a Shih-Tzu named Chase along with two cats, Kenzie and Harrison. I divide my free time between family & friends, video games, and tinkering. Much like my counterpart Patrick, I switched over to Apple’s ecosystem in 2004 and haven’t looked back.

I’m looking forward to continuing the streak of excellence set forth by the Data Cave team so far, as well as meeting and working with our customers to ensure they are happy with and impressed by what Data Cave has to offer.

Ben Hatton A look at our facility inspection procedures

Facility guys

Our facilities team (from left to right: Greg Grimes, Nic Kirts, and Blake Fisher)

Our facility has many different moving parts that each play their own significant role in maintaining our system uptime, and these are all monitored on a continual basis. We’ve written a lot about how we monitor much of our internal equipment, but I want to speak to the policies we have in place for the regular physical inspection and maintenance of our equipment.

Physical inspections

We have an in-depth daily inspection procedure for all of our crucial equipment, and our facility as a whole. Every day our facility team performs a walk-through and site inspection,  surveying the following key equipment and areas of the facility:

  • Backup generators
  • UPS flywheel units
  • Suite PDU’s
  • CRAC units
  • Cooling towers
  • Entrance gates
  • Drainage areas, to ensure there are no signs of water buildup
  • Exterior office AC units, to ensure there are no signs of issues

Maintenance and testing

In addition to these daily physical equipment inspections, we also employ an extensive facility maintenance schedule for proactively monitoring when maintenance or testing on our supporting equipment needs to take place. When it comes to maintenance and testing, some things must take place on a weekly, monthly, semi-annual, or annual basis, and the system we have in place allows us to be fully proactive in keeping our facility up to par.

We place a huge deal of importance on monitoring and maintaining all of the critical equipment throughout our facility, and these policies play a key role in allowing us to meet those objectives. These policies are also a key contributor to the high levels of system uptime that we are able to offer to our clients. If you would like to learn more about how we monitor and maintain other parts of our facility and infrastructure, contact us today! We’d love to hear from you.

 

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Ben Hatton Data center ‘free cooling’: The water side economization process

Cooling towers

Our outside cooling towers allow us to chill down heated water that passes through our secondary water loop.

Winter is approaching, which for us means that we can begin to take advantage of ‘free cooling’ in our data center. Free cooling is utilized by many data centers that are located in moderate or cold climates, and it allows the data center to take advantage of the natural temperature for much of its cooling needs during the cold winter months. This can result in significant energy savings as well as lower electric bills. We’ve touched on this somewhat in the past, but I want to take a look at how we accomplish free cooling at Data Cave. 

Water side economization

Data Cave uses the process of water side economization during the colder months to remove the hot exhaust air from our data suites, chill it down using a combination of our water chillers and outside cooling towers, and return it to our internal CRAC units. The overall process looks like this:

  1. Our CRAC units reject their heat into a chilled water loop.
  2. The chilled water heats up, and returns to a chiller, which uses power to chill the water again.
  3. As the chiller does its work, the heat is moved into a secondary water loop, which is sent outside to our cooling towers. Here, the cold outside air chills down this heated water.

Comparison to air side economization

In a past blog post we compared this process to air side economization, which is another form of free cooling that data centers can use at certain points in the year. I’d encourage you to read that post as well to learn more about the differences between these two methods: Air/Water Economizers: What’s in it for me?

This process allows us to achieve the same cooling objectives that we have every day of the year, but during these winter months we are able to let Mother Nature take care of most of the actual cooling work. The significant energy savings this results in makes the ability to take advantage of free cooling a very big deal for us as well as our customers.

 

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Ben Hatton White data center cabinets are moving in

Demo cabinet

Our new demo cabinet shows off many customization options, and brightens up the room!

If you’ve been to Data Cave lately, you probably noticed our new demo cabinet up in our front lobby. In addition to displaying many of the configuration options clients can choose when they colocate their servers with us, this also shows off the new white color option that clients can choose for their cabinets. Traditional cabinets have always been black, but there have been some cited benefits of switching to lighter colored cabinets, and it has been on the rise throughout the data center industry. These are real, tangible benefits that data center managers and tenants can see, outside of just the physical appearance. 

Here are what these benefits look like:

  1. Improved visibility: Like a snowy field in the middle of winter, a data center with light-colored cabinets provides much better visibility and lighting than a data center with all black cabinets. The more white cabinets a data center has, the lower its lighting requirements will be.
  2. Energy savings: Having less overall lighting in a data center also brings with it some savings on power usage. Sure, it may not be a tremendous amount when you compare it to how much power goes into data center cooling, but when your lighting can be reduced by up to 30%* as a result of using white cabinets, you’re sure to see a difference in how much power goes into lighting your data center, and for any data center, that’s a big deal.
  3. Better cleanliness: White cabinets also make the appearance of any dust buildup much more visible, making it considerably easier to keep the data center space clean and dust-free.

Come see it for yourself

We invite you to come and check out our new demo cabinet for yourself, and see the options that are available to both new and existing colocation clients. If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of white cabinets, we’d love to have a chat about that as well. Contact us today!

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Ben Hatton A disaster exposes the need for data center redundancy testing

LA generator explosion

A generator explosion rocked downtown Los Angeles last month, and caused multiple data center issues. (Image courtesy of ANG News)

It’s not very often that you hear of equipment explosions in our industry, but that very thing occurred a couple of months ago in California (thankfully no one was seriously injured). In downtown Los Angeles, a generator located in the basement of a shared office building exploded, injuring 4 and causing a ripple effect that impacted multiple data centers within the immediate area. This was largely in part due to a power station located nearby, which was highly damaged by the explosion.

I want to look at 2 of the data centers that were impacted the most from this event, and what lessons can be learned from it.

Data center #1: Cooling system power loss

One of the impacted data centers was located close to where the explosion happened, and while they didn’t lose full power to their facility, they did lose power to their entire cooling system. This resulted in highly elevated data center temperatures throughout their facility. While there was no reported damage or customer outages as a result of this, it did place their staff and customers on high alert.

Data center #2: Connectivity outage

A connectivity provider also operates a facility near to where the explosion took place, and as a result of the power station being damaged by the blast, their facility lost utility power. While it appears that they had a generator for backup power, they were unable to successfully switch over to generator power. As a result, their connectivity services were out for a noticeable amount of time.

A lesson to take from this

I think that the biggest lesson this incident speaks to is the importance of testing for any data center; specifically, testing your equipment as well as your redundancy procedures.

Equipment: You obviously never want to be in a position where a generator explodes on you. While the specific reason for the explosion still hasn’t been determined, the risk of failure for a generator or any piece of equipment can be reduced when that equipment is properly maintained and tested on a regular basis. When you have multiple types of equipment that your data center relies on for redundancy, this kind of testing is crucial. (Be on the lookout for a future blog post on this subject.)

RedundancyIt is equally important to test your redundancy measures themselves on a regular basis, to ensure that your equipment failover processes will work when they need to, should a piece of equipment fail. In the case of the connectivity provider’s facility, it was unable to switch over to generator power when they lost utility power. This situation isn’t good, and is something that can definitely be mitigated through ongoing testing and optimization.

There are always lessons to be learned from any incident, and this one revealed all too clearly that having ongoing equipment and redundancy testing procedures in place is absolutely crucial for data centers.

 

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