Twin datacenters: always and everywhere available

Redundancy is becoming increasingly important in our digital economy. It ensures that crucial data is always available and safeguards the connectivity of businesses. When it comes to secure backups or fallback locations, twin datacenters are a good solution.

OGD IT services, a Dutch IT providers, is one of the clients making use of the twin datacenter solution by The Datacenter Group. Bas Dusée, head IaaS services, explains: “Our customers want to have a fallback location in case the datacenter loses power or something else happens.” The certainty of availability is worth a lot to many organizations. So too at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, research institute and Natural History museum in Leiden, where they also make use of a twin datacenter solution. “We want to be able to quickly and securely do a backup”, says system and network administrator David Heijkamp.

Spreading the risk

Naturalis has a private cloud environment based on OpenStack.  It is running two environments, one for office automation, to support researchers in and the collection. “As a museum we hold an extensive collection of over 40 million specimens that have been digitized. To utilize this data, we develop web services and apps that are also hosted on our cloud environment.” The second environment is used to backing up all data.

For a fast and secure backup, we conducted a public tender to look for a datacenter provider that could contribute two physically separated datacenter environments that were well connected internally. “Previously, we used to do a lot in-house, but for the next 1,5 to 2 years we will be in temporary housing, because the new museum is still being built and won’t be ready before then. This means we would also have to keep moving the IT environment, definitely not an ideal situation.” That is how we came across The Datacenter Group. Heijkamp reckons the biggest advantage is the spreading of risk. “Should the datacenter in Delft fail, we can rest assured a backup of our system is ready in Amsterdam.”

Doing business the easy way

OGD do not have a datacenter themselves, but used to fill this need by using datacenters from different providers. When The Datacenter Group was building their new datacenter in Delft, OGD decided to show interest. “We are literally located around the corner from the new datacenter”, says Dusée. When contact was finally made, it seemed the two business cultures meshed very well together, and OGD decided to become a client with The Datacenter Group. “It’s incredibly easy to do business with just one other party, it saves a lot of hassle. In addition, the datacenters are geographically well separated, and they are also separate entities. In such a situation, any added value of doing business with several suppliers lapses.”

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Quick fallback

The biggest advantage to OGD is that they can quickly switch location in case of calamity. “With just one press of a button we can switch from one datacenter to the other. Without this twin datacenter solution we would be in trouble should an emergency occur. We have a platform that runs several clients, and for whom we wish to guarantee availability at all times. Otherwise in case of network outage there’d be about ten-thousand people at the coffee machine.” Thankfully, OGD has rarely had to use the fallback location. “We do test it often, and simply knowing that it works is already a comforting thought.”

Risk assessment determines necessity

Whether a fallback location is necessary differs per organization. It’s determined based on a risk-assessment, which differs per business. It is important to calculate what it would cost the company if its systems were to go down. How much revenue is lost? How many employees won’t be able to work? And how big is the risk of damage claims and reputation damage? The answers to these questions can be mirrored against the costs of high availability and redundancy.

Take a hospital for example, where human lives are at stake and a high availability is crucial. The costs of redundancy are obviously not higher than the potential consequences of the IT environment not being available. For Bas Dusée it’s clear: “Of course it depends on the type of organization, but nowadays it is unacceptable to keep all data in one location. The risk is simply too high. Thankfully, fallback locations are becoming more advanced and more affordable.”

Lightpath already in place

Naturalis, connected to SURFnet – the organization that ensures researchers, teachers and students can work together vigorously through IT – was the first research institute that joined the datacenter of The Datacenter Group in Delft. “That’s why, as part of the tender, they built a lightpath back then from SURF to the datacenter. For other parties this means that presence is already available in the datacenter, for them to use as well. Quite handy.”

The Datacenter Group has an optic fiber connection between the datacenters in Amsterdam and Delft. Due to the ring-shaped installation the connection is entirely redundant. The datacenter in Amsterdam has 5000m2 of data floor and is located need the A10, Schiphol Airport, and different train stations. It is directly connected to one of the largest internet hubs in the world, the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX). The location in Delft also has 5000m2 of data floor, and is situated at the TU Delft Campus, near the Rotterdam Airport and the TU Delft. This datacenter also has a direct connection to AMS-IX.

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