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  1. #1

    Building a datasuite

    Hi Guys,

    We currently have a few racks within a UK Datacentre and unfortunately its filling up quicker and quicker by the day.

    When we contacted our account manager during the week for another rack we were told that there is less than 5 racks left. Saying that these new racks came with +20% increase on our normal costs plus a 800 setup fee. While I have no complaints with the price going up for the rack (as its the same in any data centre when it gets full) I am starting to think that if we (as a company) maybe benefit more to converting an office into a data suite and getting suitable fibre to the building.

    One reason why I am calling this a data suite and not a data centre is it wont have the benefits of a backup generator and fire suppression system as costs would outway the benefits (at the moment anyway). We are looking to only have around 4/8 racks in this data suite with none of the services being hosted business critical.

    At the moment our current DC is around 100 miles from me so when we looked at the location we found that having one closer to our office and my home allot easier/beneficial. Next option was is there affordable fibre access available and yes there is. There was many sets of offices and industrial sites which already had fibre access to the doors with many suppliers available such as the national fibre grid (BT), Virgin Media Backhaul and Global Crossing (waiting to be confirmed on GC to see if its theirs or BTs). Least that saves the cost of the expensive last miles from the POP.

    Either way the fibre we would be using would be used to back haul our connection to a London DC to plug into our network. Over the last week I have been looking at possible locations, costs, quotes etc to see what I can work with. I am just wondering if anyone else has done something similar (as in setting up a few racks away from the DC) and how did it turn out?

    One worry I did worry about is losing the data centres remote hands when things go really wrong and say a technician is unavailable to go to the suite. All our servers are hooked up to KVMs and Reboot racks so if something does go wrong (software wise) we can cope but the thought does linger over me slightly.

    Hope to hear your thoughts and advise.

    -Chris

  2. #2
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    In your situation, you must weight the real benefits between having your own data suite and collocating your equipment. You mentioned "I am starting to think that if we (as a company) maybe benefit more." Exactly what benefits do you imagine you'll gain? Are you looking for more control, to save money, travel, etc.? Must you visit the actual data center on a regular basis? How many trips to the DC do you make?
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  3. #3
    * More control as it would be no more than 10 minutes down the road.
    * Less surprises of finding my racks doubling in price when my contract expires (we got caught in the redbus ones a few years ago and I can see it happening in our current DC as well)
    * To cover monthly costs of this new facility (power for a number of racks, fibre (100mb back haul connection with easily upgradable to 1Gb or 10GB), office space. It would be around the cost of 3 racks (not including setup) in our current DC at there new pricing.
    * Possibility of applying for a grant towards setup costs
    * Only provider in the area so collocation could be possible at a later date.
    * Less hassle when we get a new dedicated customer sign up and I have to drive to the DC.
    * No more data centre politics....

    I visit the DC on average every other week and they tend to be long sessions (12 hours) so being able to do little bits of work here and there would make our lives easier. There are advantages and disadvantages of going either way which makes it a little harder.

  4. #4
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    It certainly sounds like the costs would be comparable, especially if you aren't going the centralized UPS/Backup Generator route, to what you are currently paying for colocation. If the convenience is a big factor, you'll certainly save travel costs and time there.

    What I would suggest you do is pay the extra little bit in electrical work up front now to make room for the addition of a central UPS and generator. It's always difficult to rewire for those things after the fact, but you can "pre-plumb" for it now and add them later as your budget allows. For such a small facility, you could probably get lease financing for the UPS & Generator and just factor it into your monthly costs. Other considerations include anti-static flooring, environmental control (heating, cooling and humidity) and physical security.

    Make your best costs estimates, then increase it by about 50%. If you can afford it, I say go for it!
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  5. #5
    Great thanks for your input so far.

    I am currently waiting for final costs on the fibre as I always hear that this is normally the biggest cost monthly anyway. Anyone elses input/experiences are welcome.

    Hopefully on Monday I can start contacting some of the places around the POP and get a final cost idea of the office space/area etc.

    -Chris

  6. #6
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    The biggest concern I would see is getting a suitable connection. With any typical larger datacenter, they have at least two feeds from different providers running to their routers. By going with your own setup, you'll sacrifice a bit of stability in that regard. I wouldn't really worry about a backup generator, but a UPS is a must. You could probably get away using a 10-15kva single phase UPS for a small setup. This is something I've thought about too for my own business expansion.
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  7. #7
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    It all depends, which is more important, reliability and expandability or the convenience of the location? With the data center you'll get redundant network connectivity and redundant power systems, which you're likely not going to get at your own site. That WILL result in downtime, but if you can afford a couple hours of downtime with a power issue or a fiber cut, etc. then you could be fine.

    With most data centers you should be able to sign a 3+ year contract, which would fix your pricing for that time period. Also, even though you may be limited at your current location, you will generally get more flexibility at a data center as far as growth goes. If you need more room in your data suite you're looking at an expensive expansion, while at most data centers you can just add a cabinet as is needed.
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  8. #8
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    I question whether you are getting the most out of your current systems.

    Have you investigated buying systems that will give you more power per rackmount U?

    Are you consolidating services onto a single larger system with e.g. Xen, Solaris + Zones, Virtuozzo, etc.

    If you have any drives less than 80GB in size and are running out of space, replace them with larger capacity ones.

    If the systems aren't "business critical" then they shouldn't even be running. Pardon me if I seem rude, I am only trying to point out ways to reduce your costs.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by netfreak View Post
    The biggest concern I would see is getting a suitable connection. With any typical larger datacenter, they have at least two feeds from different providers running to their routers. By going with your own setup, you'll sacrifice a bit of stability in that regard. I wouldn't really worry about a backup generator, but a UPS is a must. You could probably get away using a 10-15kva single phase UPS for a small setup. This is something I've thought about too for my own business expansion.
    We looked at this and as I said in my earlier post, the fibre connection is by far the most expensive investment and monthly charge. With the possibility of starting at 100mb and able to go up to 1GB then this seemed like an easy route to continue. We do have a chance of getting multiple feeds (such as going 1GB from Virgin Media Backhaul and 1GB from BT Backhaul) but the cost then goes up quite a bit so with that in mind, that's something for the future.

    At the moment we are only pushing around 80Mbs 95th in our UK data centre with 60MB on that bandwidth on our ventrilo network. We have our ventrilo servers running on a mix of our own VPS machines because at the end of the day the only resource they hog in bandwidth.

    Also, even though you may be limited at your current location, you will generally get more flexibility at a data center as far as growth goes. If you need more room in your data suite you're looking at an expensive expansion, while at most data centers you can just add a cabinet as is needed.
    Well I do see where your coming from but I can see the costs of new racks within our current DC to shoot up even more when their latest investment goes on-line in a couple of months. When do you call it enough with the price rises? It seems expanding in our current location is harder than I thought with weird lead times and bad management (saying there is racks available and reserved to us, then proceeds to sell them on to the highest bidder). Poor management is one reason I want to have more power.

    I question whether you are getting the most out of your current systems.

    Have you investigated buying systems that will give you more power per rackmount U?
    A few months back we converted every server possible into a 1u chassis to make the best of power and space. Even if I could fit anything else in the rack (space wise) we don't have the power left. Using VPS etc isn't an option when your hosting game servers. Yes I could convert all our game server boxes to dual quad core servers but then the power isn't available and the machines are generally more expensive. We are using single quadcore servers at the minute which worked out on the best cost vs. space vs. power scenario.

    If the systems aren't "business critical" then they shouldn't even be running.
    Yes Ok its business critical to us as in we wouldn't be able to provide our service to our clients but I don't see game servers as supplying us the large contracts from corporations.

  10. #10
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    What about security?? Will you be able to have 24x7 staff onsite? What if someone breaks in and steals your servers?
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  11. #11
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    OK, if this is all for game servers, etc. are the customers willing to put up with a single homed connection and a couple added ms of latency because of the location? I certainly know our game server customers wouldn't stand for it.

    The issue seems to be that you're at the wrong data center, not that you need your own space. Find a good DC, get in a long-term contract with options for additional cabinets, etc., etc. and get your price fixed, enough room for growth, etc.
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  12. #12
    Karl,

    I'm not sure if you know the UK DC market but there isn't really allot of options. If we go away from where we are (outside of London) we either look at London rack space which is either sold out or stupidly expensive or the other option is we go up north where rack space is cheaper and BW is crazy expensive (with ms increases in pings).

    There isn't allot of options when it comes to looking to alternatives. This is one reason why the DC can put the prices up and providers like me just put up with it. They know they can as everyone will just live with it.

    If the customers want the prices we provide with high quality support and high powered servers then we have to look at alternatives. Its not something you can stop.. the fact the DC want to make more money out of you but you have to maximise profit somewhere and in this idea it would allow us more control and in the future when we expand some more space easily plus a cheaper alternative when we hit that size.

    Yes you lose some redundancy but you also gain support and the fact the facility would be ours. That has to be better than a provider who has a facility 100's of miles away from them who relies on a NOC to do their work or has to jump in the car for an hour plus to repair a server. Heck after 3 years its not fun anymore.

    -Chris

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheGreat1 View Post
    Yes you lose some redundancy but you also gain support and the fact the facility would be ours. That has to be better than a provider who has a facility 100's of miles away from them who relies on a NOC to do their work or has to jump in the car for an hour plus to repair a server. Heck after 3 years its not fun anymore.

    -Chris
    It seems you're pretty certain about it then, so why even ask our opinion if you don't like what the other opinions are?

    I know the selection in the UK is much slimmer than here in the US, though I also know there is more than one data center available, this I feel not talking with other data centers to see what they can do for you first would simply be foolish. If none of them can offer you what you need, then I would consider building a data suite, but not until the other options were exhausted.

    To me, the idea of people who have little idea of what they're doing knowingly building a site with little to no redundancy is just asking for trouble.
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  14. #14
    Hi Karl,

    I am listening to people, I might be a little defensive but I am listening trust me. Heck why shouldn't I listen to a person who makes allot more money than me

    I think one reason is trust. I have been stung in the process of data centres etc. (I lost all my hardware over a year ago with the Hi-V and IKCS situation which I never got back. Have a search under my name for it). We had to rebuy everything and you know it was a big blow to have 500 customers ringing you up over the Christmas period when your with your family & friends while they are shouting and screaming at you even though its not your fault.

    It might sound like taking things too personal but at the end of the day, its my name on the business and I don't want to turn into another company which just screws over their customers. A year down the line we have over doubled our income and customer base so sticking to our guns did pay off.

    I am listing to everyone's feedback and my current worries are:

    # Redundancy (power and network wise)
    # Support, the fact that if anything goes wrong its on my head. What if im on holiday?

    I have asked around data centres around the South Uk from locations in South Wales to anyone along the M4 corridor/M3 corridor and it just seems you trade one or the other. Cheap racks, expensive bandwidth... visa versa.. I am waiting for a few quotes back from data centres. The idea of a data suite was just something which came into play after speaking to a few other providers in the same situation where they didn't think the price rises where justifiable/could do better on experience. I am looking for alternatives but when you do the location vs. cost becomes a factor.

    At the end of the day, its me who will be driving to the DC to do repairs and installing new servers.

    Thanks for your input..

    -Chris

  15. #15
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    The thing is, what happens if you get a fiber cut and you're down for 48 hours with no options, or your power goes down for 24 hours with no other options. If either of those happens I'd imagine you're in a whole heap of trouble. At that point, you have no one to blame but yourself, with a data center, neither of those thing would be a major concern. There are people who know what they're doing when it comes to what you want, there is generally no need to re-invent the wheel. Personally, I wouldn't even consider building out my on space unless I knew I had redundant connectivity and at LEAST UPS backup. If you can pull that off, build out your own suite, but I'd imagine getting redundancy for just 4-8 cabints will be cost prohibitive. Even though the DC may seem expensive, I doubt you'll find something too much better.

    Overall, I just want to make sure you don't just jump into this, as that could be suicide if you don't consider everything, and I have seen that happen in too many cases to just let it happen here.
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by KarlZimmer View Post
    The thing is, what happens if you get a fiber cut and you're down for 48 hours with no options, or your power goes down for 24 hours with no other options. If either of those happens I'd imagine you're in a whole heap of trouble. At that point, you have no one to blame but yourself, with a data center, neither of those thing would be a major concern. There are people who know what they're doing when it comes to what you want, there is generally no need to re-invent the wheel. Personally, I wouldn't even consider building out my on space unless I knew I had redundant connectivity and at LEAST UPS backup.
    Hi. I no that i was looking to do something like this in Wales. And i was looking at NTL Business. (consumerly known as Virgin Media)

    If the fiber was cut. NTL promise to have any problems, including fiber cuts fixed within 6 hours on an SLA. Also They can manage your entire network and provide you with free setup and free equipment. All this free of charge.

    Naturally i wouldn't go with NTL because of their terrible routing problems during times. But, most providers who are providing fibers have SLA's like this.
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  17. #17
    Hi,

    Their was an SLA with the fibre provider of 4 hours etc. Considering the same fibre is also Virgin Media's main network connectivity I would think any sort of fault would be sorted asap.

    Thanks for the information and advise on the minimum recommended amount of redundency. It will be something we will be looking into price wise.

    -Chris

  18. #18
    One thing to consider, just because an SLA states fiber cuts will be fixed within 6 hours doesn't mean it will happen. All an SLA is really good for is getting a credit on your bill when the provider violates it.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by logikstudios View Post
    If the fiber was cut. NTL promise to have any problems, including fiber cuts fixed within 6 hours on an SLA.
    I wouldn't trust an SLA any more than I would trust a convicted child molester to watch my kids. (And I don't even have kids!)

    If there's a major fiber cut, you may be down well over 6 hours. Sure, you'll get some money back on your next bill due to the SLA, but you can still be down all day. When you're in a real datacenter, you generally have multiple fiber providers, using different physical routes, coming in at multiple entry points.
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  20. #20
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    Only one other person has mentioned this, but your cooling costs will be significant. Even for 8 racks with 4kW load each (16 amps @ 240v), you are going to need about 10 tons of cooling. That's going to cost you quite a bit up front, and every month for power, maintenance, repairs, etc. Initial costs could easily get into the high 5 figure range (USD), depending on many variables that I don't know [and you very well might not know, either]. Monthly costs could run a into a couple thousand a month (USD)

    - Will you need to buy new, or will you be able to source used cooling equipment?

    - Does your building have an existing chilled water loop you can tap into? How far away is this from your suite? Do they keep it running 24x7 and guarantee it will not go down for any reason, including maintenance?

    - Does your building have a pad where you can put a dry cooler / condenser unit? How long is the distance from your suite to the pad? Copper is ridiculously expensive these days. The longer the run, the larger the cost. How many concrete walls will you have to run your piping through? In order to get your piping through concrete walls, you will to get someone out to xray the area being drilled and then get someone out to do the core drilling. You land lord may require this happens after hours, further increasing your costs.

    - Will you have to provide engineered drawings and get permits for the work?

    - What is your time frame? The faster you need this done, the more you will have to pay.

    - Do you want N+1 redundancy on your cooling? Even if you have power, if your cooling goes out then you are out of business.

    - Cooling is not as easy as putting in a few window mount AC units. Those typically top out at 12000 BTU / 1 ton each, and they are not designed to run 24x7.

    - Will you be using upflow or downflow units? For downflow units, you will need to install a raised floor. For upflow units, you will have the extra expense of ductwork to control the delivery of your cool air.

    Monthly, you will have the expense of running the your CRAC unit(s) and maintaining them. I don't know what power costs in the UK, but a 10 ton crac unit could use up to 10,000 kWH per month, and that's definitely not a non-trivial expense. You will also need someone out at least quarterly, if not monthly, to handle routine maintenance. Then you will also have emergency situations, which can cost you thousands at a time. After hours, you will likely be looking at time and a half, with a 4 hour minimum just to get a guy out to look at your issue. If the issue is a small one, expect it to cost about $1000 to fix. If the issue is a big one (compressor died, something burned up, etc) you could be looking at $5000 or even $10000.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheGreat1 View Post
    my current worries are:
    # Redundancy (power and network wise)
    # Support, the fact that if anything goes wrong its on my head. What if im on holiday?
    Even doing an "own" DC in a small setup can be *very* expensive - and of course you dont get the economy-of-scale of having 5000 racks...

    If you're set on doing it "in-house" you need to pick a location where there is accesibility to two power companies - so a remote farm is not going to work.
    Preferably the location will already have diverse power feeds, and onsite generators for backup.
    You'll want to investigate UPS capable of handling the entire load, for ~30 minutes while the generators kick in - especially if a manual switch system is in place

    Then you have your connectivity. Providers maps can help, but you will find that 70% will just lie and not tell you they're taking capacity off the others, or that they dont *really* have anything, they just have an arrangemnet to be able to have something in a certain area, from a provider who has fibre already

    racks/housings/etc depend on your needs - be aware these thinsg can be extremely heavy (as are UPS) and office buildings are not rated to be able to take the weight. I've seen the mess 5 racks of kit batteries and servers makes when it collapses through 3 floors of a building - not pretty.

    Security is a ,major concern, and if you're leaving the usual DC areas, you really want to look into ISO27001 and a quality 24/7/365 security company.

    Staff/IH/etc - you've spotted the flaw in doing it as a 1-man-band - you'll have to live on site and never sleep

    Price it up, but even paying some of the newer 4000 and 5000/month racks quotes I'm seeing, unless you're going to have 120+ of them very quickly, then you'll still be cheaper to be in an exsiting facility.
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  22. #22
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    And then there's aircon, switches, routers, .....
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  23. #23
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    I think from what you've said, I know which facility you're in. If I'm right, then the lying about reserved racks is a bit harsh, as their policy is actually, "Reserved on first refusal" - i.e. They offer it to you at x, if you don't take it, then it'll get offered to the customer they have lined up.

    Rob has pretty much hit the nail on the head. I've seen a lot of people do similar things, the first thing they do, because they believe they've cut their overheads, is to drop their prices - They fill up all their space, but they don't have enough money to build any more space = dead in the water.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheGreat1 View Post
    There was many sets of offices and industrial sites which already had fibre access to the doors with many suppliers available such as the national fibre grid (BT), Virgin Media Backhaul and Global Crossing (waiting to be confirmed on GC to see if its theirs or BTs). Least that saves the cost of the expensive last miles from the POP.
    If you go this route I'd suggest wandering the pavements/roads and looking at the names on the manholes and looking at who actually has got physical fiber into the locations.
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  25. #25
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    I think you've three main issues
    * stresses of working at a distance from the datacentre
    * increases in costs which much of the colo/hosting industry is facing right now
    * unpredictability of rack space availability as you grow

    From what you've said a fair compromise to meet these challenges might be to go for some "low cost datacentres" nearer you. I don't think you have the scale to go for your own building, you need to go into a shared facility.

    Some telcos/ISPs have "lights out" datacentres around the country which are small POPs in industrial units with basic fit outs. Easynet and Global Crossing (ex-Fibernet) have these. Neos purchased some similar units from Telia lately:
    http://www.neosnetworks.co.uk/neos_portfolio/co-lo.html
    I'd expect such units would at least have diverse fiber routes out of them and bandwidth pricing reasonable to good. For low cost gaming hosting it might be the least worst option.
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  26. #26
    Hi Andrew,

    Cheers for the links. We got a quote back from NEOs but it wasn't as great as we hoped/thought. While the quote was very competitive to London prices, it wasn't so much with BS pricing scheme. I'm waiting to hear back from GC to see what they can provide at the moment

    -Chris

  27. #27
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    Chris
    Is it Bournemouth or Airdrie where you are based?
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  28. #28
    At the moment: Newport, Wales.

    -Chris

  29. #29
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    Maybe try The Bunker in Newbury? It's not as expensive as you might think.
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  30. #30
    We did check those quotes out a few months ago but wasn't keep on being escorted everywhere by a security guard as well as the none 24/7 access. TBH pricing in Newbury was the same as Bluesquare.

    -Chris

  31. #31
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    Get some quotes on what it would really cost to get a backup generator put in. If you find the right electrical contractor, locate used equipment, etc. it may not be as expensive as you'd think.

    As for redundant connections, remember that they don't need to be equal in size. Maybe 100mbit fiber for your primary upstream and a DS3 for your secondary upstream...
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  32. #32
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    maybe pop along to http://www.datacentreworld.com 26th-27th Feb

  33. #33
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    52
    Hey Chris, how did you get on after?

    I'm also from Wales, and am thinking about co-lo, so could be potential customer as well

  34. #34
    After having a good think about the whole situation, it would cause too much stress and hassle to run our own data suite.

    Having the luxury of Bluesquare IH saves allot of time and hassle even though the 100 mile drive does lag on. I do have to say though, thank god we didn't go ahead with it. A few months later this was announced: http://www.nextgenerationdata.co.uk/ (UK's biggest DC in Newport, Wales)

    -Chris
    Clanplanet: Serving the gaming industry since 2004.
    > Game/Clan Servers, Teamspeak and Ventrilo
    > Dedicated Servers
    Want a new gaming POP in the UK? Low ping and Lag Free? Contact us.

  35. #35
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    52
    Thank you! I had totally forgotten about them, it's in the old LG factory isn't it?

    Have you contacted them? What are their prices like? What do you think of them? Are they already up and running?

  36. #36
    Yes, its the old LG site.. the place is absolutely huge. Impressive from the skys.

    I gave them a shout when it was first announced.

    It took them about 3 weeks to get back to me and they never did send any form of pricing or extra information like promised. From what I was told, customers could start getting install around September (as work is currently undergoing) and Level 3, Surf, Global Crossing, BT all had connectivity/POP at the site.

    -Chris
    Clanplanet: Serving the gaming industry since 2004.
    > Game/Clan Servers, Teamspeak and Ventrilo
    > Dedicated Servers
    Want a new gaming POP in the UK? Low ping and Lag Free? Contact us.

  37. #37
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    52
    I rang them up today, went through to someone's answerphone... wasn't expecting that to be honest!

    I also rang Newport Unlimited, to ask if they had any news, but they said I need to talk to someone at the Welsh Assembly, they gave me the number for Geoff Perrin - who I will contact on Monday.

    Will let you know how it goes!

  38. #38
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Posts
    1,027
    This is Wales! Thats how we do business here!


    Expect the Welsh Assembly to be "helpful"

    My understanding is this could quite easily turn into another pipe dream. That LG factory is huge, but it wasnt designed to be used as a data centre and despite what they claim you cant rip our an unused semi con plant and turn it into a data centre without spending some serious cash.

    The factory opposite it is almost empty too, that would be a better choice becuase of its design, also an LG factory but for monitor tubes!


    My understanding on newport is in terms of network connectivity its rubbish!
    There is nothing else in Newport and as such getting any decent connections into the place is going to be diffucilt in itself! They have promises from the likes of BT and thats about it!
    Damien

  39. #39
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    Dallas, TX
    Posts
    3,507
    TheGreat1: What part of the UK are you in? Have you tried bluesquare data? They have a couple of DCs in maidenhead (west outer m25) and I get great connectivity there.

    IIRC they still have suites/racks avl in BSQ3 (maidenhead).

    They're also opening BSQ4 in milton keynes in sept 2008.

    Maybe this might work for you?

    EDIT: just saw your post about blue square, sorry.
    Dallas Colocation by Incero, 8 years and counting!
    e: sales(at)incero(dot)com 855.217.COLO (2656)
    Colocation & Enterprise Servers, SATA/SAS/SSD, secure IPMI/KVM remote control, 100% U.S.A. Based Staff
    SSAE 16, SAS70, Redundant Power & Network, Fully Diverse Fiber

  40. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by djorgensen View Post
    This is Wales! Thats how we do business here!
    My understanding on newport is in terms of network connectivity its rubbish!
    There is nothing else in Newport and as such getting any decent connections into the place is going to be diffucilt in itself! They have promises from the likes of BT and thats about it!
    I drove past the LG site today while I was in the area and realised that its that big.. While I had seen it when flying over, its the first time i've seen it up close. I didn't realise that its 3 separate buildings, all which are crazily huge. But from the outside it seems LG still have large containers left and little work has been done, if any. While I would love Newport to have a DC, I can see it falling through.

    Well they managed to get GC (who already have fibre in London-to-Cardiff-US), L3 and this unknown Surf (well to me anyway). Its a better attempt than just getting backhaul to London like most DCs do.
    Clanplanet: Serving the gaming industry since 2004.
    > Game/Clan Servers, Teamspeak and Ventrilo
    > Dedicated Servers
    Want a new gaming POP in the UK? Low ping and Lag Free? Contact us.

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