High Availability and High Density, What These Terms Means To Us

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High Availability and High Density, What These Terms Means To Us

What is HA/HD you may ask.

It’s our way of describing two of Liberty’s most important attributes.

HA = High Availability. We’ve built redundant systems to ensure that our customers enjoy a resilient environment that can withstand power outages, carrier outages, hardware failures, and other types of problems that could potentially take a data center down.

Our original facility design had us using one huge generator per data room. And while having backup generator capacity is extremely important, it’s more important that your backup generator starts every time you need it. Take the case of 365 Main, a data center in San Francisco that hosted for Craigslist, Technorati, Yelp and others. In 2007, their generators failed to start during a Pacific Gas & Electric power outage and they and their customers were down for several hours. The cause? The generators didn’t start. See the article here: http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2007/07/24/generator-failures-caused-365-main-outage/

So, we said, let’s not trust the availability of power to our customers to a starter on a single generator, so we decided to bring two in. So we mitigate the risk of a starter failure by having two – and one generator by itself can support the entire facility. By the way, if you weren’t around when we did bring in the generators, here’s a photo you might like:

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Yes, that is a flying generator.

And having the backup generator plant is only part of the story. What’s the benefit of having redundancy if it’s not maintained? Pat Turner, our CTO spent the better part of last week working on our semi-annual electrical systems maintenance and part of that maintenance was to use our own load bank to perform the National Fire Prevention Association schedule used by hospitals and other high availability entities to ensure that not only will the generators start, but that they will support load. And because we have our own load bank, we perform this test whenever we want, not just when we have the budget.

HD stands for High Density. It was important for us to be in a position to say yes to customers, not no. We had heard “no” a lot when we asked to get more power in our racks at other hosting facilities over the years.  Many leading commercial facilities across the country only allow a customer to put 4 kW in a rack. So what do they do with a customer with a blade enclosure that’s only 21u deep and draws 8 or 9 kW? They charge them for more space – more than they need. We don’t like charging for vapor, we’d prefer to provide value, so we built an environmental infrastructure that can support more – a lot more. In fact, we have one customer running 19 kW in a single rack.

Now not everyone is ready for high density computing today, so as we go forward with Data Room B we are looking at our past experience and comparing that to future projections of where IT delivery systems. Predicting the future is part art and part science and we’re going to take our best shot. Perhaps you can help. If you haven’t virtualized your environment yet, do you plan to do so? Tell us more about where you think you’re heading – fewer, more powerful servers? What would lead you to downsize your hardware but to increase your hardware investment? We’re interested in your input, anytime.


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