Generator system expansion

As part of the recent expansion and capacity upgrade project at our London Central data centre, we have deployed another backup diesel generator, which joins the existing sets already providing protection to our clients.

This ensures our N+1 resilience level on backup power is maintained as we continue to introduce new customers into the data centre, and provide ongoing scalable growth to those already with us.

The new set – while outputting the same level of power as its existing counterparts – is a next generation unit that we’ve had presented in an inverse colourway; anthracite grey. This stands in contrast to the existing units, which are in an off-white colourway. Of the three sets which now make up the full system, it is the smallest, quietest, and sleekest looking unit, perfect for demonstrating where we’ve made tangible upgrades to our critical infrastructure.

As part of this new deployment, we’ve adjusted how the setup works as a homogeneous system, with regards to the operational logic for running three sets in an N+1 fail-over scenario.

The new generator is actually now Set 1, with the existing units becoming Sets 2 and 3. This allows the newest set to become the primary unit in this multi-generator system.


How our generator system works

We’re not doing anything particularly ‘special’ when it comes to mixing in our backup generator sets, however in the interest of total transparency, we thought it of interest to explain exactly how this system works in real-world scenarios.

We have enough backup generator capacity on-site to cover full load in the facility on two sets, reserving one as a swing set. This can be called into service should one fail during emergency operation, hence giving us our N+1 resilience.

There are two main invocation scenarios in a facility with A+B mains power systems, which are:

  • A single side power failure, either A or B (the most common)
  • A full blackout of both A and B (less common)

The computer systems that control our generator logic (both inside the generators and as part of our Automatic Transfer Switches) handle each case slightly differently, depending on what has happened.


A single side power failure

As expected with any mains power issue, our UPS systems take load immediately to ensure faultless operation while the generators are instructed to start up. We have a minimum run-time on our UPS’s of 10 minutes, though most have more than 20 minutes in reality.

All generators as part of our system are kept on hot-standby, with all oils and pumps kept warm ready for the immediate firing of engines. In this state, the generators are known as ‘At Rest’, and available for service.

During a single side failure, two of the three generators will be instructed to fire, which will then startup, self-test, and synchronise with the sister unit.

If for any reason one unit fails to sync, the remaining swing set will be called up and take over, placing the other into a cool-down state.

Once online and synchronised, which takes around 60 seconds, the ATS’s will switch through the load, allowing the generators to take over from the inline UPS’s.

If the load is at below 60% of a single unit’s capacity, the system will then allow for the load to be taken up by a single generator, placing two units back into the swing pool, to be invoked again if required.

We’re then running on generator for as long as required, with 48 hours of fuel on-site, and refuelling contracts with two separate entities for refuelling within 2 hours.

Once the mains feed is seen to be restored by the system, it will hold on generator for another three minutes to ensure stability, before automatically switching back to the mains feed for load.

The online generators then enter into a three minute cool-down cycle, before dropping back into their ‘At Rest’ state, ready to be called up again if required.


A full blackout of both A and B

Although this is a less common real-world scenario, it is one of our test simulations, and invokes the generators in a slightly different manner.

Should this occur, most actions as above remain the same, however in this case, all three generators would fire as part of stage one, rather than just two.

They will then test and sync together, and again have a set fall away to become the swing unit once the system is spun up and ready to take load.

In this way, the backup system is always able to both take load, and provide a swing set for resilience should there be an issue with a unit during emergency operation.

The entire system enjoys a rigorous testing schedule, which is incredibly important for a backup power system. Sets are test fired every two weeks and allowed to run warm for five minutes, checking for any running issues. We also complete on-load tests every month, to ensure the sets can take full load; an important step missed by many facility operators.

The system is also fully maintained by Shenton Group, the organisation responsible for the build, supply and initial testing, ensuring our units are in tip-top operational condition year-round.


What’s next?

That’s not the only upgrade coming as part of our backup generator system. The investment in this critical area continues in Q4, as we introduce a brand new mixing enclosure in our Electrical Intake Room, which will improve and update what is in place at present, finalising developments in this area in the mid-long term.

The new internal enclosure will allow for the use of next generator smart rotary breakers, something not presently in service as part of the current enclosure panel.

Data Hall 1 reaches full fit-out at London Central

This quarter, we’ve taken Data Hall 1 at our London Central data centre to 100% available capacity, to service the continued growth of existing customers, and the welcoming of new businesses to our much-lauded Bermondsey facility.

Data Hall 1 has been designed for a modular fit-out, with containment pods coming online as required. We launched our London Central site back in early 2016 with two containment pods, to hold existing clients (from our decommissioned London South facility) along with adequate headroom for further growth that year.

We’ve now onlined all five containment pods, taking the hall to its final fit-out state of 126 available enclosures.

Taking the facility up to this level of operation has also required the deployment of an additional backup generator, which maintains our power redundancy level at this newly elevated capacity.

This is a notable milestone for Netwise, as we continue to develop our operation and service set. This milestone also brings with it further considerations for the next step in our growth journey, as we develop plans for how Netwise will evolve in the coming years.


So what’s next?

Plans are now well underway with regards to how the next step(s) will be implemented, and what new capabilities that will bring to the Netwise portfolio.

If there’s one thing we’re well known for above all else, it’s the design and build of bespoke data centre facilities, which will be front and centre of our next move.

While details are not yet being made fully public, we can say that developmental plans for the next facility are now fully in effect. As these plans develop, we will be releasing further information to our stakeholders.

We’re electing to place focus on a second data centre ahead of a second on-site data hall at the London Central site. There are a wide range of operational reasons for doing this, which primarily centre around the increase in overall capability afforded to us by opening a second private facility, considerations which sit ahead of further expansion at London Central.


Data Hall 2 at London Central

We still have a large ground floor space ready for conversion into Data Hall 2 at our London Central facility, which has scope for a further three full-sized containment pods, assuming the same design is implemented.

This would allow for the deployment of up to 90 additional enclosures on-site at our London Central facility, taking the building to its designed capacity of 216 segregated enclosures.

As part of this, building-wide power capacity would be upgraded, discussions for which are already underway with our utility partners.

By focusing on our second facility ahead of further London Central expansion, we will enable self-contained, on-net multi-site services without any reliance on partner facilities for the first time, something we’re very excited about.


Want to know more?

We’d welcome the chance to show interested parties around the space remaining in Data Hall 1, along with scope plans for Data Hall 2.

Likewise, we’re also in early discussions with a range of key anchor tenants for our second facility – if you’d like to join this discussion, please do get in touch and we’d be happy to speak with you in more detail about the exciting things on the horizon here at Netwise.

GitHub Education partnership

In a landmark arrangement which brings a data centre operator into the fold for the very first time, Netwise has partnered with GitHub Education to bring enterprise-grade colocation services to the famous GitHub Student Developer Pack for the very first time.

The GitHub Student Developer Pack brings together some of the world’s foremost service operators, across a wide and varied range of technology sectors, including Digital Ocean, Microsoft Azure, Stripe and AWS.

We now join these titans of industry, representing a service set otherwise missing from the Pack until now.

While the number of students with their own physical server hardware may be limited, none-the-less there are many in full-time education that do elect to operate their own hardware (whether out of desire or project necessity), and until now they’ve have had no real means of operating this hardware in a suitable environment.

No longer is there any need for a student to run a server in their dorm room, or at home, making lots of noise, generating lots of heat, and costing a fortune in (highly unreliable) power.

Members can visit our special students landing page via the Pack, and self-verify for eligibility. From there, and for the first time ever, Pack-enrolled student developers can make use of world-class server colocation services free for a year, placing their own server into one of London’s leading data centre facilities.


Why we wanted to be a part of the Pack

This partnership has been something we’ve been working towards for some time, with both parties first engaging on the matter back in early 2017.

As many close to Netwise will already know, the earliest iteration of the business as it stands today started life while Matthew and Matt were still in high school; 15 years old at the time, in the summer of 2005.

While Netwise the organisation wouldn’t come to fruition for another four years (we incorporated in 2009), those early years were vital in developing our hands-on experience with server and network hardware.

So, where did we house our first system, comprised of 12 servers and a range of connectivity kit? Out of pure necessity, this lived in the loft / attic of Matthew’s parents’ house. Far from ideal, but aside from paying for third party data centre space on a near zero budget at the time, there were almost no other options available. Creativity was the order of the day, which helped shape our direction as a facility operator, but it still hindered our progress early on.

If only we’d had access to an offer like this back then! We truly hope that we are able to inspire the next generation of tech-focused developers and entrepreneurs with this free taste of top-level data centre services.


Educating students

This isn’t just an exercise in working exclusively with students that qualify, as we realise this is a very limited pool.

We want to help educate the masses, many of whom may well be unfamiliar with the physical side of the internet and how systems are deployed around the world.

Many of the younger generation now focus more completely on cloud services and XaaS options, but that isn’t always suitable for all use cases. Experience with data centres and the services they offer is much harder to come by, so we hope this helps close off that gap for students interested in this approach.

We’ve already had some great discussions with eager students about how colocation services work, deeper chats about power consumption and how this is calculated, and other interesting conversations that we hope have helped even non-qualifying students learn a little more about how this industry operates.


GitHub at Netwise

We’ve used git in our own internal development projects for years, with GitHub as our repository platform of choice, so coming together more closely with an organisation and web app that we’ve grown close to in real-world terms has been fantastic.

Our own websites and web apps have all be deployed through our automated GitHub / DeployHQ workflow, which has naturally proved invaluable to us as we scale up operations and involve more developers in our projects.

It’ll be fantastic to see student developers deploy staging and production code to their own physical server, housed in our facility.


Getting involved

If you are a GitHub Student Developer Pack member, check your Pack for details on how to get hold of this service.

If you’re not a Pack member yet, but you’re in full-time education and want to apply, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and apply, as this year, the Pack contains free or discounted services with a whopping $45,000!

The biggest business benefits of colocation

An emerging cost effective solution for businesses large or small when it comes to their investment in infrastructure, explore the benefits of colocation.

Colocation is a hosting option that businesses all over the world use for a variety of reasons. A data centre facility generally provides colocation services, along with other related services. Data centre facilities let companies rent space for their servers and computing hardware.

Such data centres, also referred to as ‘colo data centres’, will provide the secure rack space and resilient power. They also provide connectivity / transit, cooling, and physical security for the hardware. The customer generally provides their own servers and storage.

Depending on the colocation service you choose, you can upgrade these services on the fly. Premium colocation services also offer 24×7 technical support. You can enjoy access to teams of experts that can assist your business; you can also get remote hands that can handle physical technical issues. 

So, what are the benefits of using a colocation service?


Capital expenditures

There are many reasons to use colocation services instead of building an on-site data centre space. One of the main benefits is the avoidance of huge capital expenditures (CAPEX). The CAPEX associated with creating, maintaining, and updating large computing facilities is significant. 

Relying on a colo data centre allows your business to cut these costs, moving them instead to a more manageable OPEX cost. At the same time, you get to keep ownership and complete control of your physical servers, something not offered through the use of cloud and virtual services.

The only thing to note when it comes to spending is upfront expenses. Using a colocation service still requires your business to shoulder the upfront costs of buying your own hardware. You will also typically need to shoulder the travel costs of your engineers whenever they need to access the hardware manually.


Reliable connectivity

When running a business that relies on connectivity for many core processes, uptime is absolutely critical. With a colocation service, you can enjoy 100% uptime. Constant and reliable connectivity is a significant feature colocation providers supply. 

They have superior and fully redundant high-capacity network connections. These allow colo data centres to make sure that your equipment is connected to the rest of the world 24×7. 

Furthermore, colo service providers focus considerable time and effort on proactive maintenance. This means that everything is kept running smoothly, avoiding issues that could cause downtime.


Green energy

Data centres use a considerable amount of energy. Some data centres now elect to operate in places where inexpensive green energy is available. Sometimes, it’s a product of corporate social responsibility, and other times, it’s financially practical. 

Either way, you can expect many top-tier colo providers to employ the use of green energy. We’re a good example of this, having been named one of the Best Green Business winners in the recent past.

Your company could already be green. Or, you could be looking into ‘going green’. Either way, using a colocation service instead of running a local data centre or comms room will help you achieve far greater sustainability.


Fire protection

Office buildings are generally fire protected as standard, so you may feel that this is not a feature that you specifically need. But did you know that servers need specialised fire protection?

Servers draw a lot of power. On top of that, they’re easily damaged by water. Colocation centres can handle the specific protection needs of servers and associated equipment. These include both passive and active fire protection systems. 

Passive elements include sensitive smoke detectors and VESDA systems. These are particular types of smoke detection units tuned to detect smouldering electrical components, which can identify an issue before ignition. Such methods make your servers’ fire protection to be more vigilant.

Data centres also have more passive elements like walls to prevent fires from spreading. Active elements include fire suppression systems like electrical-safe sprinklers and inert gas fire suppression.


Temperature management

Servers have to be kept at cooler temperatures than the average office space, so your employees and your servers won’t make for great office mates.

You might be willing to invest in the creation of a separate space and a cooling system in this new location, but such an endeavour can prove expensive.

Using a colocation service can help solve this issue. Colocation providers are able to watch the temperature in the data halls at multiple points, allowing them to use their robust ventilation systems to deploy climate-controlled air.

Components are kept at their optimal temperatures in this way. Other colocation providers go as far as placing their data centres in places with naturally cold climates, which offsets any additional risks in temperature rises.

Note that humidity can also affect the operation of these components. Colo data centres watch the humidity levels around your components for this very reason. This way, their humidification systems prevent static electricity build up and discharge.


Cloud migration

Cloud migration is a trend in companies of every size today. If you’re also looking to make the move to cloud computing for your business, colocation can pave the way. Colocation provides the tools you need for a smooth transition and an excellent base to build a robust hybrid system.

It allows you to move your hardware to a facility with more capacity to manage the necessary changes, meaning it can add much-needed support to the process, making it both easier and faster.


Making room to grow

The current size of your business is not likely the size it will remain forever. As you grow, your infrastructure will have to grow with you. Colocation services allow you to expand your infrastructure in-line with your growth. 

You don’t have to take on more capital expenditure. This means you will be able to expand your critical IT infrastructure, and provide support for it more quickly. You’ll also be able to do it with much less investment than you would with an on-site data centre or comms room.


Colocation solutions

When your business owns its networking equipment, servers, and storage, it’s tempting to host it all on-site. After all, it might seem like a waste to have all the equipment and have to pay someone else to host it. But you should keep in mind that office spaces are designed to meet the needs of people, not critical IT equipment.

Servers and related hardware has its own needs. These needs are specialised and highly technical. For each group – either servers or people – their needs have to be met for them to be optimally productive.

Considering a colocation service may be the best choice you could make for your business to address all these needs

Contact us to speak with an expert.

Rebranding to Netwise

As we head towards our 10th birthday this December, we’ve drastically changed the way we look, both to celebrate 10 years in business, and also to reimagine our brand for the next 10 years of doing what we love.

It’s fair to say that over the last 10 years, we’ve changed a lot. The earliest iteration of what would eventually become Netwise actually started life way back in 2005, in the loft of Matthew’s parents’ house, which had been converted to house a small collection of IBM tower servers. Over the next few years, this would lead into the beginnings of Netwise Hosting, which incorporated in 2009.

The early days, while always coloured with the build and ownership of private infrastructure, focused on almost entirely on enterprise dedicated servers, with a side-focus on small-scale per unit colocation for clients with their own hardware.

As the business quickly developed, and the move to building the company’s first private data centre came to the fore in 2011, Netwise would very rapidly move into the colocation space more completely.

Netwise is now a fully-featured turnkey colocation and connectivity specialist, operating from its flagship 11,000sq ft London Central data centre in Bermondsey – the second private facility built in-house by the Netwise team.


Our bold new look

Dropping the ‘hosting’ portion of our name is only the headline change here. Beyond this, the entire look and feel of our brand has been completely reimagined.

We’ve always been known for our signature orange, which we had front-and-centre for many years early on. This did then become more of an accent colour as we moved from London South to London Central, however it always formed a prominent part of our identity. Our longest-standing customers will likely remember our (extremely) orange data hall floor at the London South data centre!

The orange has now been muted slightly, and serves as the primary accent colour to our new headline shade, which is a purple-tinted grey.

This far better embodies the characteristics we’re known for, more now than ever before. These include quality, security, robustness and professionalism – with an injection of real personality, something our customers hold very dear to their relationships with us.

The design, both of the bold new corporate identity and exciting new website, comes courtesy of leading design studio Juice London. This process started many months ago, with plenty of on-site meetings here at the Netwise HQ to discuss the visual direction, delving deep into what Netwise is at its core, and how best to represent this publicly as we grow.

Juice also spent a huge amount of time completely rethinking the website, both for desktop and mobile users, with a deep-dive into UX and UI, giving users the cleanest possible experience when interacting with us online.

Visitors to the new site will also see that, as part of the new look, we’re now running almost exclusively with black and white photography (sometimes with a purple-grey overlay), which gives our facility a timeless robustness befitting of our current standing in the industry.

The new look is head and shoulders above our legacy design, and something that will serve us very well as we head into our second decade of doing what we enjoy most.


Let’s get technical

Let’s talk about the new website; a slightly deeper chat than normal, as we’re sure our more technical readers will appreciate the added information.

This was a ground-up rebuild, starting from scratch, using the Bootstrap (4) framework as a starting point, which gives the out-of-the-box responsive front-end goodness we needed for a speedy deployment. This, coupled with the comprehensive design plans we received from Juice London, allowed for the front-end to be built out very quickly.

The main front-end came together nicely across a two to three week period, running on the new domain which sat completely separate from the existing domain. This allowed us to quickly sketch out design adjustments and alterations for immediate testing, with our Git and auto-deployment working seamlessly in this test environment.

Once we had the front-end together, but lacking some of the more complex functionality required for the colocation calculator and status pages, we were able to bring our long-time collaborator and development wizard Josh, owner of software house Grizzlyware, in-house for a week of pre-deployment works.

Grizzlyware proved to be an invaluable partner in developing our new colocation calculator, which has again been built from the ground up, giving much improved functionality, accuracy, and intrinsic security.

For the final stages of development, we converted the site from a PHP-based, dynamic, server-side site to a completely flat, minified static site, built using Node.js / NPM and deployed in both staging and production versions. This has made the new site extremely fast to load, and relies less on server-side processing in delivering content to end users.

This also bolsters the security of our digital assets, given that the site is now built ahead of being pushed to production, without need for any intensive server-side processing ahead of content delivery.


Our future as Netwise

The future as Netwise looks as bright as ever, which matches our shiny new brand perfectly!

We’re entering into a period of rapid development and expansion; as we head into 2020, we’ll be firming up plans for our next major step, which will involve a second private, bespoke data centre.

To keep abreast of these developments as they happen, keep an eye on our new latest news section, which forms part of our new website.