Supernode core network upgrade

Just as quickly as the new year begins, investment continues in earnest as we roll out our brand new Supernode core network architecture, enabling enhanced 100Gbps+ capabilities across our metro network.

Our core node in Telehouse received the steroid treatment mid-March, upgrading to a much larger ASR chassis, providing further interconnection capacity as we maintain the steep upward growth trajectory of our network. Telehouse now functions as our first on-net Supernode, handling masses of fibre connections that mix in and out of our multi-site network.

You can take a look at a compressed time-lapse of the upgrade work being undertaken here:

Beyond the full node rework in Telehouse, all on-net nodes have received line card upgrades that enable the enhanced operational capabilities we require as we head steadfast into 2020.

Looking further ahead, we’re also adding a brand new core POP to our metro network in Q2 2020, which will be officially announced in a few weeks. This will further increase our on-net capabilities as we gear up for what will be the largest evolution in our service offering since launching the London Central data centre in 2016 – more on that very soon!

A look back at 2019

As should always be the case for any growing enterprise, this year has unquestionably been our most successful to date. Here’s a look back at the year gone by; 2019 at Netwise.

Investment continued unabated this year, in line with our steadfast approach to ongoing improvement across all aspects of the organisation. This includes works in both customer and non-customer facing areas, to ensure our London Central facility remains the premier choice for world-class colocation services in the capital.

We’ve also seen the greatest level of growth we’ve ever experienced in the on-boarding of new client projects, across both new entrants to our facilities and network, alongside the impressive continued growth enjoyed by our existing customers.

Notable projects from 2019 include:

  • Deployment of Pods 4 & 5 – we took Data Hall 1 to 100% available capacity this year, with all five containment pods now online and servicing an exciting range of new and existing customers.
  • Generator system expansion – in-line with growth experienced in our technical spaces this year, we undertook a major upgrade of our backup generator systems to ensure we maintain power delivery resilience as we continue to fill out our London Central facility.
  • We rebranded – in the summer, we rebranded, dropping the ‘Hosting’ portion of our name and drastically evolving the look and feel of our organisation, to better suit our current position in the market.
  • We turned 10! – this December, Netwise officially turned 10 years old, having incorporated in 2009. We celebrated in style at Swingers West End, with a wide range of customers, suppliers, family and friends!
  • GitHub partnership – this year, we announced an exclusive and unique partnership with GitHub Education, bringing world-class colocation services to their famous Student Pack for the very first time.
  • Cisco hardware on-site – we drastically expanded our on-site hardware stocks in 2019, now holding over 250 different Cisco model lines at our London Central facility, ready for immediate deployment both on-site and off-site.
  • Team expansion – we undertook a complete reshaping of our out-of-hours team early this year, with five new engineers joining the extended workforce. We’ll also be welcoming new Technical and Sales Managers to the day team early next year.
  • Connectivity growth – we now provide a wide range of connectivity services on our ever-growing metro network to a number of notable international carriers, including PCCW, RETN and IDE Group.
  • The next stage – we’ve massively fleshed out plans for the next phase in our development cycle, as we look towards accelerated growth and expansion over the next three years – watch this space!

As you’d probably expect from looking at the above, we’ve also exceeded our performance targets for the year by considerable margin, which ensures the stable, reliable ongoing operation of your mission-critical data centre services.

This is an extremely important factor to bear in mind when deciding who best to work with on long-term projects of this nature. Providing this peace of mind to our clients is something we are hugely proud of.


Looking ahead

2020 is set to be a year of major change as we look to execute plans for the next stage of our growth strategy.

We’re hoping to publicly announce these plans early in Q1.

Alongside these sweeping expansion plans, we’re also looking forward to the excitement of business as usual here at Netwise; introducing a range of interesting new customers to our facility and network in 2020, a number of which have already been arranged for execution in Q1.

We’d like to wish all of our stakeholders a fantastic New Year, and a prosperous 2020. We look forward to sharing it with you.

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 – something never-before-seen.

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!