Hi-Tech Places: Globe MK2 Data Center

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It was a regular day at the office, when we got a cryptic invite from Globe to check out a new facility somewhere down south. This alone would have been a strange invite, as it had precious little to go on, but to make matters stranger, the meeting place defined by the invite was a mall, and not anything we knew to be a globe facility. A third layer of mystery was added when we were also instructed to bring with us at least two IDs. A part of me wanted to skip the meet-up, buy a black outfit with matching gloves, a few hundred meters of rope and a climbing harness, follow the group to whatever facility they were going to be carted to, and see what kind of valuable loot I could find. As it turned out, it was a good thing I didn’t give in to that perfectly reasonable proposition. I would have failed miserably. We were off to see the Globe’s MK2 Data Center; a totally secure, state-of-the-art facility that handles backup and storage for many high-profile companies in the country today.

The morning of the event was rainy, and as I made my way to the designated meeting place, which immediately brought to mind that scene from Inception. I was really in the mood for a nice heist. Once the rest of the group arrived, we were asked to sign a form that dictated what we could and could not do, then we were shuffled off to Globe’s unmarked van, and driven to the location about five minutes away through Magallanes traffic. The facility itself was plain, with nothing on the facade to signify that it was anything more than some sort of corporate warehouse.

That illusion evaporated quickly as we moved from the shuttle to the nondescript lobby where they took our IDs, our pictures and issued us an RFID badge that gave us limited access to the belly of the beast.

Once everyone had their photos taken and received their badges, we moved through a metal detector, then a quick check of our baggage to see if we had any unsecure hardware that could be used for a quick bit of corporate espionage. Once cleared, we moved through the doors that separated the rest of the facility from the outside world. Where the outside was all dim lighting and a gray sky, the inside looked clean, white and sterile. Everything, down to the temperature of the facility is set and monitored constantly to provide the optimal operating environment for the hardware.

One of the first things the facility has to stop unauthorized intrusion is physical security. There is only one designated entry-point for the facility. The doors at this point is controlled via either biometric scanners, RFID tags or from the central security control room inside the facility itself. The entry points for each ofthe secure server areas are likewise sealed off, and have man traps inside which people are held before entering or exiting areas. The facility also has both roving and stationary guards to make sure everything is as it should be, 24×7. There are also security cameras located inside and outside the MK2, the feed of which is completely controllable from the same central control room that monitors doors and grants access to areas. The entire time we were there, we were being watched.

At no point (I think) were we ever out of sight of Big Brother. Once we had clearance (and a little bite to eat) we began the tour in earnest. We walked through the man traps to one ofthe climate-controlled server rooms. Inside, there were rows upon rows of racks, each one holding the most precious part of any business. The entire facility, we were told, was rated to withstand earthquakes, and is several meters above the flood line. The surrounding area had in the past, been under a few feet of water, but the facility itself just kept humming along. The rooms also had overhead cabling, to ease maintenance and keep it away from unwanted house guests that may make their way into the flooring. The entire area is well-lit, and should a tech be needed to patch a server problem up, there is access to both the front and rear of the rack.

While a business can rent a rack or set of racks, the facility also rents out floor space by area. These areas are usually then caged off and it is up to the client what they would like to do with the space. Some cages had desks, shelves for archived materials and telephones for use when there is a tech on-site. This layout is echoed across the other secure sections ofthe MK2, though they also have another area in which the floor is elevated off the ground, to allow for extra cooling should the client request it.

After the quick tour, we made our way through the same man trap as before, waited to get cleared by Big Brother, and moved back into the less secure hallway. On our way to the next point on the tour, we made a quick stop to the fire suppression room. In here were the tanks of liquid nitrogen that are used douse flames should a fire break out. Liquid nitrogen is inert, and will be much less likely to damage sensitive hardware than water or other chemicals.

From here, we went over to the main security room. Here, we got to take a look at the security footage from when we were walking around the other locations, as well as the views from any of the dozens of cameras set up all over the MK2 complex. It is also in this room that the security personnel have access to all the doors into and out of the sever rooms. If someone isn’t supposed to be somewhere, it is this room that makes sure they don’t get away.

From here, it was a quick stop to the main control center, where the facility’s basic functions are monitored. The team at the control room constantly checks the conditions of the server rooms. It is here that everything is closely watched. One of the most important things to a facility such as the MK2 Data Center is power. The facility draws power from two separate city grids, for redundancy, and has enough redundant generators and reserve fuel to power the facility for days at a time, depending on the total load the system is under at the moment. The generators are started up weekly, and given load monthly to make sure they can be brought online should the need arise. There are also backup batteries for shorter outages, and to keep the machines running should main grid power go out, while the generators are started up. This is also the room that monitors the temperature and humidity, and all the valves that control the fire suppression system.

The facility is a great source of pride for Globe Business. It allows them to offer this level of service that is at par with global standards. This levels the playing field, and allows SMEs to thrive, even prosper, in a market that would normally be dominated by businesses that are able to absorb the high CAPEX and OPEX of such a facility, with state of the art security, power and calamity preparedness. There are few places as high-tech as this. If you’ve got the bulk of your business’ data here, rest assured that nothing short of the Zombie Apocalypse will get you offline.

First published in Gadgets Magazine, May 2013

Words by Ren Alcantara