It’s located in an environmentally sealed room, on a floor with a guarded elevator and has enough security to make Fort Knox a joke. Just what’s inside the Exitra Data centre?
There’s this huge mythology built up around data centres – monolithic, enigmatic, almost fantastically distant and improbably secure areas that are inviolate and almost impossible to access – the cornerstones of our digital economy, almost like virtual bank vaults that keep our data safe.
The series Mr. Robot in one episode gave a glimpse of it when the protagonist infiltrated a huge data centre to hack something. Google also offers a glimpse via virtual tours of their primary data centres. Row after row of silently whirring server racks stretching off into infinity. It’s an awesome sight to behold, virtually at least. But few, short of the staff working at a data centre have actually seen one for themselves. Until now. Serendipitously, we had the pleasure of getting an invitation to visit the LGB Group’s data centre on a day trip. The call came on a rainy Saturday,”Would you like a tour of our data centre and see what we have to offer?” Naturally, the answer was a resounding yes.
So what is a data centre?
While data centres are often mentioned by everyone remotely connected to the tech industry in some fashion, few have ever visited one and for good reason. It’s a sanctum sanctorum, an inviolate area that is controlled in every single way from who goes in and out, how every inch of floorspace is used and even down to the exact ambient temperature. Even a fly can’t get in without the right authorisation and that’s understating the level of security measures implemented in one. Needless to say, getting access to a data centre is only marginally easier than scoring a lunch date with a supermodel on Saturday night. It’s all but impossible unless you have a very darned good reason to be there.
For the uninitiated, a data centre is essentially a repository for data along with the processing power to crunch it. When you save a picture or a document to the cloud, it’s pushed to a data centre somewhere in the world. If you’re hosting a website with a large web service provider, your website is hosted on that data centre. A Domain Name Server (DNS) simply stores the ‘street address’ of where your website is located, which is on a data centre. A browser still has to go to that ‘street address’ which is where your data centre stores all the files, images and the like to access the data that represents your website. If the server goes offline, you’re in for a world of hurt as people can’t access the website or whatever data you stored on it.
For other organisations who keep massive amounts of data and process them for trends and analytics like insurance companies, data centres are a means to have extra processing power to crunch data to reduce the burden on their own centres or as another secured repository of data. Others who lack the capabilities to have their own dedicated data centres rely on others to host their sites and data for them.Long story short: data centres keep data either for themselves or for others and have to constantly stay operational rain or shine. There’s no downtime, no weekends when managing a data centre. It’s contingent on a data centre to make sure they stay online and working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If something goes wrong and a data centre goes offline, that is a really ‘bad thing™’.
Location, location, location.
It’s been said by real estate agents that good property is about three things: location, location, location. Most data centres are located in highly secure areas placed way out of town where they have concentric layers of onsite security that would do Area 51 proud. Granted, this is a wonderful way to discourage casual visitors and makes it all the more obvious when someone is dropping by as you’ll be the only visitor heading there in sight for miles around but hiking out a hundred miles out of town every time a technician needs to sort something out onsite is a chore not to mention a costly endeavour to say the least.
Imagine our surprise when we discovered that the LGB Group’s data centre is located right smack dab in the middle of town in their corporate headquarters in downtown Taman Tun Dr. Ismail. We got out of our Grab car and looked up at a 31-storey edifice hewn of glass, steel and chrome. It’s an imposing sight and a self-contained commercial area with a, we were reportedly told, awesome Chinese restaurant on the ground floor, retail outlets and more along with a good chunk of the LGB group’s diverse array of businesses spread across its floors. The building itself is an MSC status property and also bears Malaysia’s Green Building Index (GBI) certification, making it one of the more eminently desirable properties in the Klang Valley.
Companies with MSC status can enjoy a number of benefits when they rent one of the numerous offices available for lease at Menara LBG and the central location of the area means that it’s just a short drive down to Kuala Lumpur and everything it has to offer with easy access to the New Klang Valley Expressway (NKVE), the Penchala Link, the Sprint Highway, the Damansara-Puchong highway (LDP) and the Duta-Ulu Kelang Expressway (DUKE).
As I walked through into the lavishly appointed from lobby, I was told that people could rent anything from a small office all the way to entire floors if needed with fibre optic speeds and a host of other benefits too with spaces ranging from 2,000sq feet all the way to 14,000 square feet, more so if the company is MSC status. That and the ground floor barista made a mean flat white too. Straight through the glass doors and down the rabbit hole we went.
Check out part 2 where we go uncover what lies behind the glass doors and beyond in Exitra’s Data Centre.
The former editor of T3 Malaysia, Kevin Tan now writes about the latest consumer tech on www.hitechcentury.com