A few weeks ago Jochen told us about a possible visit at the Emtel Data Centre in Arsenal and asked who wants to join. Naturally, I said yes, like several folks from MSCC did. I’ve hosted lots of personal stuffs in Data Centres around the world but I’ve never visited one. This should be a great experience.

Emtel approved the visit request by MSCC to allow members know about the local hosting services. Several members of the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community are Developers/Sysadmins and every now and then require hosting services.

Awesome, today was the day! Oops, I however woke up with a severe headache. Headache, really? Well, that was a hangover actually following a meeting with JCI folks which ended with Nitin & I having a beer party the night before.

nitin-bachraz-karaoke

After the several beers Nitin had a Karaoke moment :P

Back to the data centre story I didn’t know how to go to Arsenal but anyway it’s not difficult to get around in Mauritius if you politely ask people. Veer called me earlier and asked how I was going. We both were going by bus. So, we met up in Port-Louis, I had quick lunch at Mystic Masala and went to “Gare du Nord”. Talking of lunch Veer was curious how I could eat farata & have milk. That was not milk but lassi, I can’t be in Port-Louis and not have a lassi ( :

At the bus station we knew we need to take the bus to Cap Malheureux. Before getting in we asked the conductor if it goes through Arsenal. Yes, he said. A while later he turns out to be the driver actually. Just at that moment a beautiful girl with rosy cheeks got in the bus and took the seat in front of me. Naturally, I was admiring her (^^,) but just then Veer poked me. I said “YES” I can see there is a beautiful girl sitting in front of us, you don’t have to poke me for that.

A couple of minutes later, the lady conductor came. We politely asked her about the Emtel Data Centre and she went into meditation. So, I helped her by saying maybe it’s a big white building & she replied, you should have taken the bus for Route 21. This one doesn’t go there. At that same time another gentleman sitting in the adjacent seat with his two kids told us there is a short-cut near the school & we could just walk about 500 metres to reach the Data Centre. Aww! That was cool, 500 m sounds fine. The gentleman got down at that same bus-stop and showed us the road that leads to the other side of the village but warned us about dogs. We were like, DOGS!?! Okies, we took the short patchy road & indeed lots of dogs were sitting like mafia on the road. Dogs of all colors, it was surely a multi-racial dog colony. As we passed near the last two dogs, one of them looked at us directly in the eye, stood up, walked infront at a short distance and pissed. We understood the message, that was his territory, we shouldn’t cross.

Finally, we came on the main road & saw a big white building at some distance with red markings. Indeed, that should be the Emtel Data Centre. We reached & Veer called up Jochen. He was like 10 mins away, still on the way. Others, namely Nayar, Saamiyah, Humeira and Sean were coming with him.

emtel-data-centre-arsenal

The security guy gave us visitor badges after verifying our ID Cards & showed us the way inside the building. Shortly we were greeted by Kamlesh Bokhoree, the Data Centre Officer. He introduced himself & gave us a quick intro about why Emtel started a data centre. He told us about the ISO 9K and 27K certifications which indeed were shining in beautiful frames on the table. Each of us got a brochure that depicts the stuffs Kamlesh was telling us.

emtel-data-centre-brochure

We then proceeded with the actual visit. Biometric locks with cameras catching you in case you try forging. I like the vault that stores tapes. You look at it & innocently it comes to your mind, how can one tamper with such a thing. Evil ideas come in the mind automatically. Well, we continued with the visit, walked around the various rooms all while Kamlesh explained to us how monitoring is done, the rack cooling system (which is awesome by the way), alarms and motion detectors. Again it comes to the mind, the motion detector captures man-like figures. So, to fake it what if you come with a non-man-like suit? My creative imagination was questioned by Saamiyah & Humeira who said it won’t work.

We then visited the technical folks. Let’s call them the backend people. I prefer that term because I am a backend engineer too and that’s why I grin at my HR folks that I DO NOT need to be in classic-wear entertaining people. So, while Kamlesh & Arvin Lockee (who joined us during the visit) continued explaining us about the different sensors and how monitoring is done, I was particularly interested with the tools that flashed on the big monitors. Nagios, I like it. Windows, I don’t like. Jochen & I said to Kamlesh, all is well so far, just the Windows part got us disappointed. We grinned over that and moved on.

We visited more of the rooms, looked at the huge UPS that can keep running the servers for 5 hours and outside there were two generators that can power the data centre for weeks. Whooaa! This blew us, the power backup thing was awesome. The fact that we have only one provider of electricity, Emtel didn’t hesitate to invest massively to keep the data centre safe from worst case scenarios.

Kamlesh explained us that the data centre was Tier-4 by design & he gave us technicalities about what’s a Tier-4. I liked his explanation, simple & direct to the point. Tier levels explained in table below.

1
  • Single non-redundant distribution path serving the IT equipment
  • Non-redundant capacity components
  • Basic site infrastructure with expected availability of 99.671%
2
  • Meets or exceeds all Tier 1 requirements
  • Redundant site infrastructure capacity components with expected availability of 99.741%
3
  • Meets or exceeds all Tier 2 requirements
  • Multiple independent distribution paths serving the IT equipment
  • All IT equipment must be dual-powered and fully compatible with the topology of a site's architecture
  • Concurrently maintainable site infrastructure with expected availability of 99.982%
4
  • Meets or exceeds all Tier 3 requirements
  • All cooling equipment is independently dual-powered, including chillers and heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems
  • Fault-tolerant site infrastructure with electrical power storage and distribution facilities with expected availability of 99.995%
Data taken from Wikipedia

We also visited the roof of the building, awed at the satellite dish, looked at water tanks and finally as we were going back inside the building, I heard someone say coffee (^^,) … I was like, may God shower His love over the person who said coffee. Indeed, we got free coffee and we had a nice chat talking about services which we’re expecting to come soon, like cloud hosting. Evil ideas sprouted during that short brainstorming session and I’m sure Jochen or the others will broadcast those in the coming meetups ( :

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