Mortgage provider builds new data centre to house 40 blade servers

Online transaction system funds more than 30,000 home loans

Wholesale residential mortgage provider, FirstMac, has built a new data centre for its financial transaction servers to overcome the power and cooling limitations of its existing computer room.

The privately owned group, one of Australia's largest non-institutional lenders of home mortgages, is building a new data centre for 40 blade servers.

FirstMac infrastructure and support manager, Adrian Davis, said it is impossible to maintain a data centre with 'five-nines' uptime without sufficient clean power and cooling for the blade server racks.

"That was the limitation of our old computer room and one of the biggest business drivers for building a new data centre," he said.

FirstMac currently funds more than 30,000 home loans and maintains its own online transaction and information systems for customers, many of who expect round-the-clock access to their accounts and services.

"If even one of our customers experiences an access problem to our network, that's not good enough," Davis explained.

"This was the mantra behind the new data centre and considering a single blade server puts out five times the heat of a regular server, the importance of power and cooling can't be overstated; it's absolutely critical."

The solution, which was provided by Emerson Network Power Australia and implemented by Power Quality Consultants, includes two Liebert NXa uninterruptible power systems (UPS) rated at 40kVA, a dual-bus redundant configuration, and two Liebert PeX computer room air conditioners for precision climate control.

Davis said the company now boasts a best-practice data centre.

"The post sales support and presence of the implementation teams was excellent, and extended right through the design phase of the project to actual implementation," he said.

"We had had access to Emerson's specifications, and technical assistance with factors such as raised access to servers and rack layout. This added real value to the project as a whole."

Emerson Network's national product manager, Mark Deguara, said business-critical continuity depends on many factors including product quality and configuration and data centre design.

"At FirstMac the UPSs are installed in such a way that if one fails - or more commonly be taken offline for routine maintenance - the other would still provide full protection and clean power for the server farm," Deguara said.

"Likewise the precision coolers work on a weekly duty cycle, meaning one unit provides all the necessary cooling for the room for one week, then switches over to the backup unit, which then becomes the primary unit for that week.

"This arrangement means FirstMac is fully protected from any outages to its infrastructure, which is fundamental when you consider that the infrastructure is largely responsible for maintaining server uptime."

In a research note published November 2006, research firm Gartner predicted that traditional data centres waste more than 60 percent of the energy they use to just cool equipment.

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