Tuesday, 29 April 2014

C4L’s branding featured on ITV4

Shane Byrne takes the opening rounds of the British Superbike Championship
Bournemouth, Dorset, United Kingdom – Easter holiday weekend saw C4L-backed Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne, lead rider for PBM’s Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki team win both of the opening races at the opening round of the British Superbike Championship at Brands Hatch. Local IT infrastructure company C4L saw their logo’s exposed to the thousands of viewers on site and live on ITV4. Stuart Easton, the team’s second rider also had a fantastic result, collecting a 5th and 6th place result, putting the team mates in first and fourth overall in this year’s championship.

After a difficult qualifying session on Sunday, both Shane and Stuart had work to do in the race, coming from 13th and 23rd on the grid in the first race. Shane fought through the field and both benefitted from a stoppage mid race to clear oil from the track. Once he hit the front the victory was secured and C4L were extremely proud to see him receive his trophy and obligatory champagne on the podium. The racing was even closer in the second race, with the first 6 riders within 5 seconds of one another at the chequered flag, which Shakey once again claimed.

The British Superbike championship is the highest profile motorsport series in the UK with extensive television coverage and race day crowds of over 40,000 people. Last weekend’s first round of the BSB held at Brands Hatch featured extended live British Eurosport broadcast and highlights on ITV4 which will continue throughout the season. Paul Bird started the PBM team twenty years ago and he is the most successful manager in British motorsport history, with such a great start in the championships yesterday, local sponsors C4L are hoping for a record-breaking 2014.

Simon Mewett, CEO of C4L, said: “We are thrilled that Shane claimed both of the race victories at the opening round of the BSB championship. This was the first race featuring C4L’s logos on the bike, we were delighted it was such a success and are bursting with pride as sponsors of such a great team. As a growing technology company headquartered on the South Coast there is a fantastic synergy between the team’s power and speed on the track and the performance of C4L’s technology and our new network, coreTX.”
Follow @C4Lmotorsport to keep up to date with the PBM team and to view pictures of the bike from this weekend's event.

About C4L

C4L is a leading data centre colocation and connectivity solutions provider, with access to over 100 UK data centres and more than 300 globally. C4L offer a range of services including colocation, connectivity, cloud and communications. With their own data centre located on the South West coast and a fully privately owned, high-capacity, 1-100Gb capable fibre-optic network, utilising equipment from leading technology vendors such as Juniper, Extreme and Cisco. This network called coreTX, links multiple data centres across the UK using a diverse fibre optic backbone and DWDM technology to provide very high performance.
C4L clients include government agencies, FTSE 250 companies, international financial institutions, system integrators, top 100 VARs, resellers and many of the UK's network carriers. Our entire business is committed to customer satisfaction and quality of service and we have achieved certifications such as ISO9001 & 27001 to demonstrate this. C4L was the 2012 winner of HSBC's South West Business Thinking initiative, and has been ranked in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 and Fast 500 EMEA, as well as the Sunday Times Microsoft Tech Track 100.
For more information visit www.C4L.co.uk/pr or tel: Jade Yarham +44 (0) 8000 470 481 Ext 736

Monday, 28 April 2014

Google and MidAmerican Energy Announce Renewable Energy Deal

When MidAmerican Energy first sought approval for its Wind VIII project last year, the company was hoping to land a number of high-profile partners willing to help their efforts by purchasing renewable power from them.  One of those partners has been secured thanks to a recent deal between MidAmerican and Google.  MidAmerican Energy's Iowa site has been chosen to provide up to 407 MW of wind power for Google's Council Bluffs data centre.

MidAmerican's goals for their Iowa operations include producing 1050 MW of wind power by the end of next year.  What they are providing to Google enables the Internet giant to power the first phase of the Council Bluffs data centre with 100% renewable energy.  As the Wind VIII project expands, it will be providing more wind power to successive phases of the facility.  According to sources, Google has been in negotiations with MidAmerican Energy since it undertook the data centre project in 2007.

Google Director of Global Infrastructure Gary Demasi is on record as saying his company regularly pursues a variety of opportunities for using renewable energy to power their facilities.  He went on to say that Google values their relationships with companies like MidAmerican Energy and hopes those relationships lead others in the industry to invest in renewable energy as well.  Google has certainly lived up to those comments, having already contracted for over 1 GW of renewable energy.

Keeping up with the Future

Some might view what Google is doing with some scepticism.  However, make no mistake; it is necessary if we are to keep up with a future that is coming at us faster than it ever has.  Around the world, outdated energy sources and grid systems are already stretched to their capacity; many of the world's systems are just one damaging event away from a total disaster.  Yet the technology sector is unable to slow down.

In a world where cloud computing and virtualisation are becoming the norm, the power needs of the technology industry just continue to climb.  In essence, making the world a smaller place by way of the Internet is also putting a huge strain on power systems so something has to give.

Using renewable energy sources like the VIII project in the US takes considerable strain off the existing infrastructure.  It allows companies like Google to save money while, at the same time, leaving more traditional energy for other consumers.  The more technology companies that are able to make use of renewable energy, the better off we will all be.

For technology companies like Google, the task at hand right now is to find a way to combine various renewable resources into a total package that will provide 100% of the necessary power.  None of the technologies, including solar and wind, is reliable all the time.  Systems need to be designed to increase both generation and storage capacity so that facilities like the Council Bluffs data centre never have need of grid power under any circumstance.  That is the future we need to pursue.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Apple Adds Hydro-Electric Power Facility to Oregon Data Centre

Leading the data centre news headlines these days are lots of reports of companies adding renewable energy sources in order to supplement power purchased off the grid.  The latest of these stories comes by way of Apple purchasing a new hydro-electric power facility very near to its Prineville data centre in Oregon, United States.  Local media said that the company acquired the 45 mile hydro-electric plant late last year.

The plant had originally been under development by EBD Hydro, a local company headquartered in central Oregon.  EBD Hydro was established in 2010, since appearing to have made great strides in achieving its business goals.  Nonetheless, development and ownership of the plant was transferred to Apple last December.

It has been estimated that 45 Mile Hydro-electric can generate up to 5 MW of power at current capacity.  That's not nearly enough for the power and cooling needs of a facility like that Prineville data centre, which requires 30 to 40 MW at full power.  This has led to speculation that Apple plans to increase the plant's output over time however no one knows for sure if it will.

Apple has already said that it plans to eventually power the entire data centre with 100% renewable energy.  It already has a head-start by purchasing power from a state programme known as Direct Access.  This non-coal power allows Apple to opt out of purchasing fossil fuel-generated power off the grid yet it makes no sense for the company to continue doing so.  If it is willing to invest in its own hydro-electric plant, it stands to reason that Apple would be willing to do much more.

The Prineville data centre is just the latest in Apple's continually expanding portfolio.  The company’s first data centre was opened in North Carolina four years ago and new server farms are currently being built in Prineville and Reno.  There is even speculation that Apple is planning to set up operations in Europe and Asia in the near future.

A New Business Model

Apple's foray into hydro-electric power is food for some very interesting thought.  Remember, Apple is not the only company going down this route.  Google, Microsoft and a number of other technology companies are already heavily invested in renewable power sources covering the entire spectrum, from solar to wind to bio-fuels.  Could this be the beginning of a new business model?

Companies like Apple are quickly approaching the tipping point where their current technology will not be able to sustain the sales numbers necessary for continued growth.  The slow but very steady decline of traditional computer sales is evidence of this new paradigm.  Perhaps technology companies will start focusing on renewable energy as a new revenue stream and an area ripe for expansion.

It would be interesting to see a new battle between Apple and Microsoft over which company has created the most efficient renewable energy source.  We can imagine the marketing that would go along with such a battle… it is both amusing and interesting at the same time.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Optimising Data Centre Operations

Data Centres provide the basis for the delivery of new services and applications;  it’s a crucial component of most modern organizations.  But bringing new services up quickly can rack up business costs.   To counter this, data centre operations optimisation projects are undertaken to streamline existing IT procedures, reduce operational costs and increase productivity.

Automation is Key: Using DCIM to automate and streamline time-consuming processes can help optimise data centre operations and reduce expenses.   DCIM solutions provide functionality that automatically discovers, populates, and stores asset information supporting the new services, saving personnel the time previously spent manually updating excel spreadsheets.

Model libraries, containing detailed specifications, save personnel time in locating and entering information while ensuring completeness and consistency of the asset information.   Automation of workflow processes, the communication of information, and the auto-approval for adds, moves, and changes of data centre assets, reduce the time needed to process orders and bring services online.

Faster Troubleshooting:  Additionally, the implementation of troubleshooting tools that quickly locate assets in trouble help to reduce the time that technicians need to restore servers and keep your services running – thereby keeping your operations costs down and helping to optimize your Data Centre. 

DCIM solutions often contain visualisation and mapping tools that enable the user to search for the trouble spot, find all the associated connections and provide the information needed for the technician to use to bring the server back up. No longer will technicians need to visit the data centre and hunt and peck for the server or connection in trouble- saving you money while increasing your technician productivity.

Real-Time Monitoring:  Equipping your data centre and keeping it running efficiently in order to offer new services requires constant monitoring.   New servers require additional power and cooling.  DCIM solutions provide standard and customized reporting capabilities that allow you to tell you how much power you are using, how much is available and where you can improve data centre energy efficiency.   The remote monitoring of alerts and alarms provide an easy way to identify hot spots and facilitate changes to ensure optimization of data centre cooling and power usage.

In closing, optimising data centre operations generally requires simplifying processes in order to reduce operational expenses. Undertaking projects that lead to automation, implementation of new processes, and the ongoing review of your data centre energy efficiency are just a few ways to move towards well-oiled data centre operations.  DCIM tools support those projects by enabling faster deployment of new services, and keeping those services up and running.

Guest blog post by Paula Alves, Raritan Inc.  

Monday, 14 April 2014

Solar Panel Array at New Jaguar Plant Rather Impressive

Jaguar Land Rover's new manufacturing facility in Wolverhampton, United Kingdom, sets a new standard for state-of-the-art design focusing on sustainability.  One of the more impressive parts of the facility is a rooftop solar panel array expected to supply 30% or more of the power needed from daily operations.  Overall, the building has been awarded a BREEAM rating of 'Excellent' for sustainable buildings.

As for the solar panel array, it consists of more than 21,000 photovoltaic solar collectors sitting atop the facility's engine manufacturing centre.  The panels have a current capacity of 5.8 MW;  designers plan to increase that capacity to 6.3 MW before the year is out.  Under optimal conditions, the system can produce enough power to supply more than 1,600 homes.  However, all of the power generated by this system will be used by the manufacturing facility.

Engineers were able to design and build the system as an integral part of the manufacturing centre because it was always part of the original architecture.  The new plant was built from the ground up with a keen focus on sustainability and emission reduction.  If the array performs as planned, it will reduce the facility's carbon footprint by more than 2,400 tonnes annually, however that's just the start of the benefits offered by the project.

Jaguar Land Rover has invested more than £500 million to build a facility that will manufacture advanced technology engines for future Jaguar Land Rover vehicles.  The company expects the site to create as many as 1,400 new jobs by the time it reaches full capacity yet, even at peak output, the manufacturing centre has been designed to minimise energy demand via state-of-the-art heating and lighting systems, design elements, natural ventilation and high-tech insulation.

Plans for future upgrades will further increase sustainability as well.  The company plans to develop an ecological habitat at one end of the property, complete with natural elements that will encourage wildlife to make it their home.  The development is part of a larger effort to encourage wildlife to move freely around the property, from one end to the other.

The Future of Photovoltaic

What Jaguar Land Rover has accomplished in South Staffordshire, especially in relation to its solar panel array, is very impressive.  To be able to generate 30% of the facility's power needs from the sun is quite an accomplishment by any measure nevertheless, we wonder what the future of photovoltaic power might be.

For example, could such a solar panel array produce significant power for a data centre application?  We are not sure.  Photovoltaic energy production does have certain limits scientists have been trying to overcome for decades.  Perhaps a better means of sustainable power for some applications is solar thermal.

In either case, we applaud Jaguar Land Rover for building their new state-of-the-art facility without sacrificing sustainability or environmental responsibility.  We wish them well in their efforts to produce a new high-tech engine that will be used to power their vehicles into the future.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Mexican Microturbine Project Addresses Both Water and Power Needs

A group of students from the Technological University of Mexico have developed a microturbine project designed to address water and power needs in areas lacking adequate resources for both.  The project provides a means of filtering rainwater whilst generating a minimal amount of electricity at the same time.  Moreover, while the project is still in its infant stages, what the students have developed is worthy of further research.

The microturbine device, the students named Pluvia, requires rainwater collected on rooftops.  The rainwater is then channelled down through a series of filters and then into a storage tank. The initial filters remove large particle contaminants and reduce acidity.  From there, the water moves through a microturbine and a secondary charcoal filtering system in order to make it safe to drink.  There is only one sticking point: an electric pump required in order to complete the second stage uses more energy than the turbine produces.

It is important to note that the students did not set out to design and build a system capable of generating excess power.  Those systems already exist throughout Mexico, using the natural current from low flow streams and rivers to drive electricity-producing turbines.  Instead, their project is intended to provide clean drinking water in areas where the infrastructure does not exist for mains water supply.  That's why the project depends on collecting rainwater to work.

The idea of attaching a microturbine to the water collection and purification system is one of reducing the amount of electricity consumed by the water purification process.  The system essentially replaces some of electricity it uses in order to create clean drinking water.  The system also allows for better management of limited water supplies.

Commercial Applications

The students responsible for designing Pluvia tested their device in a poverty-stricken area of Mexico City.  They claim it worked so well that the purified water was of even better quality than the water provided by the city's water main system.  Electrical generation issues aside, that is exactly what they were aiming for.  Yet commercial applications of their design may be found wanting for the foreseeable future.

As beneficial as it might seem to use a microturbine to address both power and water needs in remote areas, it does not change the fact that the system still consumes more electricity than it generates.  This reality makes it difficult to apply the technology in a remote area where electricity is already scarce.  A gravity-fed system seems to be a lot more useful in such cases however, all is not lost.  Research and development will continue with the hope that a more efficient system can be created.

In the meantime, Pluvia might enjoy limited use as a water purification system in remote areas where clean drinking water is dependent on collecting rainwater.  As long as the technology can be reproduced cost-effectively, there is no reason that rainwater cannot be collected during the rainy season and stored for the dry season.  It can then be purified on an “as-required” basis.

Monday, 7 April 2014

New Battery Technology Could Be Big for Automotive Industry

Batteries are a great way to store energy for future use however, as you know, every battery has its limits.  Batteries can only store a limited amount of power, they can only withstand so many charge cycles and they degrade over time.  These limitations are the primary reasons why the automotive industry has found it so difficult to create an electric vehicle able to match the performance of a petrol vehicle.  That said, things might change within the next couple of years thanks to an impressive breakthrough in battery technology.

Researchers at California's Lawrence Berkeley Labs have found a way to modify a traditional lithium-ion battery for greater performance.  First of all, they added sulphur to increase the amount of power batteries could hold and discharge.  Moreover, while the addition of the sulphur made a big difference, battery degradation was a real problem.  The new lithium sulphur batteries would be useless after a minimum number of charge cycles.

Once they figured out that the sulphur was responsible for the degradation issue, they set about solving the problem using a substance known as graphene oxide.  They created a thin layer of the substance to be used as a 'sandwich' to prevent the damaging chemical reactions from taking place.  The result of the breakthrough is a lithium sulphur graphene battery that researchers claim could power electric vehicles for 300 miles without loss of performance.  What's more, the battery has already shown that it can withstand at least 1,500 charge cycles. Researchers believe it could probably handle more.

If the new lithium sulphur graphene battery holds up to long-range testing, it could be the breakthrough the automotive industry is looking for.  It could finally pave the way for an electric vehicle that can be used as more than just a vehicle to get around town on short trips.  Not only is that important to Europe, it is also vitally important to a US market where public transportation is woefully lacking.  For better or worse, Americans drive their cars everywhere.

Other Applications

It is still too early to tell whether the new battery will be usable for other commercial applications outside of the automotive industry.  Too many questions still need to be answered, including manufacturing cost, reliability and cost-effective adaptability for other sectors however, that does not stop us from using our imagination.

We can envision the day when renewable energy sources could be made much more efficient through automation and better storage capacity.  By giving consumers a reliable backup system capable of providing sufficient power without degradation, a capable automation system regulating the entire package could make dependence on the grid a thing of the past.

We can envision a day when the average data centre uses powerful new batteries to manage peak load times and weather-related emergencies.  This kind of technology could greatly reduce the chances of downtime when power supply is an issue. To us, the possibilities seem endless. Let's hope further research proves highly successful.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Government Requests for Internet Data Explode

It is becoming increasingly evident that individual privacy is under attack by governments the world over.  The latest example comes by way of a Google report showing the number of requests for information about its users has increased by 120% over the last four years.  The publication is one of two that Google has been releasing biannually since 2009.

According to Google, the company received more than 53,300 requests for data last year.  Moreover, while the requests were made by multiple government entities across the globe, the majority of the requests came from the States.  Google was quick to point out that their numbers do not reflect the surveillance activities of the US National Security Agency (NSA).  When that is factored in, the situation is that much more alarming.

The Google report went on to say that not all requests for user information are automatically granted.  Google and its peers do their best to push back whenever it is believed there is the legal standing and responsibility to do so.  Of all of the requests made by the UK government in the second half 2013, only 69% were granted.  In the US, 83% were granted.

Google's legal director Richard Salgado maintains that his company complies with requests only when the law requires it.  At the same time, he firmly believes more laws need to be put in place to protect citizens from governments that would abuse their power through overreaching data requests.  Without more controls put in place, private Internet communications will quickly become a thing of the past.

Troubling Trend

Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the recent Google report is evidence suggesting that governments are specifically targeting journalists.  It is never good when government reaches its hands into commercial or personal areas where it does not belong, but it is even worse when that overreach involves journalism.

By design, the journalism profession is tasked with the responsibility of holding government accountable by reporting to the citizenry what their leaders are doing.  The fact that governments are now keeping tabs on the networking activities of journalists could have a stifling effect on what is actually reported.  Such activities could spell the end of the free press if not brought under control.

Google has joined forces with Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter to fight government overreach in the area of information requests.  It hopes to see others get on board to create a monumental push back that cannot be ignored.  We would be lying if we said we did not want them to succeed in their efforts.  We do.

As the world of Internet communications continues to grow and expand, privacy and security are two of the most important issues that we can never take our eyes from.  The minute we allow anyone to gain access to information that should remain private, we begin down that slippery slope of unending intrusion.  We agree that it is time to revisit national and international laws in order to restrict government overreach on the Internet.