2017 was a big year for NEXTDC. With customer demand for data centre space continuing to grow, the first-generation facilities in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne were rapidly reaching capacity. So, a second-generation of data centres was born, with B2 and M2 facilities opening their doors and S2 planned for 2019. With customers now having the ability to colocate in multiple facilities in the same city and consume carrier and cloud-based services from the combined locally available partner ecosystem, NEXTDC realised there was an immediate need to provide seamless connectivity between same city data centres.
It turned to Comlinx, a Brisbane based IT managed service provider, to join forces and tackle the challenge head on. 'Working with Comlinx on this project was a no-brainer,' Steve Martin, NEXTDC Head of Channel Operationsl says. 'They have extensive experience in creating optical networks for enterprise and government, so we knew their skills would complement ours.' The dream was to build a Data Centre Interconnect platform (DCI), to allow customers to expand their presence or connect to services across two facilities in the one city. 'We wanted to enable customers and partners to scale their infrastructure and IT services more quickly and cost effectively than ever before,' Steve says. Together, the two organisations embarked on a journey to leverage each other's strengths and build this connectivity platform.
Building on existing solutions
The DCI service was envisaged as a solution that would connect customers with data centre infrastructure and IT services spread across two NEXTDC facilities, or those who wanted to connect to services available in another same city facility.
Comlinx and NEXTDC worked together to virtually transplant the ecosystem from an existing facility to the new one, reducing the time it would normally take to gain a critical mass of partners, customers and services. 'We worked with their team over about three months, and it was a really collaborative process,' Scott Smith, Director at Comlinx, says. 'But we also wanted to be able to deliver the new solution to customers quickly, which meant we were working under a time crunch.'
To meet these deadlines, Comlinx used NEXTDC's Remote Hands service, which provides remote engineers to offer technical assistance when a customer is unable to be on-site themselves. 'We really leveraged the best of everyone's skills and capabilities so we could deliver a solution that would make life a lot easier for NEXTDC customers,' Smith says. 'We were able to offer a level of agility so the project could move quickly.'
Streamlining overlapping projects
As B2 and M2 were the first of NEXTDC's second-generation facilities, and the most technically advanced, both were significant projects. They were also the first Australian data centres - and the first Asia Pacific colocation data centres - to receive Tier IV Certification of Constructed Facility (TCCF), the highest accreditation from Uptime Institute.
B2 was an inner-city retro-fit, while M2 was a greenfield development on the city edge, each with unique timelines and challenging network engineering requirements. One particular hurdle was fitting the buildings with the new fibre in tandem with construction, with little to no control over overlapping timelines.
'We overcame each challenge we were faced with by leveraging the combined strengths and knowledge excellence bought together by this partnership,' Steve Martin added. NEXTDC provided Comlinx its technical team so it had more capacity to deploy the technology. At the same time, Comlinx had the back-end expertise to complete work remotely without impacting the workflow on site. It also used its local Advanced LAB in Brisbane to pre-build and test solution elements in advance so the team was ready to hit the ground running at deployment stage.
A customer-first approach
NEXTDC knew that to be successful, the platform needed to deliver a non-intrusive and seamless customer experience. It was designed to empower customer operations and facilities staff to provision new services and troubleshoot potential connectivity issues, before they occurred.
To provide this level of service, a DCI operations console was developed. The NEXTDC team got to work developing the new console in-house, before it was implemented using Comlinx' technical expertise to integrate it with the Juniper BTI7000 series. Juniper allowed for greater flexibility and automation, to drive continuous operational efficiencies and stability for all NEXTDC facilities.
An inside look at NEXTDC's M2 facility
Evolving a successful solution
Both NEXTDC and Comlinx share a philosophy of enhancing existing services for customers, rather than simply bringing out new products. DCI is no different, and has become a welcomed addition to the facilities by offering customers a chance to scale easily.
'We are so proud of the positive outcome this new service has delivered NEXTDC, Comlinx and all of our customers and partners in the ecosystem,' says Steve. 'It's a further reminder of NEXTDC's wider investment in our second-generation facilities and the evolution of our ecosystem.'
The solution continues to grow and change to meet customer needs. 'We knew this was always destined to be a successful platform, because it really makes connectivity easy for NEXTDC's customers,' Smith says. 'It's the level of efficiency that makes it such a valuable solution. But this also means we need to keep up with growing demand to build out and expand the platform.' To do this, Comlinx continues to support the environment and identify ways to increase speed and capacity, or add additional service types where required.
The final DCI solution ticked all of NEXTDC's original goals. It delivers high-availability network services, including AXON Ethernet connectivity and an easy, highly effective Disaster Recovery option. In support of NEXTDC's channel first strategy, DCI also offers many of NEXTDC's partners an additional solution to on-sell to their customers.
Ultimately, it combines the ecosystem of clouds, networks and service providers in the paired facilities, so NEXTDC customers and partners can expand their IT footprint and scale IT services in the same metro area quickly and cost effectively.