Photos: Inside Cisco's European datacentre

Photos: Inside Cisco's European datacentre

Summary: Like any large company, Cisco must ensure it has state-of-the-art facilities within its datacentres. ZDNet UK took a peek inside the company's Amsterdam facility to see how it copes with the pressure

TOPICS: Networking

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  • This anonymous building, tucked away in a side street close to Dell's Amsterdam office, is Cisco's European datacentre.

    Like any company, Cisco faces many of the usual challenges in running a datacentre, including constant pressure to reduce budget while requirements grow and headcount is frozen, and dealing with multiple operating systems, heterogeneous platforms, changing requirements and poor resource allocation.

    But as the giant of the networking world, Cisco should also some have unique advantages.

    The Amsterdam facility has a fairly empty car park, an indication of the way that Cisco likes to run it. This is not a site with a lot of people and, as one of the site's managers points out, is "really close to a 'lights out' operation".

    Cisco relies on six data centres worldwide, but they are not particularly well spread geographically. Four of the facilities are in the US, and three of those are clustered not far from Cisco's worldwide headquarters in California. There is one in Australia, which is run from the US.

    If clustering your datacentres close to the San Andreas fault does not show the greatest foresight, then building the only data centre covering Europe, the Middle-East and Africa in the one country in Europe that is barely above sea-level fits in with that corporate strategy. Floods and earthquakes do not worry Cisco too much.

    Around the world, along with its data centres, Cisco has ten engineering/server rooms in 11 countries, covering ten time zones.

  • Cisco's Amsterdam data centre reflects the way the wider company works. The machine room here matches other Cisco facilities in its mix of servers. Cisco is a big user of Linux and Unix. Worldwide, 37 percent of its servers run Linux, 36 percent Solaris and two per cent run HP-UX. The rest run Windows.

    Like other companies, the demand on Cisco's data centre is largely split between expanding various parts very quickly, and consolidating and simplifying the way the data centre works.

    In the main machine room here there is empty space, and more and more of it. Primarily, the space is freed up because of storage consolidation. Storage arrays are getting smaller in physical size, even as they balloon in capacity.
    In 2001, Cisco Amsterdam had just over 520TB of data storage and the vast majority of it was direct-attached storage (DAS). As of 2005, Cisco now has 4.2PB of storage; less than 400TB is in DAS, 2PB are now in SANs and 1.5PB are in NAS.

    Similar consolidation in servers, especially with the move to virtualisation, has freed up more than 30 per cent of the floor space at Cisco Amsterdam.

Topic: Networking


Colin Barker is based in London and is Senior Reporter for ZDNet. He has been writing about the IT business for some 30-plus years. He still enjoys it.

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