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Step inside one of the biggest datacentres in Europe: Photos

This week saw the opening of the biggest datacentre in Europe – a new facility in the Portuguese city of Covilhã. ZDNet went for a look around.
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1 of 9 Portugal Telecom

After 15 months of construction, Portugal Telecom on Monday officially launched the first phase of one of Europe's largest and greenest datacentres.

When complete, the €90m datacentre in the city of Covilhã will have a storage capacity of up to 30PB, 50,000 servers and four datacentre blocks across a total area of 75,000m². 

According to Portugal Telecom, the new facility increases datacentre capacity in the country by more than 60 percent. The operator hopes to eventually consolidate its seven existing datacentres into the new Covilhã datacentre and an existing facility in Lisbon.

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2 of 9 Lance Harris/ZDNet

A clock in Covilhã's town square counted down the hours to the datacentre's inauguration on 23 September.

It's hoped the datacentre will bring economic renewal to an area that saw its economy and population shrink throughout the 1990s as a result of the decline of Portugal's textiles industry. The new datacentre will directly create 400 jobs and indirectly create 1,000 more in the region.

Portugal Telecom will be working with the city's public university, the University of Beira Interior, to develop cloud computing skills. Local government authorities hope that the datacentre facility will also attract investment into the town from other technology companies in the years to follow.

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3 of 9 Lance Harris/ZDNet

Portugal Telecom will use the new facility to help deliver datacentre services, cloud, and IT outsourcing in Portugal, as well as the rest of Europe and Brazil. In Europe, Portugal Telecom hopes that lower labour and energy costs than the continent's average will give it an edge.

The operator also hopes to expand into Africa's datacentre market through partnership agreements in the months to come. Portugal Telecom will offer a white label platform to enable African service providers to launch their own branded cloud services.

The launch of the datacentre is an important landmark in Portugal Telecom's ongoing transformation from the country's incumbent into a modern converged services provider. Speaking ahead of the launch, Portugal Telecom CEO ZeinalBava said that data today contributes more than half of the operator's revenues.

Other elements of the transformation strategy Portugal Telecom embarked on in 2008 include the launch of its pay TV, triple-play and quad-play offerings for consumers; investment in a national fibre transmission network and a fibre to the home access network; and construction of a national  4G LTE network.

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4 of 9 Lance Harris/ZDNet

Portugal Telecom looked at a number of factors in its selection of the site for the new datacentre and eventually choose Covilhã out of 26 options.

Covilhã's cool climate, abundance of rainfall, and low risk of earthquakes all helped to push it to the top of the list.

Situated in Portugal's highest mountain range and near its only ski resort, Covilhã is in the only region the country to experience regular winter snowfall.

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5 of 9 Portugal Telecom

The Covilhã datacentre will house six main rooms, each with 520m² of space. Each of them is built with bridge engineering techniques, and there are no pillars to maximise space.

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6 of 9 Lance Harris/ZDNet

The datacentre draws 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources and has a PUE (power usage effectiveness) of under 1.25.

Its high voltage substation is powered by two separate power lines that feed the datacentre through two separate paths. Twelve groups of generators — one of them pictured above — provide more than enough power for a town the size of Covilhã in the event of a power outage.

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7 of 9 Lance Harris/ZDNet

The datacentre is designed for a high level of security and redundancy. The structure is encased in a 'safe box' comprising a single, solid metal piece measuring 55m X 55m X 33m. 

Human guards and more than 250 cameras watch over the facility 24 hours a day around the year, while access to sensitive areas of the facility is granted by palm vein verification.

Pictured here are some of the facility's fire extinction systems.

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8 of 9 Lance Harris/ZDNet

Portugal Telecom hopes that it will not need to use air conditioning in the Covilhã datacentre for more than six days a year. The free-cooling system, making extensive use of rainwater, should cover the datacentre's cooling requirements for 99 percent of the time.

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9 of 9 Lance Harris/ZDNet

The theme of environmental sustainability is carried beyond the core datacentre facilities.

More than 1,600 photovoltaic panels supply 30 percent of the energy needed to power the datacentre support buildings, and Portugal Telecom has planted 600 indigenous trees that will not need to be watered around the facility.

In the parking lot, spaces are reserved for car pool vehicles, electric cars and bicycles.

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