By Laura Del Rosario

A total investment of 300 million euros, we talked with Luca Beltramino, Managing Director of SUPERNAP Italia.

“It’s a technology that speaks for itself,” explains Luca Beltramino, Managing Director of SUPERNAP Italia, of the new data center the company opened at the end of December in Siziano, in the province of Pavia and near Milan. A structure that covers an area of 42,000 square meters for a total investment of 300 million euro and hostsmore than 4,000 racks, where they can manage up to 40 megawatts of power to serve Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“Quality of service, high power density, innovative approach to operational infrastructure management and security are distinctive features of our data center, and the market is realizing our strengths because they differentiate us substantially from the other players.”

Cloud, Big Data, IoT… soon everything will be connected and the need for storage and data management centers will be increasing. How is the data center market evolving in Europe?

The data center market in Europe was born at the end of the 1990s, when a few international companies began to create carrier-neutral colocation data centers. The concept of neutrality was the distinctive element that led to the creation of these structures, which have grown to be primarily in cities where the largest Internet Exchanges in the world were present. Strong, important poles were born: think Frankfurt, Amsterdam, London. But in 2016, the route changed.

What happened?

The explosion of Edge Computing (IoT, Big Data, Cloud, Analytics, and so on), comprised of companies that need to be closer to their potential customers. For this reason, the presence of peripheral data centers, such as ours in Siziano, near Milan, becomes fundamental. At the beginning of 2016, Gartner predicted that data centers in peripheral locations will grow to a higher percentage than those in central locations such as Frankfurt, Amsterdam, London and Dublin. These realities are therefore destined to grow.

And how does SUPERNAP Italia fit into this scenario?

SUPERNAP Italia chose the right time to open the Siziano facility at the end of 2016, a fact proven by the sale of more than 70% of the first sector in just a few months. A very big commercial success, even based on pre-sales.

We are very optimistic because Edge Computing as well as IoT and what Cisco describes as Fog Computing, which brings the ICT services source closer to the end user, has created a growing need for the three resources on which our industry is based: computing, storage and networking. The greater the need for these three resources, the greater the need for large data centers that can accommodate the technology.

What makes you unique compared to competitors?

In Italy and Southern Europe, data centers, including those new and modern, have been built by converting preexisting structures. In reality, these are warehouses born for other purposes. Here is the first difference in quality. Ours is the only building built to be used as a data center, with innovative technology that ensures efficient use of power and cooling, alarm systems, intrusion detection and fire detection systems. This is why we have a much higher efficiency; unfortunately, many customers don’t see this unless they’ve been using a data center for a while.

Another distinctive feature is that in Milan we are the only one to have a single structure and not multiple structures. This is why we define ourselves as the largest and most advanced data center in Southern Europe. Others talk about campuses, while ours is a modularly built data center, built in intervals, and in a single building. We can reach 45 kilowatts per cabinet, a much higher electrical density than our competitors.

Who are your customers?

SUPERNAP Italia focuses on two types of customers. The first is made up of large international operators that deal with Cloud, IoT, Big Data, Analytics and, in general, data storage. The second is enterprise, both nationally and internationally. We also support small and medium enterprises. We respond to all the needs of everyone because, as far as services go, we start from half a cabinet up to customers who buy up to 2 megawatts of power.

Among the Italian customers we can mention are Wind Tre, ItNet, Italiaonline, major international carriers such as Telia Carrier… other important US customers managed directly by Switch include eBay, PayPal, Amazon, Microsoft, Intel, HP, Cisco, Fujifilm and Fox Entertainment.

And what are the growth forecasts for Italy?

They are great. We have a very interesting customer pipeline in all the sectors I mentioned, but we also have many requests from local customers and important system integrators (HPE, IBM, Microsoft) and also entire territories that will bring us high business volumes.

The total investment planned here in Siziano amounts to 300 million, which came before the decentralization of data centers… why was Italy chosen? For its strategic position?

That’s right. Italy is in an absolutely strategic position to open to the Mediterranean countries. SUPERNAP Italia is also part of the Open Hub Med Consortium, developed to create a free and neutral zone for Internet service and data exchange among the countries of the Mediterranean basin. Our goal is to create a pole in Sicily that competes with Marseille, first as a backup and then as an alternative by giving Italy a shining role for its close position to international cabling coming from North Africa, from Egypt, from Southeast Asia and the Far East. We want to become an international hub.

Looking instead a bit more at our realities, what advantages are there for companies and citizens to have a data center in Siziano, near Milan and in Northern Italy?

The advantages are both direct and indirect. All the staff are local (for now the team is about 40 people but the plan is to arrive at about 100) and it’s a good starting point because we are one of the few companies recruiting people. Among the direct aspects, we should take into consideration the fact that the facilities near our data center, like local restaurants, have multiplied their turnover.

There will be very strong impacts in the cabling, air conditioning and cooling areas; all materials are installed by local companies. These 300 million euros will have an important impact. The work we are doing with the Open Hub Med project to bring data from the South of the world will also bring great benefits nationwide.

And the technology used within the data center?

Technology is the flagship of SUPERNAP Italia. We use Switch’s proprietary technology and apply all 260 patents. We are the only neutral data centers that do research and development. In October 2016, we had 218 patents and now we are at 260. That’s a big leap forward. All of these patents are applied in the data center world. The major patents, for example, concern the fact that we removed the raised floors from the data center, revolutionizing the cooling system, which no longer departs from below but falls from above, while hot air is also reabsorbed from above.

In addition, we apply tri-redundancy in the electrical distribution. In other data centers there are two distinct and separate power circuits; we have three, an additional circuit redundancy, and we use all the electrical distribution but never reach 100% of the potential operation. We stay at 66%: we have 33% redundancy on three different platforms, which distinguishes us from all other competitors.

Another increasingly important issue is security: how do you protect your customers’ data?

In recent years, cyber security is always mentioned, but it is equally important to focus on physical security because the past has taught us that we can equip ourselves with the most sophisticated software in the world, but if we neglect physical security, trouble is just around the corner. For us, security is fundamental.

From this point of view, our facilities are equipped with a team of dedicated armed guards who travel to Las Vegas periodically for specific training.

Security is one of the reasons why companies increasingly rely on outsourcing their data, right?

The latest hacker attacks, the most recent just a few days ago, have increased the need to migrate data to security- and redundancy-optimized infrastructures. They realized that it makes no sense to invest money to refresh the data center in-house because they cannot keep up with new technologies and new certifications. So, the focus is on points where security is highest.

Other SUPERNAP and Switch data centers?

The locations are in Las Vegas, Tahoe Reno (Nevada), and Grand Rapids (Michigan) managed directly by Switch. Tahoe Reno is the largest and most advanced campus data center in the world, with 650 megawatts of electrical power. The next data center opening is in Atlanta, Georgia, occupying all four corners of the United States.

In Europe, through SUPERNAP Italia, we are only in Milan. We are interested in less crowded places, from the point of view of competition. We are considering other potential openings. And, finally, we are in Bangkok, with SUPERNAP Thailand.