Equinix opens new Slough datacentre to answer CIO cloud demands

Equinix's UK MD explains why its chosen to increase its datacentre footprint once more in Slough

Equinix has increased its datacentre footprint in Slough with the opening of its LD6 facility, which is the third site the company has taken over in the Berkshire town.

Building work on the first phase of the $79m datacentre is now complete. The firm is welcoming customers to the site, which spans 8,000m2 and has capacity for 1,385 cabinets.

When work on the second phase is finished, a further 1,385 cabinets will be added, and the company’s total datacentre footprint in the area will top 36,000m2.

The company is quoting a power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating of below 1.2 for the facility, relying on fresh air and water-based cooling techniques that use rainwater and the Slough aquifier to ensure consistent supplies are maintained. 

It also has an engineering team on-site 24 hours a day to deal with any service disruptions, as well as the presence of round-the-clock security and biometric-based site access controls.

Speaking to Computer Weekly at the opening of the site, Equinix UK managing director Russell Poole said the expansion of its datacentre operations has been spurred on by the growing interest of CIOs in cloud services.

When the first of its Slough facilities was built, it was mainly populated with firms from the financial services market, Poole said, but the customer profile has changed over time.

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“There is a true ecosystem of stock exchanges, banks, hedge funds, brokers and market data providers all exchanging data and trading with each other, and financial services was the strongest driver of demand for a good few years, along with networking companies,” he said.

“What we’ve seen in the past two years is this evolution into the cloud, and what I’ve really seen in the past five years is the elevation in the importance of the datacentre to a CIO.

“Back then, we wouldn’t have been able to get through the door to talk to a CIO. Now they want to talk to us because hybrid cloud is the clear choice for a lot of CIOs, and that’s what we’re offering.”

Custom-built design

LD6 is the first of the company’s Slough facilities to be designed from the ground up as a datacentre, after the firm struck a deal with commercial property firm Segro, which leases the sites to Equinix.

LD4, built in 2007, was the first of the firm's Slough datacentres and, at the time, Equinix was the only datacentre in the area.

Segro insisted it was built so if demand for Equinix’s co-location services did not take off, it could convert the site to a warehouse with relative ease.

With the speed Equinix has managed to fill its facilities, and the opening of several other similar sites in the area by competing providers, the company has effectively been given free reign to design LD6 as it pleases.

“This is only ever going to be a datacentre. The fabric of the building has been influenced by its purpose and the technology that’ll go inside it,” Poole said.

The selection of Slough

The reasons the firm chose to build its datacentre footprint in Slough, rather than add to sites in Docklands, London, is down to good transport and networking links, said Equinix lead engineer Ian Jump.

“Most of the transatlantic cable routes run down into the south-west of the country and their main route into London and Docklands is along the M4 corridor. They are running past our doorstep,” said Jump.

“So from a latency point of view, we’re closer to the New York markets and Frankfurt, which is important for our financial services clients.”

The availability of local, skilled workers was also a big appeal, said Poole, and allows the firm to tap into more flexible working arrangements.

“It was the logical thing to do. It reduces journey times, provides flexibility for the company and is better for people. Slough is a great place because there are a lot of skilled workers here,” he said.

“The education system here is fantastic, with good schools and colleges, which leads to good opportunities for companies like us.”

Slough Borough Council has also been taking steps in recent years to encourage the hi-tech firms that operate in the area, which include the likes of O2 and LG, to employ local people. This is something Equinix fully supports.

“We do a lot of work in the local community, supporting charities and our staff who live and work here, and we run an apprenticeship scheme and bring in recruits every year,” he said.

“There are so few apprenticeships available these days for kids who are bright and want to build a future, but don’t particularly want to go down the academic route.”

Connecting the dots

LD6 is connected to Equinix’s other facilities in the area through dark fibre links, and – despite the company claiming its development marks the completion of its Slough datacentre campus – the company is on the hunt for further sites in the area to take over, added Poole.

“We have no announced projects, but you can see in a few years we’ll need more capacity in Slough or at least close to it, and we’re looking into that in terms of land options because it’s a two-and-a-half-year process from start to finish,” he said.

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