In the Trenches at an ASP

By Dawne Shand, Computerworld |  Software

NaviSite also provides software such as Sun Microsystems Inc. or Windows NT servers, Oracle Corp. or SQL Server databases, Allaire Corp.'s ColdFusion Web application server and SilverStream Software Inc.'s Application Server. If customers choose one of the primary software offerings, NaviSite can provide a range of performance management services, from preventive maintenance to on-the-spot repairs. If NaviSite doesn't know a specific piece of software well enough to perform all maintenance itself, it won't guarantee that level of service but will still locate any problems that arise and help coordinate solutions. NaviSite knows that its success depends on keeping the power on, the applications running and all connections open to its customers.

Powerful Preparation

Sidney Kuo, NaviSite's product line manager and a mechanical engineer by training, points out details in NaviSite's data center with an engineer's pride. Beneath the raised floor of the data center, a 24-inch crawl space (double the requirement) makes it easy to run and fix the wiring that connects applications to the Internet.

In the rear of the data center stands a row of black cabinets that funnel electrical power to the systems. "Electricity is key," Kuo says simply. "Without it, nothing runs, and that would be a problem."

A few weeks before Computerworld's visit, a motorist hit a utility pole on a nearby road and knocked out power to the building for the first time since the new data center went into operation. Kuo watched vapor from the backup generators begin to appear just 10 seconds after the cafeteria lights went out. Electricity was restored later that day.

In the event of an electrical outage, battery power takes over immediately, giving the four diesel generators a chance to warm up. Combined, the generators can generate 2,500 kilowatts of power -- enough to keep the center going indefinitely, as long as there's a steady supply of diesel fuel. In the event of a more devastating power outage, NaviSite has a second data center on the West Coast that operates on a separate power grid. The company refers to this as "N+1" redundancy: batteries, electrical generators, backup generators and separate power-grid coverage.

Next to the electrical panels stand locked cabinets containing each customer's equipment. Each cabinet is marked with a small white label in the upper left corner that indicates its owner or the company using it.

Although Kuo is NaviSite's product line manager, he doesn't have a key to the data center. A security guard has to open the door for him. Only employees who need daily access to the data center have entry privileges, and even they are carefully monitored.

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