Inside a German High-Availability Data Centre

Dr. Oetker is a large multinational company headquartered in Bielefeld, Germany with a portfolio of food-related products including frozen pizza, cake mixes, pudding, and baking powder and investments in other industries, mostly in Europe, with annual revenue around €10 billion. OEDIV (Oetker Daten- und Informationsverarbeitung KG) began as the internal IT department of Dr. Oetker and was spun off in 1995 as a separate division providing data processing services to external clients as well as the parent company. It was one of SAP’s first customers, and specialises in SAP cloud services.

OEDIV now operates two separate data centres in Bielefeld, providing fully redundant, high-availability computing services based upon IBM Power System servers, IBM Z-series mainframes, and x86 systems on Cisco blade servers. The data centres are exemplars of high availability, with full redundancy for power, cooling, network connectivity, fire and smoke detection and suppression, computing and storage, and disaster backup, with each data centre backing up the other’s storage in an automated LTO tape library.

In this video, derBauer tours one centre, showing what it takes to add all of those nines to your uptime goal. A forthcoming video will examine the server hardware in more detail.

I have never before encountered the concept of reducing oxygen levels (“hypoxic air technology”) in equipment rooms to below that which will sustain an open fire.


Some random thoughts

I also have never seen the low oxygen system to prevent fire. I have seen many instances of nitrogen purge to inert the atmosphere to prevent fires. Allowing human access without o2 supply is a nice feature.

Wonder why they use nitrogen fire suppression vs co2 which is pretty standard in industry. He said the room recovers to a breathable atmosphere quickly. I assume this is a function of how quickly they can detect a potential fire with the particle detection system, Is breathing N less harmful than CO2?

The typical fire suppression systems in industry include detect the fire, alarm humans to exit, dump CO2 and then if the fire is not out dump the sprinkler system. In Germany the code includes closing fire doors when the CO2 dumps which prevents access into or out of the room. Comparing the two systems, it sure would be nice to use this data center system, but I am guessing it isn’t practical in a normal environment.

Given the Z mainframe has not gone down in 20 years and the whole facility uptime and that financial institutions would need this kind of performance, isn’t it odd that so many Canadian banks had issues at the same time when people started withdrawing funds?!