LENEXA, KANSAS - Somewhere in an anonymous building located in a cluster of equally nondescript buildings on the Kansas prairie, 1&1 Internet has built a vast data center to serve the needs of small and midsized businesses.
Although 1&1 is probably best known as an Internet hosting provider, the company has expanded its offerings to include a variety of cloud services such as infrastructure as a service and software as a service.
The cloud services include cloud-based processing power, storage and bandwidth. The company also provides software applications in the cloud for its customers. Unlike its competitors, 1&1 protects its customers' data through the use of dual-hosting geo-redundancy. This means that the approximately 40,000 servers in the Lenexa data center are mirrored by another data center in downtown Kansas City, which is about 18 miles away.
According to Ryan Cieslak, 1&1 product marketing manager, the separation is far enough to prevent the same disaster from hitting both data centers, while being close enough to keep latency to a minimum. Cieslak also noted that the Lenexa, Kansas, location was chosen because it was close to being equally distant from both coasts of the U.S. Recently eWEEK got an opportunity to tour this data center on a sponsored trip, meaning that 1&1 provided the travel, but had no input into the content of this article.
The first impression of 1&1's Lenexa data center is one of a huge warehouse in an industrial park. In reality, that's exactly what it is. But there's more here than just a warehouse. Within the original warehouse structure is an entire second building built to withstand the disasters likely to befall a large building in Kansas. According to 1&1 data center head Thorsten Ziegler, a natural disaster could actually destroy the surrounding warehouse building, but leave the data center itself untouched.
Inside the data center are the roughly 40,000 IBM BladeCenter servers along with the required battery backup equipment and networking equipment to support the 210G bps fiber ring that connects the data center with its Kansas City backup. Behind the data center are four Caterpillar diesel generators, several days' worth of fuel, water chillers and heat exchangers.
"We don't use city water for cooling," Ziegler said, "because there's no redundancy. If we lost the water supply, we would have no way to cool the data center." For this reason, 1&1 chose to use a slightly less efficient air-cooled chiller design to meet the requirements for reliability.
"It is key for 1&1 to have the ability to offer any of our customers the safety and protection of their data in our Lenexa facility, no matter what the package or product they have," explained 1&1 CEO Oliver Mauss, responding by email to eWEEK. "Following through on its reassurance to users, 1&1 launched dual hosting."
Dual hosting is a key part of 1&1's reliability offering. It means that the company has two data centers, one working as a failover to the other. Both facilities are monitored in real time to make sure that the other is instantly available.
The existence of two data centers means that 1&1 can perform routine maintenance on one data center while the backup picks up the load for the portion of the center that's undergoing maintenance. Likewise, each data center has redundant network equipment that uses multiple vendors so that those dreaded software updates that have knocked out other data centers recently won't affect 1&1.