Amito Data Centre in Reading (UK)

November 14th, 2019 by Diana Coman

On this reasonably bright and sunny November day, I went as promised in the logs to hear for myself the buzz and the hum of racks upon racks of busy servers that live in a data centre most conveniently located within a short 15 minutes drive from my door. The data centre is called Amito and it lives itself inside a Unit 2 within a gated (and CCTV-d and license plate recognition system-ed and all that) compound on (one of) the outskirts of Reading:

Once inside, there is futzing with iris recognition high tech on top of the low tech ID surrender and enbadgement1. And for further security impression as well as delay, there is also a secure entrance limited to one person at a time2. Once past all the secure feelings, there are friendly shiny signs to guide you3:

The data halls are clean and tidy and quite pleasant rooms to visit really:

The KVM station visible on the side of the first image above4:

The racks and half-racks and quarter-racks are all lockable with shiny locks and otherwise the DC people have the master key, of course. For a peek inside some empty racks5:

Each rack (half/quarter rack as well) has two power strips connected each to a different, separated power line & provider:

Lonely cables in an empty rack:

Purple network cables peek around the empty rack for a server to serve:

The two power lines are colour-coded throughout the data centre, orange and black, "idiot-proof" or so I've been told:

There are fire extinguishers gallore, cooling systems and everything needed to generate on site electricity for several days of operation at full capacity:

There are also UPSes of generous sizes, colour coded as the respective power lines they are connected to and with the corresponding supply of batteries on site, too:

There's quite the plesant feeling really to see everything in its place, correctly and neatly labeled and set up, all planned and well provisioned, with redundancy in place for both power lines and internet connections. But then of course one goes back to the meeting room and to the famous account-on-website-is-a-must and for all my willingness to go through the demo and give it a fair look, it took less than 5 minutes for it to be rather obvious to them too that I don't find it either needed nor useful really to me. I could even agree that it's convenient of course and more specifically convenient to *them* but it's really worse than just inconvenient to me. And while I quite enjoyed the tour and I like very much the fact that they are still small enough so that I can actually talk to them and get to know all of them6, the fact remains that all the talk and all the know still doesn't paper over the fundamental difference of approach and ultimately of values, I suppose. It is exactly what it is and no parts of it can be just ignored, no matter how convenient that would be.

For completeness, I'll note here what the Business Development Director of Amito told me on this topic, namely that the whole business is "built around it" - around the convenience of this portal for the data centre itself, that is. I'll leave the conclusion to where it belongs, namely to each and every person to arrive at, themselves.

  1. Is this a word? It should be a word! 

  2. Funnily enough for me, those will always and forever remind me of a rather derpy local bank in South Tyrol, some 12 years ago already. Though it's true that there was no need there to futz with the screen for iris recognition, this indeed the latest tech addition and it made for triple barely-suppressed laughter as it couldn't quite stay by itself at the angle it needed for me. 

  3. I sincerely hope that the "Break area" is the dedicated place for breaking misbehaving servers and data leaking hard drives, all right? And I don't see any problem with having only men's toilets, though I suspect they might end up seeing a problem with it at some point. 

  4. Do not laugh at the stickers, ok? I said do *not* laugh! 

  5. The DC is currently somewhere between 50-60% full from the numbers I heard today from them. 

  6. I've been told they would get to know me too but that somehow I don't doubt anymore after all those years. 

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5 Responses to “Amito Data Centre in Reading (UK)”

  1. hanbot says:

    The foresight/shortsightedness duality is such a wonder. Here I sit, in awe of and reverence for those generator and UPS arrays --how could someone do that much contingency planning and fail to see the most glaringly probable customer contingency, and then fail to work around it, once it's slapped them in the face in person?!

    But you said yerself, don't wonder about the incomprehensible, eh.

    Stellar fieldwork anyhow.

  2. Diana Coman says:

    I know, I wanted to stay there some longer just to bask in all that planning and redundancy and neatness - it works 10x better than any "yoga retreat", as far as I'm concerned. As to the other side of things, I'm quite sure it's the first time that they encountered someone having a problem with this. And I'm not even sure that there is a way to bridge the comprehension gap - there we sit and talk to one another and they are even trying to understand what I might want and where I'm coming from but for all that, it seemingly goes deeper than one even conceives initially possible and so it remains... incomprehensible.

    Thank you.

  3. spyked says:

    I've met this lack of comprehension too many times in the past when discussing similar practical (though grounded in deep philosophical considerations, which is the sticking point here, because no shared priors) subjects with otherwise very smart people, to the point where I sort of just gave up. What do I mean, my data is safest on my own computer? Googazon is teh simplest, cheapest, best solution for file storage!1one

    In light of your documented experience -- this case in particular, as well as your talk and adventures on forums -- in trying to get so-called heathens to make sense of Republican values, I'm thinking that bridging this comprehension gap is perhaps a fundamental issue, and I've no idea how I (for one) can deal with it.

  4. The "planning and redundancy and neatness" that dazzles civilian visitors to a DC are the product of a "3-ring binder", rather than of any human beings one might meet with at the site. Though naturally at some point, somewhere, a human must have architected a DC for the 3-ringers to crib.

    In other words, you were hearing the music of a player-piano rather than of a pianist.

  5. Diana Coman says:

    Stanislav, I get what you mean and it even went through my mind from the start but in this particular case my guide had quite some experience in building up DCs so I'd rather give there the benefit of the doubt at the very least.

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