In a world wracked with doubt, conflict and tension, it is hardly surprising that our leaders want maximum safeguards in place to ensure we are well protected. Their primary concern in the present day is cybersecurity. And Legrand Data Center Solutions is stepping up to contribute – by lending its expertise.
ON THE FRONT LINE
For those who have historically dubbed the Belgian military as “the great mute”, it’s time for a change of stance. It may well be a sensitive topic, but the MoD headquarters has something to say when it comes to discussions about its future plans for data centers and cybersecurity tools. We met with Philippe Renard, an experienced engineer within the Infrastructure Competence Center of the Belgian Ministry of Defense, also in charge of “Special Techniques”.
Cybersecurity requirements demand that the Belgian government deploys and commits various financial, material and human resources. The federal authorities – with proven competence in this field – decided to step up rather than adopt a passive response. The MoD in particular has an active involvement here, which is why the intra-defense department, in charge of security, has developed a multi-year infrastructure program. The new data center project is a key milestone in the program. It was entrusted to the department led by Philippe Renard, which took control of the project in December 2019.
ADAPT AND INNOVATE
“The location of the racks (ten 8 kW racks in total) posed a major constraint at the outset”, he relates. “We had to install them in a room of around 30 m2 located on the ground floor of a rather unsuitable existing building. It was necessary to upgrade the existing power supply but, more significantly, to undertake structural engineering works in order to distribute the hardware load across the existing floor. An additional factor being that the racks were equipped with an integrated UPS. That was no mean feat...
“We decided to install two rows of HDPE (high-density polyethylene) load distribution panels and to place the server racks in the center of them. By force of circumstance, these ended up being quite far apart from each other. A rather unusual configuration, to say the least. ”
Philippe Renard goes on to explain, “This meant we had to find an aisle confinement system that firstly could be adapted for this particular configuration and secondly was modular. We carried out some research and it quickly became apparent that very few potential suppliers were even able to meet all the criteria! These included Legrand, a reputable name that we’d long been familiar with. We reached out to Thierry Mossay, Key Account Manager of Legrand Belgium, to talk through our project.
“The initial discussions between us and Legrand Data Center Solutions were very much focused on listening. We were able to set out our requirements in some detail, before going on to discuss different possibilities to fulfill them. Both parties were able to bring their own experiences to the table in an amicable and constructive way. It was only later that we turned our attentions to the actual products. And then – bingo! Legrand had recently bought out Modulan, a German manufacturer of aisle containment solutions specializing in custom-made solutions. Thierry Mossay set out his proposals to us in July 2019, submitted a tender the following week... and Modulan was awarded the contract. We were then ready to proceed to the next phase.”
In the weeks that followed, close attention was given to developing the installation project. The versatility of Modulan’s aluminum profiles relies on highly precise measurements. “An engineer came out from Modulan’s head office in Hessen, Germany, to take measurements with millimeter accuracy, before producing a 3D model of the entire installation,” recounts Philippe Renard.
“We took into consideration the ventilation system based on warm aisle technology. A choice made by the MoD’s own IT department, steered not only by the relatively remote location of the CRAC units, but also by a desire to be more energy efficient and to ensure an even temperature between the top and bottom of the racks.
“In mid-March 2020, working alongside the company managing the HVAC installation, the Modulan team came to add the profiles to the racks, servers, CRACs and other equipment already in place. The setup was then adjusted in situ and the new server room was operational the following September.”
Feedback from the ground only affirms that the MoD was right to choose Legrand. That comes as no surprise to Philippe Renard. “In addition to the solid reputation of the Legrand Group and the high quality of its modular products, I have really valued the responsiveness, ability to listen and customer-oriented approach it has brought to every stage of the project. I really couldn’t find fault!”