Steadfast Blog

Today, one of my favorite industry sites, Data Center Knowledge, came out with a list of the 10 largest data centers in the world. I found two things very interesting about this:

350 E Cermak Rd, Chicago, IL1) 350 E Cermak, our primary data center facility and our "home" since 2003, is #1 on the list. 1.1 million sq. ft. dedicated to data center and data center support infrastructure is enough to be the largest data center in the world, and we're proud to be a part of it, even if we only make up 20,000 sq. ft. of it. This shows the advantages we have with our location, with easy access to over 100 networks that occupy hundreds of thousands of sq. ft. of data center space, all with a simple cross connect.

2) The list is extremely Chicago-centric, proving that Chicago is a perfect location for data centers. 3 of the 10 largest data centers in the world are in the Chicago metro area, 350 E Cermak (#1), Microsoft's Container Data Center (#5) and DuPont Fabros' facility in Elk Grove Village (#8). No other city in the world even has 2 facilities on the list and there are no facilities on the list in California, New York, New Jersey, London, or Amsterdam. You can then see how Chicago has become one of the most important cities in the world as far as data centers and network connectivity, having grown to be a crossroads of the Internet.

This makes it easy to see the advantages we can provide with our location, being in the largest facility in one of the greatest Internet hubs in the world.  Bigger is better and provides our customers with the scale they need to compete. We have significant access to national networks, international networks and financial networks, such as CME and ICE. The service we offer is a significant advantage of our services, but our location in Chicago, specifically 350 E Cermak Rd, is also 2nd to none.

if you want to be located inside this amazing facility please contact us about dedicated servers or data center colocation out of this amazing facility!

Things are progressing nicely. The structural steel for the roof mounts for the generator and chiller is being fabricated off-site, thus you can't see it here, but progress is being made. The other major change is that a lot of the UPS gear is now in place, and it is basically just finishing work inside the data center space.

General Building:
Plumbing: New bldg domestic water riser from Basement to 8th Floor installation in-progress.
A/C condenser relocation: Condenser lines removed from future ComEd Vault.

Basement Construction Progress Summary:
Boiler Room: Building stored items primarily removed.
Future Elec Room: Hogan Ground box installation in-progress

6th Floor Construction Progress Summary:
Doors/Windows: Awaiting man doors.
Walls: Completed.
Finishes: Painting complete on walls
Electrical: Further UPS Parallel board conduit installation in-progress. Three
UPS/Battery groups installed. PDU wire pulls to 8th floor complete. Wire pulls to DPRA at penthouse from 6th floor in-progress
Mechanical (Chilled water): Chiller lines complete, awaiting CRAH 5, insulation complete.
Mechanical (Vent): Room exhaust vents and supply vent near complete

7th Floor Construction Progress Summary:
Tennant: Moved misc. equipment into 7th floor storage area.
Floors: Complete. Tile trim req. at suite door.
Voice/Data Security: Wiring of card readers and elec. Strikes in-progress.
Mechanical (Chilled water): Completed.

8th Floor Construction Progress Summary:
Walls: Room walls complete. 8th floor stair walls complete awaiting paint.
Doors/Windows: Door complete.
Floors: Ceramic tile install in-progress at Toilets.
Ceilings: Ceiling tile installation in-progress in Office, Data Room and Toilets
Voice/Data Security: Wire cable tray install in-progress in Data Center, Security
& voice/data cable pull in-progress., Wiring of elec strikes in-progress
Electrical: PDU grounding complete, leak detection at CHRAH units complete.
Plumbing: Awaiting fixtures
Fire Alarm: Fire alarm control panel installed, wiring in-progress.
Mechanical (Chilled water): Piping near complete. Refrigeration piping primarily
complete.
Mechanical (Vent): Duct complete. Awaiting AHU-A install.
Sprinklers: Total Pac piping complete, sprinkler heads complete.
Finishes: Primer and first coat paint complete.
Freight Elevator: Awaiting painting.
Miscellaneous: Window screens replaced
Roof Construction Progress Summary:
Exterior: CU1 & CU2 piping and electric near complete.
Interior: Elec room door completed.
Elec: Conductor pull to DPRA from 6th floor in-progress

And the pictures: http://steadfast.net/images/april7progress.pdf

Good news, all of the roof work has been approved by the city and we now have a permit for everything. Also, we're already in the process of getting some of the various inspections done, etc. so we should be able to get an occupancy permit very shortly after everything is completed.

General Building:
Plumbing: New bldg domestic water riser coring in-progress from Basement to 8th Floor. Piping install in-progress in basement.
Dock: Temporary tap gen box installed.
Vertical Risers: Hogan ground boxes installed.
A/C condenser relocation: Condenser lines removed from future ComEd Vault.

Basement Construction Progress Summary:
Existing Electrical Room: Ground to water service in-progress.
Boiler Room: Building stored items primarily removed.
Future Elec Room: Hogan Ground box installation in-progress

6th Floor Construction Progress Summary:
Doors/Windows: Awaiting man doors.
Walls: Completed.
Finishes: Awaiting primer and finish paint.
Floors: Conc housekeeping pads expansion complete.
Electrical: UPS Parallel board installed and conduit installation in-progress as well as lighting.
Mechanical (Chilled water): Chiller lines complete, awaiting CRAH 5 and insulation.
Mechanical (Vent): Room exhaust vents and supply vent near complete

7th Floor Construction Progress Summary:
Tennant: Moved misc. equipment into 7th floor storage area.
Doors: Complete except card readers and elec. strikes.
Floors: Complete. Tile trim req. at suite door.
Voice/Data Security: Card reader and elec. strikes req.
Mechanical (Chilled water): Completed through HVAC closet, awaiting insulation.

8th Floor Construction Progress Summary:
Walls: Room walls complete.
Doors/Windows: Awaiting door install.
Floors: Handrails @ stairs and ramp complete. Toilet access floor complete.
Ceilings: Ceiling tile installation in-progress in Office and toilets
Voice/Data Security: Wire cable tray install in-progress in Data Center, Security cable pull in-progress.
Electrical: PDU grounding near complete, exit signs complete, wiring for fire alarm @ the total pac and smoke detection near complete.
Plumbing: Awaiting fixtures
Fire Alarm: Fire alarm control panel installed, wiring in-progress.
Mechanical (Chilled water): Variable frequency drives, Chemical Pot Feeder and filter installed and piping near complete.
Mechanical (Vent): Drips pans complete, ductwork near complete.
Sprinklers: Total Pac piping complete, sprinkler heads complete.
Finishes: Primer and first coat paint complete.
Freight Elevator: Elevator cab, frame and curb raised and back in-service.
Miscellaneous: Window screens replaced

Roof Construction Progress Summary:
Exterior: Curbs for AHU-A and CU1 & CU2 complete.
Interior: Elec room door completed.
Elec: Ground box installed.

The pictures: http://steadfast.net/images/march31progress.pdf

General Building:
Dock: Temporary tap gen box installed.
Vertical Risers: Hogan ground boxes installed.
A/C condenser relocation: Condenser lines removed from future ComEd Vault.

Basement Construction Progress Summary:
Existing Electrical Room: Ground to water service in-progress.
Boiler Room: Building stored items primarily removed.
Future Elec Room: Hogan Ground box installation in-progress

6th Floor Construction Progress Summary:
Doors/Windows: Exterior windows tinted, awaiting main doors
Walls: Primarily complete
Finishes: Awaiting primer and finish paint
Floors: Conc housekeeping pads expansion complete
Mechanical (Chilled water): Chiller lines complete, awaiting CRAH 5 and
insulation

7th Floor Construction Progress Summary:
Tennant: Moved misc. equipment into 7th floor storage area.
Doors: Complete except card readers and elec. strikes.
Floors: Complete. Tile trim req. at suite door.
Voice/Data Security: Card reader and elec. strikes req.
Mechanical (Chilled water): Completed through HVAC closet, awaiting insulation

8th Floor Construction Progress Summary:
Walls: Toilet build-out from deck to clg and lower floor.
Doors/Windows: Rear window used for CRAH walled up.
Floors: Awaiting handrails.
Ceilings: IDF Ceiling partially left open for inspection.
Voice/Data Security: Installation of blue color pipe for Steadfast security and
yellow for data in-progress.
Electrical: Install of lights complete, Wire pulling to PDU’s and Starline complete.
Plumbing: Drain pan installed under overhead lines.
Fire Alarm: Fire alarm control panel installed.
Mechanical (Chilled water): Connections to CRAH units in-progress near
complete, insulation in-progress, variable frequency drives and glycol feed
system on-site awaiting insulation.
Mechanical (Vent): Roof equipment arrived and installation in-progress including
AHU-A, Condensers, exhaust vents. Toilet exhaust complete.
Sprinklers: Total Pac piping complete, sprinkler heads complete.
Finishes: Primer and first coat paint complete.
Freight Elevator: Elevator cab, frame and curb raised and back in-service.
Miscellaneous: Window screens replaced
Roof Construction Progress Summary:
Exterior: Curbs for AHU-A and CU1 & CU2 complete.
Interior: Elec room door completed.
Elec: Ground box installed.

And the pictures - http://steadfast.net/images/march25progress.pdf

Now that all of our dedicated servers come with two drives, with a recommendation of hardware RAID 1 (mirroring).  We have been asked by many customers about RAID, what it is and how it affects them so I figured I'd put this blog post together and share what information I can. If you still have further questions, don't hesitate to contact us.

What is RAID?

RAID stands for Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks. That means that RAID is a way of logically putting multiple disks together into a single array. The idea then is that these disks working together will have the speed and/or reliability of a more expensive disk. Now, the exact speed and reliability you'll achieve from RAID depends on the type of RAID you're using.

Hard drives have a limited speed, due to physical limitations and also due to the mechanical nature have a relatively high failure rate. RAID is meant to help alleviate both of these issues, depending on the RAID type you use. Typically, a hard drive has a 5% chance of failure in the first year of operation. This has been proven by multiple reports and type/brand does not really have much effect (though newer SSDs are significantly more reliable) on this number.

What are the types of RAID?

RAID 0 (Striping) - RAID 0 is taking any number of disks and striping data across all of them. This will greatly increase speeds, as you're reading and writing from multiple disks at a time. An individual file can then use the speed and capacity of all the drives of the array. The downside to RAID 0 though is that it is NOT redundant, the loss of any individual disk will cause complete data loss. I would not recommend ever using RAID 0 in a server environment. You can use it for cache or other purposes where speed is important and reliability/data loss does not matter at all, but it should not be used for anything other than that. As an example, with the 5% annual failure rate of drives, if you have a 6 disk RAID 0 array you've increased your risk of data loss to nearly 27%.

RAID 1 (Mirroring) - RAID 1 is generally used with a pair of disks, though could be done with more, and would identically mirror/copy the data equally across all the drives in the array. The point of RAID 1 is primarily for redundancy, as you can completely lose a drive, but still stay up and running off the additional drive(s). You can then rebuild the array to a new drive off of the other drive with little to no downtime. RAID 1 also gives you the additional benefit of increased read performance as data can be read off any of the drives in the array. The downsides are that you will have slightly higher write latency, since the data needs to be written to all the drives in the array, and you'll only have the available capacity of a single drive.

RAID 5/6 (Striping + Distributed Parity) - RAID 5 requires the use of at least 3 drives (RAID 6 requires at least 4 drives) and will take the idea of RAID 0, striping the data across multiple drives to increase performance, but also adds the aspect of redundancy by distributing parity information across the disks. I will not go into a complex discussion of how this works, but with RAID 5 you can lose one disk and with RAID 6 you can lose two disks and still maintain your operations and data. RAID 5 and 6 will get you significantly improved read performance, but write performance is largely dependent on the RAID controller used, due to the need to calculate the parity data and write it across all the disks. RAID 5 and RAID 6 are often a very good option for a standard web server, where most of the transactions are reads, and get you a good value for your money, as you only need to purchase one additional drive for RAID 5 (or two additional drives for RAID 6). I would not recommend using RAID 5 or RAID 6 for a heavy write environment, such as a database server, as you'll likely hurt your overall performance. In addition, losing a drive in RAID 5 will cause significantly worse performance, as data will need to be calculated out of the parity information and rebuild times are also significantly longer.

RAID 10 (Mirroring + Striping) - RAID 10 requires at least 4 drives and is a combination of RAID 1 (mirroring) and RAID 0 (striping), getting you both increased speed and redundancy. This is often the recommended RAID level if you're looking for speed and still require redundancy. In a four drive configuration, two mirrored drives hold half of the striped data and another two mirror the other half of the data. This means you can lose any single drive, and then possibly even a 2nd drive without losing any data. Just like RAID 1, you'll only have the capacity of half the drives, but you will see improved read and write performance and also have the fast rebuild time of RAID 1.

When should I use RAID?

RAID is extremely useful if reliability and data redundancy are important to you. Even if you take backups, you will need to take the time to restore those backups and those backups could be hours or days old, resulting in data loss. RAID allows you to survive a drive loss without data loss and in many cases without any downtime.

RAID is also useful if you are having disk IO issues, where applications are waiting on the disk to perform tasks. Going with RAID will provide you additional throughput by allowing you to read and write data from multiple drives instead of a single drive. Additionally, if you go with hardware RAID, the hardware RAID card will include additional memory to be used as cache, reducing the strain put on the physical hardware and increase overall performance.

What type of RAID should I use?

No RAID - When you can survive several hours of downtime and/or data loss due to needing to restore your site from backups.

RAID 0 - Never, unless the data has no value to you.

RAID 1 - If you are looking to inexpensively gain additional data redundancy and/or read speeds. A good base RAID level for those looking to achieve high uptime.

RAID 5/6 - Web servers and high read environments. Generally will perform worse than RAID 1 on writes, so if your environment is write heavy or you don't need more space than is allowed on a disk with RAID 1, RAID 1 is likely your most effective option.

RAID 10 - A good all around solution. It will also cost more than all the other options. It offers you additional read and write speed as well as a good level of overall redundancy.

Should I chose hardware RAID or Linux software RAID?

Linux software RAID is the cheaper option, as it does not require a separate hardware RAID card, but it does have some drawbacks. With software RAID, you are not going to get the additional benefit of the cache or dedicated processor on a hardware RAID card, these processes will instead take resources on the processor for the system. With simpler forms of RAID, such as RAID 0 and RAID 1 this is often not an issue, as those calculations are simple, but with RAID 5 and RAID 6 you can see severe performance degradation from software RAID. If you are simply looking to gain additional redundancy with RAID 1, software RAID is a good, cheap option, but if you're looking to also gain significant performance I would highly recommend spending the money on hardware RAID.

We generally do not recommend Windows software RAID as it can often cause various issues, etc. We highly recommend going with hardware RAID or the moterboards host RAID on a Windows based system.

What does RAID cost me?

Software RAID does not add any cost for a RAID controller and is quite easy to calculate the cost of as you are just purchasing additional drives. All of our standard dedicated servers come with at least two drives, meaning there is NO cost for software RAID1, and is highly recommended.  It is highly recommended that drives in a RAID array be of the same type and size. With RAID 0 or RAID 1 you'd need at least two drives, so you would need to purchase one additional drive in most cases. With RAID 5 you'll need at least three drives, so two additional drives, and with RAID 6 or 10 you'd need at least four total drives. To gain additional performance, redundancy, or disk space, you can add more disks to the arrays as well.

With hardware RAID, you have the additional cost of a RAID controller. For doing a two disk array, such as RAID 0 or RAID 1, you would be fine using a $20 per month two port SATA RAID card. This card is a good inexpensive way to get the advantages of a RAID array, but will not allow you to add additional arrays or hot spare drives. We also offer a $50 per month 4/8 port hardware SATA/SAS RAID card. This card includes more memory and a faster processor, to support the more complicated RAID 5/6/10, in addition to more ports. You would then be able to support one array of 4-8 disks or multiple smaller arrays on the single RAID card. We also offer a storage array server that supports up to 16 disks in a RAID array, giving you a myriad of options/configurations. The same disk requirements and costs as are outlined in the software RAID cost section would apply to hardware RAID as well.

What does RAID not do?

RAID does not equate to 100% uptime. There is still a risk of a RAID card failure, though that is significantly lower than a drive failure and there are still software and other hardware causes for system downtime.

RAID does not replace backups. RAID can protect you against a drive failure, but it will not protect you from data corruption, human error, or security issues. There are plenty of reasons other than a drive failure that you should keep backups, so do not take RAID as a replacement for backups.  With server backup options starting at just $9.95/mo , you have no excuse to not backup your valuable data.

RAID does not allow you to dynamically increase the size of the array. If you need more disk space you cannot simply add another drive to the array, you would need to start from scratch, rebuilding/reformatting the array.

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