Data Centre Security: ‘Know Your Onions’

Chris Plimley

Chris Plimley

The data centre market is presently booming right across the globe and with it, explains Chris Plimley, the need for intelligent, integrated security systems designed from the outside in and with the potential intruder’s perspective very much in mind.

The UK data centre market has grown by double digit figures across the past three years, fuelled in part by strong demand from the technology, media and telecoms industries but also a demonstrable growth in hybrid cloud services.

Indeed, a report recently published by research and consulting organisation Mordor Intelligence forecasts that this global growth trend will continue over the next five years. The analyst predicts that the power market for global data centres will grow from its $15.07 billion valuation in 2014 to $24.01 billion by the end of 2019. That represents a compound annual growth rate of 9.67%.

The rise in the data centre colocation market is a little steeper at 12.26%, with growth from $25.07 billion in 2014 to $44.69 billion expected by the end of 2019. This forecast comes on the back of increasing concerns around the spiralling costs of running data centres.

That said, the most spectacular growth Mordor Intelligence forecasts lies within the global green data centre market, which is predicted to grow at 27.44% from $23.41 billion to $78.69 billion in the five years leading up to 2019.

Witnessing the trends at work

We’ve witnessed all three trends at play in our work with UK data centre service provider Gyron. This is an NTT Communications Corporation company serving as the network, cloud and international communications business within the NTT Corporation.

The business provides highly resilient and energy-efficient data centre services, in turn supporting business-critical IT applications for customers thanks to five state-of-the-art data centre facilities located in the South East of England. These have a total of 49 MW of power.

The Campus – which is built on a 9.5-acre site near two existing Gyron data centres in Hemel Hempstead – will provide around 10,000 square metres of servers, expanding the NTT Communications Corporation’s total server room area in the UK by 2.5 times.

The facility achieves a power usage effectiveness of under 1.2. This places it among the most energy efficient data centres in the UK as a direct result of adopting advanced green technology for cooling. That technology encompasses end wall injection air conditioning, water-side economisation and chimney racks to expel heat.

It will also be the first large-scale commercial colocation data centre in the UK to offer the option of a chiller-free cooling system which opens up approximately 30% more energy capacity for ICT systems without expanding the power system (and without introducing outside air in to the server room).

Increasing demand for physical security

Alongside this data centre growth is a similar boom in physical security at such sites and its integration with human and electronic security measures. Perimeter security designs can mimic the systems and methods used by the data centre operators themselves to protect their equipment and data assets. Much like the skins around an onion, multiple layers of security protection may be developed around the potential data centre target.

The idea is to design security protection from the perimeter inwards towards the centre, taking each successive boundary as an opportunity to harden security, thwart intruders and enable security personnel to respond to any attempted security breach.

Clearly, data centres will focus on the security of confidential information and the steps that must be taken to protect the integrity of critical data stored within. However, this is worthless if the physical security measures adopted at the centre are not up to the same standard. This is where the ‘Onion Skin’ or ‘Onion Principle’ approach ensures an increasing level of security the closer an intruder is to the most critical and sensitive assets on a site.

As is the case with the old saying ‘poachers turned gamekeepers’, it’s vital that intelligent security solutions are designed from the mindset of the potential intruder and the multiple methods of attack they might use to attempt to gain entry. Thorough site audits will take into consideration existing security measures and identify any potential weaknesses. They’ll also play an active role in the development of a fully integrated security system. A system that’s fit to face the challenges of the various methods and forces of attack employed by the modern day intruder.

Data centres: typical security solutions

Our own specifications for end user customers have typically involved a Critical National Infrastructure ArmaWeave Plus fencing system on the outer perimeter. We’ve also employed hostile vehicle mitigation measures – often referred to as HVM – specifically designed to deter vehicle-borne attacks.

CCTV and enhanced video analytics on the outer layers of perimeter security solutions allow the end user to gather intelligence about attackers and relay this information to security officers on a live basis via mobile phones or tablets. It’s also possible to integrate lighting, surveillance and perimeter intrusion detection systems in order to deliver an holistic security solution.

As well as protecting the data servers themselves, other critical systems need to be factored-in. These would include power systems and standby generators as well as cooling solutions.

Finally, ensure that access control is integrated such that it allows only authorised staff through gates and doors. Be sure to lock down high security areas and employ airlock-type controls to avoid any unauthorised ‘tailgating’.

Chris Plimley is Sales Manager for High Security Products at Zaun

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014 and as Editor of The Paper (Pro-Activ Publications' dedicated business newspaper for security professionals) in September 2015. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk Xtra at Pro-Activ Publications in May 2018.

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