Novartis consolidates its server pharm

Pharmaceutical giant merges Latam IT into one modular site in Mexico

19 February 2015 by Virginia Toledo - DatacenterDynamics

Novartis consolidates its server pharm
Thinkstock / badmanproduction

Swiss pharmaceutical group Novartis is consolidating all its IT in Latin America, into a new Tier III data center in Mexico which is capable of hosting applications for customers in different countries across the region. 

"Prior to the development of the new data center in Mexico we had a Tier III data center that prevented the growth of the company,” says Ivan Breton, physical data center administrator for Novartis in Mexico. The old site had insufficient features to support the controls and compliance that Novartis needed.

Novartis is a $57 billion pharmaceutical giant, formed in 1996 by the merger of Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz. In Latin America, it decided on Mexico as the best strategic location to consolidate its IT business, including the business units Sandoz and Novartis Animal Health, and central functions such as human resources (HR).

Modular and flexible
The effort won Novartis’ IT team a prize in the 2014 Latam IT Awards, and it was also a finalist in the DatacenterDynamics Latam Awards 2014, in the category for Innovation in the Medium Data Center.

The new Novartis data center is modular, flexible and expandable, with a total planning capacity of five rows of racks, that can be redeployed to make the best use of resources.

After consolidating services and servers, the server farm was reduced by 30 percent; the servers currently occupy only two rows - containing more than 60 active servers - which is about 35 percent of the total capacity, says Breton, adding: “obviously the idea is to grow.”

The new data center is located in a former storehouse in a Novartis campus in Churubusco, Mexico City. There is restricted access through a controlled entrance hall, and the data center itself also has a network operations center (NOC), as well as storage and staging areas.  

The total area of 572 square meters includes 120 sq m of white space. The power capacity of 228 kVA / 230kW represents about 60 percent of the power consumed by the old data center.

Novartis used an external firm for the design and installation of the new center, as well as the transfer of IT equipment from the sites which were consolidated. "An external provider manages the total operation of the servers,” Breton confirmed, including operations such as switching servers on or off, and verifying backups. Novartis hasn’t named this provider.

The data center uses advanced technologies for environmental protection. These include controlled lighting with movement detection, "in-row cooling" and fire detection and suppression systems.

Harmless fire suppression
The fire detection system is an important innovation. It monitors and analyzes the circulating air in the whole site,  and has controls installed in every area of the data center.  "This allows us to directly identify the type of alarm,” says Breton.

The suppression system uses Ecaro-25 (pentafluoroethane) which can inhibit fire, without harming humans or damaging the ozone layer. There is a separate tank of the agent to cover each area of the data center.

The racks are arranged with hot and cold aisles confined by screens so cooling can be concentrated in the critical area row by row.

"Previously, there was no confinement. The cooling equipment worked at full capacity, and the whole room felt cold,” said Breton. “With the screens in place, we have reduced consumption and obtained great savings.”

For the next year, Novartis plans to concentrate more services from its local divisions, build a virtualized environment, and move to new cooling technologies including complete aisle confinement. Alternatively Novartis could duplicate its existing scheme and add two new chillers and more equipment in-row.


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