AirTrunk opens $200m Sydney data centre

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AirTrunk opens $200m Sydney data centre

"Mammoth" facility built in just 10 months.

Startup data centre provider AirTrunk has launched its "mammoth" 64,000 square metre Sydney facility after spending more than $200 million and 10 months on the first phase of the construction.

The first phase boasts 20MW of capacity and AirTrunk today announced it was breaking ground on a second phase, which will add 10MW when it launches in mid-2018.

AirTrunk claims to be Australia's largest carrier-neutral data centre. By contrast, NextDC's S1 facility is 12MW and Digital Realty's Erskine Park facility is 6MW.

The massive Sydney facility took 460,000 hours of work over 44 weeks, using 1350 tonnes of steel, 9000 cubic metres of concrete and 50km of cable.

The site's master plan includes scope for more than 80MW of IT load and 30 modular data halls across four construction phases, and will employ 180 staff at its completion.

AirTrunk is also launching a site in Melbourne with a maximum capacity of 50MW, and is already eyeing expansion into Asia.

The company's leadership team draws experience from the country's biggest data centre and cloud companies.

Chief executive Robin Khuda helped launch NextDC and also worked for Pipe Networks and Fujitsu.

Chief technology officer Damian Spillane previously worked at Digital Realty, while chief commercial officer Michael Juniper jumped from Metronode and chief development officer Paul Slaven joined from AWS.

AirTrunk, which is financed by Goldman Sachs and TPG Capital, specifically targets hyperscale cloud providers as customers.

It has taken a ruthless focus on availability, cost-efficiency, quick deployment and scalability to meet the needs of demanding customers like Microsoft Azure, AWS and Google, Khuda said.

"Some of the data centre providers go after the retail customers – they are selling two racks, five racks, a caged area. We really focus on the big hyperscale cloud providers. They usually deploy multiple megawatt capacity," said Khuda.

AirTrunk expects individual customers to take entire data halls: the Sydney facility will house more than 30 discrete halls, each offering around 2.5-3MW of capacity.

The company is banking on the site's scalability to attract public cloud providers as they undergo rampant growth. AWS grew revenue 43 percent to US$3.7 billion for the first quarter of this year, while Azure sales jumped 93 percent (Microsoft does not break out revenue).

"For a big cloud provider to set up their network node availability zone is $50-60 million investment," Khuda said.

"They don't want to be in 50 different data centres for that infrastructure. They want to be in a campus where they can grow over the long term."

Khuda estimated that AirTrunk saved 30-50 percent on the typical capital expenditure to build a data centre thanks to economies of scale and its modular, pre-fabricated design.

The location in the western Sydney suburb of Huntingwood also ensured lower land costs.

AirTrunk also pays less for power – typically a data centre's most significant input cost – due to its on-site electricity infrastructure, which CTO Spillane called "one of our key distinguishing factors".

The Sydney facility has a 132kV diverse high-voltage power feed, fed by two onsite substations – enough electricity to power 24,000 homes, according to AirTrunk.

"Buying at a higher voltage is a big cost benefit for our customers and is also scalable. We can scale up to an extraordinary amount of power without getting additional utility infrastructure," Spillane said.

Khuda estimated this model of electricity consumption would save 8-10 percent of typical power costs.

AirTrunk Sydney in numbers

  • Total capacity: more than 80MW
  • PUE (power usage effectiveness): 1.15
  • Data halls: 30
  • Investment: $200 million
  • Construction time: 44 weeks
  • Land size: 64,000sqm
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