Interxion’s Miriam van Kooperen on kitting out today’s data centres

Data centres are the engine rooms of our cloud age, but to design them, build them and kit them out is a mammoth and highly detailed task.

The design has to take into account security, cooling, connectivity, energy efficiency and many more factors that most people who do not work in data centres are rarely aware of.

Interxion is a leading provider of colocation data centre services across Europe, supporting more than 1,600 customers in more than 40 data centres. In 2017, Interxion opened its third Dublin data centre, called DUB3, which represented a capital investment of €28m.

Spearheading the procurement of the materials, equipment and more for each and every design and build is Miriam van Kooperen, European procurement and vendor manager at Interxion. Prior to joining Interxion four years ago, she held senior strategic procurement roles with companies such as Unisys, Thomas Cook and DHL.

Tell us about the responsibilities of your role and how you got here.

I started working for Interxion four years ago in a job called procurement and vendor manager. The intention was to increase the amount of procurement we were doing in Interxion because, before I joined the company, the role was mainly focused on vendor management – so, keeping the relationships with our main suppliers.

As we were (and are) still growing … it seemed logical to focus on the construction of our new data centres. I started doing that mainly for the main equipment at first. I went to Germany to one of our biggest data centres at the time and I started investigating the costs – differences between what was offered by our main contractors that we used before, and what it would cost if we would buy the equipment directly ourselves. And the difference was significant, so that made us wonder if we could do it differently going forward.

We started buying our main equipment ourselves directly and we started calling it Direct Procurement to make it easy for everyone … Before that, we called them main contractors or  general contractors, and they would deliver us turnkey solutions, and they would do the construction of the shell and core, the fit-out of the data centre, and they would buy the equipment.

And nowadays we do it a bit differently.

What is involved in procuring critical data centre equipment?

The equipment that we see as critical data centre equipment, in that we are buying directly, we can divide it into two categories: the mechanical and the electrical equipment. So, the cooling equipment is what we call the mechanical equipment, and the generators, UPSs [uninterruptible power supplies], transformers, stuff like that is what we call the electrical equipment.

The details and specifications are done by our engineering department, also based in our headquarters in Amsterdam, together with the engineers that we are using in the different countries. The requirements are sent to our preferred suppliers and they come back to us with their quotes on this – and based on that we decide where we buy which equipment.

How do you measure supply and demand as well as forecasting to ensure the timely delivery of equipment before a data centre goes live?

It becomes a bit more difficult nowadays because the market is quite stressed, so it is a combination of working with the different departments within our company.

I work with the engineers, so, based on the design of the data centre, they calculate exactly how much equipment is needed for a fully equipped data centre. Next to that, there are of course always the project teams in the countries. They are very important because they work with the design teams within the countries. They also communicate with the CEO’s department because our customers’ contracts give us an indication of the load that we can expect and how that will evolve over time.

Based on this information, I work with my main suppliers, give them an indication of the … equipment that is needed but also the timelines, which are very important. And then, product by product, we decide whether we need alternative suppliers or not.

How do you see your role changing as technology evolves?

I do not see my role changing that much. Technology evolves, that is right, but as I said before I am working a lot with our engineering department and with the engineering companies in the countries. So, whatever changes they see and they feel are needed for us, I’m just following them. It does have an impact, of course, on what I am buying, but not so much on my role in itself.

We are becoming more professional in the way we are procuring our new data centres, so that’s the part that I still see changing and there is still work to do there as well, of course.

Updated, 4.15pm, 8 March 2019: This article was updated to clarify that Interxion opened the DUB3 data centre in 2017, not 2018.

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