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A Random Walk Down Brick Lane

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Having spent some time last year at Equinix’s LD4 data centre in Slough for a piece in our A-Team Insight Quarterly magazine – and getting an exclusive preview of the LD5 facility, then under construction, I jumped at the chance last week to tour Interxion’s Brick Lane site.

To paraphrase (badly) Camper Van Beethoven’s Take the Skinheads Bowling (view it here), ‘Some people say data centres all look the same, look the same…’. Except when they don’t. It’s true that once you’re inside, there are many similarities of appearance and atmosphere, layout and design. But in the world of data centres for financial markets, Interxion Brick Lane (aka LON-1) and Equinix LD4/LD5 are about as different as you can get.

That’s because, as our Interxion tour guide David Sandars puts it, Brick Lane was built within the restrictions of a 1960s inner-London former brewery (the old Truman Brewery, if you’re interested). That’s in sharp contrast to Equinix’s facility in Slough, which has the air of a Heathrow aircraft hangar. Without a hint of understatement, Sandar notes: “There’s a lot of space out there.”

Space is not a luxury afforded Interxion LON-1. The data centre is squeezed quietly among the trendy bars, galleries and Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants of Brick Lane on the edge of fashionable Shoreditch (aka the ‘Ditch). It’s just a few steps from East Gallery, which attendees of our A-Team Art events will be familiar.

As such, the overriding descriptor for LON-1 is compact. Somehow, lnterxion’s design team – which developed the site in 2000 – have managed to insert 4,300 square metres of client rack space between the four walls of the old brewery building, where the ground floor floor still bears the marks of the giant beer barrels used in the brewing process.

They’ve wedged in four N+1 generators complete with 24 hours of fuel onsite. They’ve created fibre optic connections at diametrically opposed ends of the facility. And they’ve deployed the ubiquitous uninterruptible power supply to deal with the brown-outs and power spikes that come with the territory.

But what Brick Lane lacks in space, it makes up for in proximity. Here are some examples:

  • London Stock Exchange/Turquoise: distance 2km, 12 microseconds.
  • Bats Europe: distance 7.5km, 46 microseconds.
  • Chi-X Europe, Slough: distance 48km, 240 microseconds.

Last but far from least is the fact that the Interxion LON-1 is the closest SFTI Network POP to NYSE Euronext Basildon, with 237 microseconds to the new facility there. So, if you want fast access to NYSE Euronext markets without the cost of collocation in Basildon, Interxion reckons it’s the fastest game in town. Likewise, with London Stock Exchange’s matching engines – apparently the world’s fastest now that the Millennium Exchange platform is live for at least one of its markets – proximity clients can get superfast access to LSE’s main market, Turquoise, Borsa Italiana and Oslo Bourse. This latter access comes courtesy of a collaborative agreement between the two markets, with LSE providing the matching engine for Norwegian stocks. Which is why Financial Network of Norway (you guessed it: FNN), has bought rack space at Interxion LON-1. FNN is owned by a bunch of Nordic banks and is offering proximity services to clients out of Brick Lane.

Interxion’s Lilia Severina, who looks after financial markets customers, gives a few other recent examples of overseas markets making use of the LON-1 facility, among them the Madrid markets, both cash and derivatives, as well as Burgundy MTF in the Nordics.

Indeed, Interxion has added a bunch of clients since we last touched base with Lilia in the spring, when she appeared in our A-Team Low Latency video series, which was sponsored by Interxion and Citihub Link 11. As well as new connections to overseas markets, and the inevitable undisclosed hedge fund and prop trader clients, vendors like Activ Financial and Fixnetix have taken rack space there.

Severina, like just about everyone else I’ve met this past couple of weeks, is just back from a trip to Asia. In her case, it was Hong Kong, which she described as buzzing with all things low latency.

Interxion is now looking at best routes for connecting to key markets in the region from its data centres in Europe. And of course it’s looking for opportunities to host Asian matching engines as the region plays extraordinary technology catchup – and possible leapfrog – of its peers in the twin Old Worlds of Europe and America.

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