Deltalis: securing mountains of data
Swiss data centre company, Deltalis, holds a competitive edge that so many businesses can only dream of. Part of why it is such an engaging and attractive prospect for clients is its unique location; the Uri data centre is nestled within an ex-military bunker in a mountain range, only an hour away from Zurich. The bunker was bought in 2007 by private investors, and it was originally intended to be a secure location for storing high-value goods. After speaking with data centre professionals, the bunker’s owners realised the potential of what they had, and more importantly, discovered that data was the most valuable commodity they could store.
“Data and information grows in value,” says Frank Harzheim, CEO and General Manager of Deltalis. “The facility itself had some key features that were just perfect to turn into a data centre. The bunker provides its own cooling water – 730,000 litres of it, which has a constant temperature of 14 degrees. Plus, the mountain where the data centre is located lies right on one of Europe’s main internet backbone routes between Zurich and Milan; connectivity is vital for any data centre of course.”
He adds: “We are also in the fortunate position where our local region – Uri – produces more energy than it can consume. Switzerland is a country that has more energy stability than most, and all our energy is hydroelectric, meaning it’s also carbon-neutral.”
On top of this, Switzerland is an attractive location for international customers; the Deltalis team alone speaks six languages between them. In a time of instability, where data centre decisions are long-term developments requiring a stable environment, it provides strong value being one of the most secure countries in the world.
After four years of construction Deltalis opened its 15,000 square metre facility in 2011, and in 2014, Harzheim was approached to lead the business. He didn’t hesitate to accept.
Harzheim admits that once the Uri data centre was opened, approaching the market was a whole new challenge. A strategic marketing campaign was arranged with the view to penetrate the international market in a serious way, and the introduction of Harzheim to the team was part of that plan.
In 2015 the marketing strategy and corporate identity were defined, but the priority for Harzheim was the acquisition of the necessary certifications that would prove Deltalis’s worth, despite the company’s youth.
“During that year, we got the mandatory certifications that are needed, like ISO27001,” he explains. “So we got certified, we built an operational team and a sales team, and we were prepared to take Deltalis to the market as a strong business.”
To bolster this move even further, Deltalis chose to go above and beyond and acquire another certification. In an expensive and thorough examination, the data centre was tested for electromagnetic pulses and found to be completely EMP-protected. IT infrastructure demands protection from EMP, as extended blackouts have the potential to be devastating. EMP attacks can be man-made or natural, and neither can truly be prepared for. Deltalis’s testing and certification was performed by EMShield GmbH, which is a leading expert in the field of planning and project implementation of electromagnetically shielded rooms.
“Of course ISO27001 is a tough one, and it’s important, but it doesn’t differentiate you in the market,” Harzheim explains. “Only a few data centres in the world can claim they are military-grade EMP protected and certified. Since then, we’ve been working on the commercial side of the business, and are experiencing excellent momentum and growth.”
While Deltalis has immersed itself in the market at incredible speed, there are of course pros and cons to being such a young business. Those that have been around for longer have structure, resources, and visibility already – the latter being vital to success.
“Being a young company, we had to build momentum quickly,” Harzheim says. “That’s difficult. We took an existing facility and turned it into a data centre, which wasn’t its original function, so it took a lot of important due diligence to make sure the facility was perfect. This is something that was not necessarily an advantage compared to other companies.
“When you make a decision like this, you have to look at all the parts, and know what is going to be an advantage and what will be a disadvantage.”
Of course, the advantages Deltalis enjoys far outweigh any challenges it has faced. Another aspect of the business which – like the EMP protection – acts as a true differentiator, is that it’s officially hyper secure. Most data centres are secure places, but others are simply far more so.
“We were approached by a group of auditors on behalf of a bank, and they were ticking boxes about our security,” Harzheim explains. “They had specific data centre questionnaires, like ‘how much weight of snow does your roof support?’, and ‘do you have any obstacles to avoid vehicles attacking the building?’ The questions sound ridiculous, but because our data centre is 300 metres inside a mountain, we are able to offer things you wouldn’t normally think about. The facility isn’t even reachable except for staff and customers. If you look at an ordinary data centre compared to ours, you’ll see there’s a huge gap between secure and hyper secure.”
While Deltalis achieves top marks for efficiency, green credentials, and security, it does not waver from its quest to keep improving. The main challenge for co-location projects is intelligent capacity planning, and this is something Harzheim prioritises. He aims to propel technology according to growth, and the growth Deltalis has experienced already has meant that it is currently building a new co-location room and two private suites.
“In this sense, we are of course adapting our technology. It’s standard in the data centre business that even if you have a large or a new building for a data centre, one part is completely equipped and the rest is ready to be completed, considering projects that are expected to come.”
Of course, a vital key to successful penetration of the market is having a team of people who believe in the vision. For a young and growing company, sourcing the best talent is more difficult than for a more established business, but Deltalis holds an edge of attractiveness that a lot of newcomers do not.
“You need people who believe in the potential of the business,” Harzheim explains. “What is important is that everyone has an area of responsibility and everyone is a team player. Leadership isn’t about telling others what to do, it’s about letting them know what they could do and giving them the responsibility of doing what’s best for the business. This is one thing we’ve implemented in our leadership culture. I’m proud of the team – they are great people with passion and excellent knowledge.”
Deltalis has also created strong processes that are integrated company-wide and followed by everybody. Staff are required to support the hyper secure nature of the business, and in return, they are cared for every step of the way – from prior employment, to during employment, to after employment.
This care for people extends beyond employees and to the customers: “What further differentiates us is our customer focus,” Harzheim states. “We are adding new services, such as Remote Management as a Service (Deltalis Virtual Reach), and DCIM as a service (Deltalis Virtual View). With this we offer our clients to connect to ITR equipment remotely, anywhere and anytime.”
Deltalis has proven its industry impact already, with two key events that occurred in London earlier this year. After Harzheim spoke at Data Centre World about the very complex realm in which he works and how Deltalis can simplify it, Deltalis then brought together lawyers, politicians, and other interested top-level UK parties to talk about data protection and its ongoing projects. This in particular was a milestone for the company – one even a lot of established organisations have not yet enjoyed. Government officials, other businesses, and customers alike are discovering the power of the rare and incredible advantages Deltalis boasts, and it is something that will continue to propel the company forward at speed.
“The most important aspect of this business is security, both digital and physical,” Harzheim concludes. “People want a place they can store their data knowing it’s there and only there. Then they start to say ‘I love this application, but I only want it if I know it’s physically secure in the right place, and in the right country’. That’s an issue we see. Location is so important at the moment, and we have the right answer for it.”