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Scottrade's new data center: Redundant everything

Online trading firm moves up to new IT quarters to avoid downtime

June 19, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - REJIS isn't the only St. Louis-based organization that has relocated its IT operations to a new data center this spring. Online trading company Scottrade Inc. recently completed a move of its own to a new $25 million IT facility.

The new data center, located in a St. Louis suburb, is the largest technology investment that Scottrade has made since it was founded in 1980, according to CIO Ian Patterson.

"This wasn't as much a move as it was a revamping of the technology," Patterson said. "We actually redesigned the entire network core and all the infrastructure on the trading floor. It was a greenfield approach."

The 34,000-square-foot data center boasts a 10 Gigabit Ethernet backbone, versus Gigabit Ethernet in the old facility, and the PowerEdge blade servers that support Scottrade's trading floor have been upgraded to Dell Inc.'s so-called 9th Generation models. The raised-floor portion of the facility comprises about 11,000 square feet, large enough to hold about 100 people in addition to all the systems, Patterson said.

The data center includes exterior security cameras that prescreen visitors, while internal security measures include the use of card keys, motion-activated surveillance cameras and biometric palm scanners.

The facility also features fully redundant electrical and cooling systems. Two liquid chillers do the cooling, with a third that can be added if the raised-floor portion of the data center ever needs to be expanded, Patterson said. Dual-power feeds are connected to each server rack, and some have quadruple electricity hookups. In addition, each of Scottrade's two backup generators can support the entire data center if the other goes down.

Because of the situation with the electrical grid in St. Louis, Scottrade wasn't able to tap into multiple power suppliers -- a common strategy in some data centers. "That's why we went with dual generators and a battery backup system," Patterson explained. "Our battery system is rated for seven minutes but in testing [ran] for 10. And our generators take about one-and-a-half minutes to power up, so we're covered."

Another improvement is the addition of a loading dock that includes a large storage area, plus an equipment burn-in room directly between the dock and the data center. "In the old facility, we didn't have enough dock space to get new products in, so we made sure to improve that flow," Patterson said.

The new data center is located about 8 miles away from the old one, so personnel issues weren't an issue in the move. Patterson said that the upgraded facility was needed to avoid trading downtime and latency, and that it should be able to handle Scottrade's processing requirements for the next five years.



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