Big Interview

In the eye of the storm: operating a data centre in Lombardy

Gabriele Sposato.jpg

Data Economy speaks to Gabriele Sposato, CMO of Aruba S.P.A. on how the business is handling this crisis whilst keeping services running without interruption

First identified in the city of Wuhan, Hubei, China, last December, the Covid-19 Coronavirus has spread across the globe at an unprecedented rate, infecting more than 250,000 and killing over 10,000 people, with official figures no hiding what is still about to come.

Outbreaks outside of China in South Korea, Japan, Iran and Italy, became the more regionalised epicentres of the disease that spread to almost all countries and territories on the planet.

In Europe, Italy has been severely impacted, and a large part of the cases across the continent and other regions has been traced back to Italy, especially the northern part of the country, in the Lombardy region.

If we look at the epicentre, right in the middle is the city of Bergamo with a population of approximately 122,000 which has been hit by the virus as almost nowhere else as.

And it is precisely in Bergamo that one of Italy’s – and Europe’s as well – largest data centre campuses operates.

Sitting on more than two million square feet of land, Aruba S.p.A.’s hyperscale data centre operations in Bergamo power hundreds of businesses across Italy and Central Europe.

With the pandemic taking never seen proportions in the Lombardy region, Data Economy spoke to Gabriele Sposato, CMO of Aruba S.P.A. on how the business is handling this crisis whilst keeping services running without interruption

How is Covid-19 impacting the business?

Our data centres and services are continuing to operate with no interruptions but of course Coronavirus has impacted people’s lives in Italy and across the world. We’ve all had to change our daily habits and for some of us that includes the way we work. Inside Italy, travelling and transferring from one point to another is forbidden in most cases. Only travel deemed necessary is allowed to pass through checkpoints.

From an operations perspective, at the moment Aruba employees have been instructed to operate remotely in the safe confines of their homes. So, what was originally intended for some of our workforce has now been extended to the majority of the employees. Aruba is in a better position compared to companies in other sectors. In IT, work can largely be done remotely, and the benefits of working in such a sector, is that most if not all work can be performed remotely.

The current situation does not have an immediate block or a devastating impact in the short term but we can say that our employees who operate remotely from home, are benefiting from our full IT support, including being equipped with laptops/computers, VPN to access shared internal systems and materials, tools to allow virtual meetings, 1:1’s, call conferences and so on.

Have any of your staff tested positive and how did the business deal with the outcome?

It is a scenario that we are trying to avoid and we are taking care of all aspects and applying all measures to keep the business running.  If this does happen, it will not be affecting our services or data centres.

What is your contingency plan?

We are 100% operational on a remote working level and to support remote working, our employees have been provided with all the necessary tools at our disposal so that they can continue to service our data centres and let our customers be supported with all the services needed.

Within the data centres themselves, we have taken extra care and attention towards implementing measures that would allow us to protect the premises and allow our employees to continue their shifts, monitoring the DC infrastructure, and, in general, the facility. This includes cleaning, disinfecting, providing masks to staff on site, etc. This is what we generally do in the FOC (Facility Operation Center) and NOC (Network Operation Center) so we are well prepared for this.

Across the wider business this means we are empowering ‘virtual’ relationships with our other colleagues, teams, staff and customers too. Crucially, we have the skills and experience necessary to make the company work even in a different configuration that we’re not used to on a day-to-day basis.

An active task force which includes Aruba’s management is monitoring the situation day by day, by considering all the continuous governmental rules and the national healthcare system advice which is to be applied in order to take all the necessary measures and guarantee the business continuity and our employees’ safety.

How do you keep the site running 24/7, presumably dealing with a spike in traffic as millions quarantine?

Keeping our services online is an essential part of our business. It’s for that reason that our systems are built and managed to perform, even with increased demand.

We are prepared for events such as this and as a result, our customers can be sure we are taking care of all of their needs. We have adopted and applied all necessary measures in order to let our data centers/services run as normal.

How is Covid-19 affecting your other business regions of operation in Poland, Germany, CZ, France and the UK?

As this is a global issue there is of course a wide-ranging impact, but we are working with our local teams and partners to ensure there is no interruption to our services and all our customers across Europe should be aware of the fact that we adopted all the correct and possible measures. As a matter of fact, we can guarantee our SLA.

How is this pandemic affecting the long term plans for the business?

Nobody can determine the long-term impact, however, there will be risks, but also opportunities. At the moment we are currently focused on providing daily support to our staff and customers. Ensuring staff are healthy and customers experience no interruption to their service are key.

How is Aruba helping the local community during this crisis?

In this first phase, we’re focusing on our employees. This is a priority because by guaranteeing their work and contracts, we are ensuring we support them and their families in this difficult scenario.

At the same time, we are also activating specific initiatives which include providing concrete equipment to support local health facilities in Tuscany and Lombardy.