TSTT

Cross-sectional view of TSTT’s data hall showing multiple rows of racks with their redundant power and networking paths.

MAJORITY State-owned TSTT’s data centre is located in a deliberately nondescript building just behind the PriceSmart in Mausica.

The security guard at the entrance of the compound not only checks the trunks of cars entering the compound, but she also deploys an inspection mirror to view the undersides of all vehicles. That includes the vehicle that transported TSTT’s chief executive Lisa Agard and two executives to the data centre for a presentation on its work and a tour of the facility.

Security is very important at the MDC, (Mausica Data Centre) but so are a host of other variables including site location, architectural layout, fire detection and suppression, physical security and ability to withstand strong earthquakes and hurricanes.

But most important for a data centre, the TSTT executives explained, is that every aspect of it must be completely redundant, especially the electricity supply. The facility must be strictly temperature, humidity and dust-controlled 100 per cent of the time, which dictates that the compound must be fed by two 12 kilovolt electricity lines coming from different sources as well as a back-up generation supply that can last for 14 days at 100 per cent capacity.

The data centre itself is backed up by a mirror facility at one of TSTT’s exchanges.

Those redundancies were responsible for the data centre receiving the TIA-942 B Tier III certification in 2014 from the Telecommunications Industry Association, which makes it the only data centre with such accreditation in the Caribbean and one of only nine in the western hemisphere. Answering questions after the presentation last week, Agard said Flow also has a Tier III accreditation, but theirs is from Uptime, which she said is much less rigorous than the TIA process.

Agard told Express Business that TSTT’s cloud offering is one of two areas the company is looking to invest money in and develop further (the other is the provision of fintech services, for which TSTT is now conducting a rigourous due diligence execrise on its proposed partner).

“This facility at Mausica was commissioned in 2010 and we’ve had zero downtime in the ten years of its operation,” said Agard, a regional telecommunications industry veteran, who was appointed as acting CEO following the sudden departure of Ronald Walcott, effective October 1, 2020.

“We started the data centre to put up our own applications in the clould, but we have since expanded it to provide services to external customers,” she said.

“What our Tier III status allows us to do is offer a whole range of adjacent services such as back-up and data recovery as a service, software as a service, private cloud, and public cloud,” said Agard, adding, “All of these services are becoming increasingly important, in the event that there is some kind of cyber attack or breach in data at a company. In 2021, all companies need to ensure that their data is protected and properly backed up, which is what the Mausica Data Centre offers.”

TSTT, which is 51 per cent owned by the State’s investment holdings company, National Enterprises Ltd, is looking to make public cloud offering available to the Government, which is engaged in a drive to digitalise the administration of the public services as quickly as possible.

Manager of the Mausica Data Centre, Sean Koon Koon said: “Based on our experience, for the Government to build a data centre would take at least two years, if they have the land. And that is with the understanding that the land has multiple electrical access points and networking points feeding the land.

“So if the Government were to build a data centre for itself, it would be pushing the whole digital transformation of the administration of public services at least three years down the road. That’s because they would have to build the data centre and then the cloud on top of that.”

He said the TSTT data centre at Mausica is available for the Government’s use immediately. That would allow the Government to “ignite the digital transformation and then in two years time when they have built their data centre, they can then move their servers to there and use Mausica as a back-up facility.”

Koon Koon, who is a Vmware-certified data centre expert, explained that for a data centre the most critical bottleneck for growth is the availability of power and Mausica’s power availability is now at 48 per cent.

One of the data centre’s largest clients is one of the region’s largest financial services providers and TSTT sees opportunities for growth in the provision of data storage and services to third parties, in T&T and throughout the region.

“We are in very advanced discussions with the government of a Caricom neighbour of T&T’s to have some of their capacity requirements for a data centre located here. One of the things theytold us was that they were happy to know that their data would be in a cloud in T&T and not in the US or Europe.” The TSTT CEO said the data centre provides regional opportunities for countries that are located in the hurricane belt. Those countries can use Trinidad and Tobago as a centre to backup their data, Agard said.

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