A Rock-Solid Foundation for a Data Center in the Swiss Mountains


Too many companies lack focus. Time and again, I see organizations bogged down by attempting to do it all. They may begin with a clear, simplistic focus—but it doesn't stay that way for very long. As they continue to grow, they suddenly find themselves pulled in a million different directions. Instead of doing one or even a few things incredibly well, they do a lot of things adequately.

At MOUNT10, we pride ourselves on the way we've resisted fracturing our focus. Our singular, dedication mission is the same today as it was when we opened our doors 12 years ago: We want to protect the business of our customers at all costs.

We offer our customers modern, sophisticated level of data protection by way of the best hardware and software available. We store their data in a secure and safe manner so that even if something happens with their own business—be it a cyber-attack or fire—they know their data will be right there waiting. For many of our customers, their data is their lifeblood, and they’d cease to exist without it. In the World Economic Forum's latest Global Risk report, they listed cyber-attacks as the leading risk among European businesses. We don’t take this responsibility lightly.

We store our customer’s data fully encrypted, but we take things a step further. We also store our servers in two army facilities in the Swiss mountains. We have two underground bunkers, one of which is still in full operation by the Swiss Army. We call them SWISS FORT KNOX I and SWISS FORT KNOX II. 

The math is simple: twice the infrastructure = twice the headaches. @CiscoGateway

Having two facilities is of paramount importance, since if we rely only on one raid controller and one server protecting the data of our customers, we're still exposed to certain types of threats. Taking this approach meant we had two physical locations and two sets of servers from different vendors. But while two different locations and technology was critical to protecting our customers’ data, it certainly didn’t come without its challenges. 

From Two to One

With off-the-shelf servers from two different vendors, this was an exceptionally expensive setup since there was no consolidation. Managing two different infrastructures in separate locations was also complex to manage. 

We knew we needed to consolidate our server and management technology to streamline our operations across the two sites. But at the same time, we couldn’t risk our client’s data. Any new solution we’d implement had to keep our core business objective intact. Lowering operating costs doesn’t matter if you lose all your customers.

Don’t let the desire for lower costs trump your principles. @CiscoGateway

In our hunt for a new solution, we looked at Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS) solution and one other vendor. Cisco got off to a head start for a couple of reasons. The first was because their UCS S3260 rack server could hold up to 600 terabytes of data despite its compact size. That decision alone would significantly impact our bottom line, especially when you consider how we double up on data storage from clients. If a client sends us one terabyte of data, we need space for two—one for each site.

The second reason is also a personal one: I worked for Cisco earlier in my career. That is also one reason why we thought about Cisco in the first place. I knew the company behind the product, which is always assuring. 

But my previous relationship was not enough to seal the deal. We still had to guarantee this solution was truly the best for the sake of our customers.

Luckily, the tests we conducted were as straightforward as they were comprehensive. First, we installed the server with a hypervisor. Next, we put the software for our customers on it and built what amounted to a mirror site. We mirrored a few of our existing servers onto that Cisco server, creating a massive load on that equipment. We conducted this type of test for Cisco and the other vendor. The other solution simply couldn’t handle the load.

After that test, and analyzing the total cost of ownership between Cisco UCS and the other solution, Cisco became the clear choice. None of the other options in the industry could match Cisco’s price for performance.

More Reliability, Less Stress

Implementing Cisco UCS has had a major impact on our operations at MOUNT10. With our old infrastructure, we would have to install about four new servers a month as our data needs and business continued to grow. Now, we can get away with installing about two servers every six months. This means less maintenance and implementation time.

But the issue isn't just installation tasks, which take a lot of time in order to properly scale up. You also have to think about power consumption—another area where Cisco's equipment excels. 

And now that all of our technology is with one vendor per mountain, it’s greatly reduced our administrative burden. An example of that is a firmware update. If you need to upgrade 100's of servers to address a security issue, that means 100's of updates. Undoubtedly, some will fail, which can lead to disruptions in service. But with fewer servers to manage—and a better interface to manage them with—the process is radically simplified. It’s faster, more reliable, and less likely something will break. 

Server consolidation means firmware upgrades don’t need to be a nightmare. @CiscoGateway

With an environment as complex as ours, the amount of “little tasks” grows each day. But with Cisco UCS, the management of those tasks is easier than ever before. We’ve looked at all the areas where we now save time and have less work—and the results are staggering. Making the switch to Cisco UCS has cut MOUNT10’s production costs by nearly two-thirds. 

Passing on the Savings

Overall, Cisco has allowed MOUNT10 to create a professional, well-supported infrastructure—all at a reasonable price. Our lowered operating costs have a direct impact on our customers. We’ve found a way to provide uncompromised service, but still at a compelling price point for our customers. While we provide a vital service to many of our customers, we still need to be competitive on cost to fit in with their budget. Thanks to Cisco UCS, we’ve done both. 

At the end of the day, we at MOUNT10 are acutely aware of the importance of our service. Customer data is more than just 1s and 0s. It's the foundation of the organizations they've worked so hard to build. If that data disappears, those customers go out of business. Most of them will close their doors within six months of a catastrophic event of that type. They depend on us to make sure that doesn't happen.

Up until recently, enterprise customers still liked to manage their data needs themselves—but they're starting to use our services now. It’s like rock climbing: you don’t attach the security rope to yourself. You tie the rope to a partner like MOUNT10. Our sole focus remains to be that security partner for our customers.