Cannon Technologies: Modular solutions – Matt Goulding

As banks shift more of their products and services online, they're prioritising investment in the data centres that make it all possible. Future Banking talks to Matt Goulding, managing director at Cannon Technologies, about how the company is working with financial institutions across the UK and Europe to drive down costs by reducing capex and opex, while delivering more efficient modular data centres for financial institutions globally.

When asked about some of the mistakes he's seen in data centre construction over the course of his career, Matt Goulding adopts the weary tone of someone tired of seeing history repeat itself.

"We've witnessed scenes where data centre contractors have connected cooling systems to untested pipework or haven't made sure that the air in the facility is clean," says the managing director of Cannon Technologies. "More often than not, this results in major leaks or deployment of the fire-solution system. Combine those two hazards with server racks, and you can only imagine the sort of costly, catastrophic errors that will impact the facility."

The possibility of losing rafts of data in such an incident is enough to send a chill down the spines of finance institutions and their customers, especially as more banks are moving more of their services online and optimising their storage of corporate information. This process usually entails the construction of data centres to house the additional servers that can make this a reality. However, the building blocks of optimisation require vast amounts of power. That, in turn, is converted into excess heat that, over time, can impair the performance of the whole facility. Hence the importance of a viable cooling system and careful management of available resources by the institution.

Insight and experience

It is a timely reminder that experience counts as much as efficiency when it comes to data centre construction, something that Cannon has in abundance. Appointed managing director in 2012, Goulding runs a company with nearly four-decade's worth of insight in the field, having become an international leader in the provision of data cabinets and metal enclosure systems for use in data networking, electronics and telecommunications.

"We began in 1978 as a development manufacturer of our own products and services, with a particular focus on the defence industry," says Goulding. "In fact, we were making missile carriers for the Ministry of Defence. However, towards the mid-1980s, Cannon started to shift to being a contract manufacturer for the private sector, and it's expertise we've retained ever since."

It's what led Cannon to begin supplying full-term racked enclosures and other IT infrastructure products to retail banks. "The first sizeable project we won was in late 1991," recalls Goulding. "That was to supply several hundred cabinets to UBS-Warburg. Towards the end of the decade, we supplied three data centres for Deutsche Bank and completed similar projects for BNP Paribas. We've also worked closely with Credit Suisse, NatWest and TSB."

However, Cannon's managing director is clear that the company is setting its sights on shifting its core business away from these two areas to modular data solutions.

"It's where the major growth in the business is going to come from," says Goulding. "First and foremost, we're looking for international partners to sell these products on a global basis."

Scaling up

The premise behind Cannon's modular solution was inspired by the inefficiencies embodied by the humming, air-conditioned atmosphere of the conventional data centre. "Without doubt, mismanaged air flow is one of the main culprits behind inflated energy costs," explains Goulding. "From a Cannon perspective, the key element to prevent that from happening is to deploy row-within-rack cooling solutions coupled to a very efficient external chilling solution. After that, you have to include a regular testing regimen and a service-level agreement."

This is enhanced by the provision of a scaleable solution to the client's data storage dilemma. "It's the best way to avoid the largest costs, because in doing so you're avoiding the over-provisions of power and cooling," explains Goulding.

"Frequently, at the opening of a large data centre of X-hundred cabinets, the end client will not populate them immediately with servers. Therefore, the heat management and cooling required for those cabinets is variable. The end plan may be that all of the cabinets will ultimately have a 5kW loading, but on day one, only half of them might. Therefore, if you want to drive your energy costs down, you need the data centre to be scaleable, so you can reduce it in the early phases or ramp it up as the data centre becomes more densely populated."

This helps Cannon construct bespoke data centres that can easily accommodate the client's needs. "Our philosophy is very simple: if the client needs a tailored approach, we will provide it," says Goulding. "Many of our competitors are much bigger billion-dollar organisations than ourselves; businesses that have an approach of 'this is the option, that's what you've got to take', especially when it comes to providing one-size-fits-all service agreements. We draw on our historical track record in providing a solution for the customer that entirely fits their needs, in building data centres and in our service-level agreements."

And the award goes to...

It's an approach that has led the company to pick up dozens of awards, including Frost & Sullivan's Best Practice and DataCenter Dynamics EMEA awards two years running. Cannon is also devoted to incorporating environmental sustainability into all its products, perhaps unsurprising given its location beside areas of outstanding natural beauty like Highcliffe and the New Forest in the UK. In this area, Cannon's data centre solutions adhere to the strict standards of the BSI, a degree of compliance that is annually reviewed by the company.

This has proven invaluable with regard to the company's ambitions to expand its global reach. Currently, Cannon is providing data centre solutions for customers predominantly in the UK, with around 90% of its international business being conducted in Europe. "We're looking to partner globally with various organisations to sell these products on a worldwide basis. So that's certainly the way we're heading," says Goulding. To that end, the company has established offices in the US as well as Dubai.

Although it's a line of business seemingly worlds away from that of push-button warfare; in fact, it's brought the company's relationship with the UK Ministry of Defence full circle. "Our relationship with the MoD remains strong," says Goulding. "We've signed off on another £1-million project for them, and a great deal of that design, research and development that we ploughed into our work with them is now readily available and sold in the commercial sector. It shows how far we've come over the past 40 years."

Matt Goulding, managing director at Cannon Technologies.
Cannon’s data centre solutions avoid all the pitfalls of the past.