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No-tailgating technology prevents unauthorized data center entry

Mark Fontecchio
Data center hosting company Savvis Inc. has built a new 37,000-square-foot data center near Dallas that prevents unauthorized users from tailgating.

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We're not talking about these people painting their faces, eating bratwurst and drinking beers in the Savvis facility parking lot. In the data center realm, tailgating involves entry of an unauthorized user who sneaks into a facility by quickly following an authorized user.

How does Savvis do it? A "mantrap" separates the building's front-desk security area from the data center. The mantrap is monitored by three-dimensional optical imaging technology that can detect if there is more than one person is present. To prevent piggybacking by unauthorized users, only one person can pass through the mantrap and get approval to access the data center at a time.

"The cameras within the mantrap determine how many people are in the mantrap," said Keith Bozler, director of security operations and senior construction manager at Savvis. "If there is more than one, it won't let people in."

A zero-unauthorized-entry policy
According to Bozler, the optical imaging technology was developed for production labs to detect, for example, if a soda bottle was missing its identification label. It found its way into military and R&D establishments to ensure a lockdown facility with no unauthorized visitors. Savvis uses a product called T-DAR, short for Tailgate Detection, Alarm and Recording System, made by Renton, Wash.-based Newton Security Inc.. T-DAR has been installed in several industries, including data centers, research labs and airport employee entrances.

To have only the right people that are supposed to have access to given areas is the No. 1 thing for data centers and colocation centers.
Jim Kozlowski,
VP of hosting servicesSavvis Inc.

Savvis has a dual-checking system in its 29 data centers located throughout the world and covering almost 1.5 million square feet of data center floor space. Older facilities don't have T-DAR installed, but Jim Kozlowski, VP of hosting services, said Savvis constantly updates the technology on its new construction products.

"These are customers of ours that want the most security," he said. "They don't want anyone else to have access to the equipment for their business."

Especially in hosting and colocated centers, where customers remain tentative about outsourcing any information technology, security is paramount.

"To have only the right people that are supposed to have access to given areas is the No. 1 thing for data centers and colocation centers," Kozlowski said.

Other physical security measures in the new Savvis facility, which has the capacity to add another 45,000 square feet, include the following:

  • identification cards and biometric fingerprint readers;
  • Kevlar-lined, ballistically rated doors, glass and walls; and
  • a closed-circuit television system that includes about 250 cameras scattered throughout the facility, and also includes multiterabyte video storage.

Customers also have segregated cages with a lock and key to further restrict access to their IT equipment. In St. Louis Savvis also has a central security operations center staffed with seven employees that monitors security at all the data centers around the clock. The center is also the only place that can grant authority for people's identification badges to get into a data center.

The site doesn't have armed security guards, however. Kozlowski said there's no need for guards because every door in the facility needs special access to get in. He added that a physical data center break-in usually has more to do with the integrity of the employees. Savvis has never had a physical break-in.

"They might be able to break in, grab stuff and go. I don't want to sit here and speculate," he said. "But I'm less worried about that kind of stuff than a virtual break-in."

The new facility is in an industrial office park in Irving, Texas, about 10 miles west of Dallas and 25 miles east of Fort Worth. Kozlowski said it's been built out to handle 170 watts per square foot and already has an "anchor" tenant, a Web analytics software company that will initially rent about 12,000 square feet. Savvis already has an existing 100,000-square-foot facility in Dallas as well.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Mark Fontecchio, News Writer. You can also check out our Server Specs blog.


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