Simac ICT Belgium builds new data center at Materialise

22 April 2020

Recently, the Belgian 3D printing specialist Materialise inaugurated a new data center at its headquarters in Leuven. Materialise chose to have the design of that data center carried out by the Cabling & Infrastructure department of Simac ICT Belgium. Because of the company's high level of professionalism and the quality they delivered to Materialise in the past, Simac was asked to build a "hot corridor".

Materialise is a world leader in the supply of software and services for 3D printing. This fast-growing company has more than 2.200 employees worldwide in 27 offices throughout Europe, the United States, South America, and Asia. Its headquarters are in Leuven, where the company's main data center is also located.

As early as 2016, Materialise decided it was ready for a new data center. The existing infrastructure was outdated and no longer met the new requirements after the initial public offering (IPO) on Nasdaq in 2014. "The Sarbanes-Oxley regulation includes several requirements for a data center, such as a fire extinguishing system, extensive access control, and temperature management," says Bart Jans, Team Lead IT System Administrators at Materialise. The data center is of extreme importance to Materialise. "We have a lot of in-house applications. Here is where we test new in-house developed software. This is also the central data center that all of our branches use.”

Based on a set of requirements for the new data center, Materialise prepared a tender, and conducted some reference visits. "One of the specific requirements for our data center was that it had to be connected to the building ice water cooling at headquarters," says Jans. At the same time, Materialise was keen to reduce its carbon footprint by saving on power consumption, something the new data center also plays a role in. Materialise is at the forefront of ecological awareness. For example, the offices are equipped with solar panels and the heat emitted from their 3D printers is recuperated in the central heating system. 

During one of the reference visits, Materialise ended up at KDG of Antwerp. "The data center they had was exactly what we wanted," says Johan Duchateau, Infrastructure Engineer Network, Security & Telecom at Materialise. "They placed in-row coolers in a hot aisle configuration, and that was exactly how we thought it should be”.

In the search of a supplier, Materialise quickly turned to Simac. The Cabling & Infrastructure department had previously been engaged by Materialise for the cabling of their new buildings C and D. "We were impressed by their professionalism across the board," says Duchateau. "Quality is not only about the type of cabling, but also about the finishing touch, the way cables are nicely arranged and labeled, how everything is tested. Besides, Simac C&I documents everything so that we can find our bearings when adaptations are needed afterward".

Other elements that played in Simac's favor included the Elite Partner label from Schneider Electric. "We enjoy working with this market leader. It is an A-brand with a good quality guarantee and ditto support. Simac and Schneider Electric worked very well together in setting up the racks and cooling," says Jans. Furthermore, Materialise was charmed by how Simac's Cabling & Infrastructure department collaborated to pinpoint the best solution. "Often suppliers only want to sell their products. Simac searches for the best solution and comes up with various scenarios while weighing the pros and cons of the various options". For Materialise it was therefore important that Simac could act as a one-stop-shop for all aspects of the data center, including fire protection.

The new data center has a modular structure. "We now have two times five racks at our disposal, with three in-row coolers from Schneider Electric. The racks have been set up in such a way that extra equipment and extra cooling can easily be added," says Jans. While there is no shortage of space, Materialise is also looking at how to consolidate further. "Every time a server goes out of warranty, we see whether we can virtualize it. Currently, a lot of servers are still being moved to the data center, that used to be located in other buildings.

"It is a pleasure to work with Materialise," says Andy Vanbrabant, director of Simac's Cabling & Infrastructure department. "It is a dynamic company that is open to our advice and challenges us to go to extremes. This leads to innovative solutions both parties benefit from".