Why is CRT sticking a data center in a 17th-century French castle?

CRT data center castle
Le Château de la Romanerie once served as the residence for doctors who attended to the king. Now it's a residence for medical data. Image credit: CRT Informatique

French service provider CRT Informatique is getting into the data hosting business in style by building its data center in a 378-year-old castle.

The “castle” is Le Château de la Romanerie, which is located in the Loire Valley in Angers (around 200 miles away from Paris). Built in 1642, it once served as the residence for doctors who attended to the king. In 1972 the château was classified as a historical monument.

And now CRT is sticking a Tier 4 data center in it.

More to the point, it’s CRT’s first data center. CRT – which first opened for business in 1990 – is a relatively small operation that offers ISP services as well as network management and seamless installation and monitoring. CRT is now adding data hosting to its portfolio, and for that, it is building its own data center.

The data center will take up two rooms in the east wing of Château de la Romanerie, with 20 racks per room. One room will host generic data, while the other will host medical data.

CRT’s target market for generic data hosting includes local public services (i.e. local authorities, education, research and school universities) and local businesses in the area, while the medical data hosting will target hospitals, clinics, radiologists and laboratories.

As for the obvious question – why build a data center in a 17th century castle? – the reasons range from market differentiation to corporate social responsibility, said Violaine Petit, sales and marketing VP of CRT Informatique, at the recent Huawei Better World Summit 2020 Power Digitalization 2025 event.

CRT Informatique data center
[Click to enlarge]

“In any project, CRT must put forward a new concept to differentiate itself from the competition,” she says. “We do not want to build something in a concrete cube, something normal. We want to be different. When we are different, we win in the market.”

Petit adds that CRT wants to create an image for itself that associates the modern digital era with French heritage by financing its conservation and restoration. “We also want to invest in a meaningful project for customers, especially our public services customers, which was an important point for us.”

Building a data center in Château de la Romanerie also comes with a green aspect, she continues: “The heat from the data center will be used to warm the castle.”

Turnkey advantage

Huawei Technologies is the sole supplier for the data center project – in fact, says Petit, one reason CRT went with Huawei was because the vendor proposed a turnkey solution that includes the infrastructure DC, the networks and the cloud computing, as well as training and maintenance services.

“It was important [for us] to have a solution where everything is included, and covers the entire project scope,” she says.

Petit adds that Huawei also met CRT’s criteria in terms of price/performance ratio, guarantee of results and resources, its partnership approach to the project, and the ability to meet a tight deadline.

Another key factor was being able to manage the constraints of installing modern technology in a historically significant, centuries-old building.

“The castle is listed as a historic monument, so we can’t do whatever we want,” Petit explains.

When the data center is officially launched this year, CRT will offer other services besides data hosting. Other planned offerings include Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), and what CRT calls ‘e-enterprise’ services.

Petit explains CRT’s concept of what an ‘e-enterprise’ entails: “The ‘e-enterprise’ provides services in a few minutes thanks to the automation of reservation of resources concerning provision of a virtual desktop, virtual connection to a corporate network, internet access services, centralized storage spaces, virtual servers allowing installation of business apps, and office apps. All of this will be authenticated, secured, insulated, protected, monitored and maintained in operational conditions.”

Petit says the ‘e-enterprise’ service will help CRT’s corporate clients optimize costs (i.e. ‘pay as you grow”) and refocus on their core business, as well as enable agility as they evolve. “This is the key to success.”

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