How Colocation Can Help Enterprises Transform Their Data Center Operations

Topics: Data Center Management

Download PDF

The role of IT is becoming more important than ever.

IT leaders must go beyond simply managing the data center infrastructure—they must provide a strategy to drive business value. “Megatrends” such as cloud computing, mobility, social media, big data and virtualization are defining a new era of information technology—and forcing a transformation of how IT supports the business. Much of this transformation is taking place within the data center, where companies are finding that they need to modernize their infrastructure to gain greater flexibility and agility.

Recent research supports how important technology and data center transformation have become to an organization’s ability to compete. In the 2013 State of the Enterprise study by IDG Research, security and disaster recovery top the list of critical technologies for competitive advantage, followed closely by storage and data center consolidation.

Boosting data center efficiency remains a high priority for many companies. A recent NetworkWorld study shows that IT retains a focus on consolidation and flattening of the data center.

So critical have data centers become to businesses that a data center outage of even a few hours will likely have a significant impact on revenue, according to IT research firm 451 Research. And yet, many organizations today have not optimized their data center operations.

In many cases, processes are not transparent within data centers and decision making is complex, according to 451 Research. Imprecise measures of accountability do not match the importance of the data center to the business, the firm notes.

The Benefits of Colocation

Data center management is not easy. Rapidly increasing storage requirements, power consumption and changing regulations have put heightened demands on data center operations, making it difficult to accurately forecast growth and manage budgets. Plus, there is added pressure for the data center to support a flexible “cloud” strategy. This strategy has to meet current needs and stay aligned with what will be needed in the future.

Colocation Provides Economies of Scale

  • It costs large colocation providers much less to build their facilities; this is an economy of scale that most enterprises can’t match.
  • Colocation providers also typically have many more highly trained staff as well as degreed mechanical and electrical engineers.

For many companies, the solution is to deploy data center colocation services. By leveraging a colocated data center, companies can lease space, power and bandwidth from the service provider.

Demand for data center colocation services is on the rise, according to industry research by IMS Research. These services are growing for several reasons, the firm notes. For one thing, data centers are increasingly costly to build and maintain, and colocation allows companies to shift from having capital-intensive data centers to more predictable operating expenses.

In addition, the firm says colocation data centers are often built with energy-efficient designs and equipment that might not be feasible in smaller in-house facilities. Furthermore, projecting future capacity is becoming more difficult as IT evolves and requirements change.

Providers are offering colocation services that can help enterprises optimize their data centers and address concerns around security, reliability and industry-specific compliance. They provide data center operations and services through secure, resilient facilities.

Compliance and security are major issues that are addressed in multitenant data centers, says Dan Golding, vice president of data center operations at Iron Mountain. “There is a tremendous and increasing compliance burden on enterprises,” Golding says, adding that users can be compliant far more efficiently by trusting the facilities of a large, colocation data center in which customers enjoy the economies of scale that come from renting space, power, cooling and bandwidth under one roof.

“The bigger the data center, the less the per-unit cost of security and compliance becomes, and conversely, the higher the quality becomes,” Golding says. “At the same time, you get some real worldclass operational skills. You can leverage all of that DNA, all of those procedures, and all of those systems have been perfected in dealing with other organizations’ particular regulatory environment and their critical business unit data.”

Multitenant data centers are designed specifically to provide the flexibility, scalability and economics to accommodate the exponential increase in compute, networking and storage demands caused by new technologies’ data requirements. “You have to take that holistic [total cost] approach,” Golding says. “You’re actually paying less for a much better product.”

A smart data center provider realizes the key to success is not ignoring the needs of the customer, but rather becoming their trusted adviser. This means asking questions about their implementation and taking the time to help them realize their goals, which also include such items as flexible contracts and configuration options, valueadded services and meeting SLAs with trained and vetted employees.

“When you become a trusted adviser, and you’re in that circle of trust, you can offer a solution that is so much more than just colocation,” Golding says.

Meeting a Critical Business Need

Data centers are critical hubs of business operations, and in today’s environment they need to be designed to be agile, reliable, secure and compliant. The inability to achieve this can result in degraded customer service, lost revenue and failed audits.

Organizations are challenged with creating such data centers in-house—especially at a time when IT budgets remain tight and it is difficult to manage rapidly growing data volumes and increasing numbers of users and applications. On top of that, information security threats continue to become more sophisticated, and regulations such as PCI DSS, HIPAA and FISMA put enormous pressure on organizations to protect data privacy and adhere to strict Industryspecific compliance.

For some companies, relocating data centers is a viable solution to meeting changing needs. But this can come with significant risk, such as the inability to meet regulatory and business continuity demands. If you are considering colocation, make sure to partner with an operationally sound provider that can meet your specific requirements, especially as they relate to industry compliance.

Be sure to ask questions, not just about the power and cooling capabilities, but the provider’s ability to provide secure and compliant services, and whether the provider can meet your industry’s specific regulations. Also ask if the provider uses trained and vetted employees to deliver the service.

By tapping into the data center operations expertise of companies that provide colocation services, enterprises can address their data center requirements with a secure, versatile, resilient and compliant data center environment that’s designed to support their everchanging business needs.