IT leaders face a common problem in many organizations today. It’s the inability to scale their current data center environments according to business demands and needs. We all know that the trends driving up demand for enterprise data center capacity—mobility, big data and the Internet of Things—aren’t going to disappear overnight. And if the current situation is anything to go by, the demand for capacity will only continue to grow.
Colocation is readily becoming the go-to option for companies looking to address capacity constraints. According to 451 Research’s Datacenter Market Sizing Forecast Model, the colocation market grew 11 percent year over year on a square-footage basis in 1Q15, and it’s forecast to maintain that growth rate through 2018. This situation is great news for companies such as IO, but colocation is about more than simply scaling capacity. The decision to switch to a colocation model is about improving efficiency and at the same time increasing the flexibility of an organization’s data center to more easily adapt to business changes. Unfortunately, most colocation data centers, both past and present, don’t easily improve efficiency or increase flexibility without making a compromise elsewhere.
Getting the Basics Right
If you’re exploring a colocation offering, always ensure that all the data center services are well covered. They include reliable and resilient power and cooling capabilities to ensure optimal, always-on performance.
Physical security and cybersecurity are also critical to your IT assets and applications. They can include video cameras, man-traps equipped with iris scanners to prevent impersonation and tailgating, and fire-rated walls and doors to protect against unforeseen disasters. Another helpful option is disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), which ensures that customers’ data assets are regularly backed up to enable quick recovery after a flood, a hack, or any other event that disables or destroys the primary data center.
Another fundamental factor is carrier-neutral network connectivity that allows for choice between multiple carriers. Your network must be able to extend private networks without using the public Internet, as doing so allows for communication between multiple systems in the data center and also covers communications between colocation infrastructure and any end point, including other data centers and public-cloud services.
Advantages of Software-Defined Modular Colocation
Software-defined modular colocation offers a number of benefits:
1. Scalability as and when you need it
For instance, I genuinely believe that modular data center technologies are the way to help enterprises achieve a true transformation. Your modular data center colocation provider should help you future proof your data center by offering standardized deployment solutions that meet the compute demands of today and beyond. (Why should you pay today for the possibility of needing 10kW per rack?) One major advantage of the modular form factor is thin provisioning of the data center—meaning you need not procure more capacity out of fear of the future because you can deploy the actual capacity required today and expand as necessary in the same footprint.
2. Operational efficiency with real savings
Modular data centers can achieve more-efficient utilization of the infrastructure and at the same time eliminate the waste and cost that come with underutilization. If you have ever run out of capacity in your data center, you are more likely to overcompensate and overbuy capacity the next time you move to a larger data center. Doing so affects your company’s capital directly for two reasons: first, you end up paying for services that you don’t need, and second, you spend more on the (direct or indirect) energy overheads.
Modular data centers can help mitigate this difficulty, as they are by design using technologies such as hot- and cold-aisle containment, incorporating variable-speed air-handling units and close-coupled cooling. (Many of these features are add-ons in today’s colocation centers.) The result? Greater efficiency, yielding consistently lower PUEs and saving your company money.
3. Keeping it safe and adaptable
Modular technology gives you security by providing a data center within a data center, especially when each module is its own private steel vault.
Of equal importance is for any data center to be able to deliver an array of applications and services with different infrastructure requirements. With the demand for compute capacity both varied and increasing, a colocation solution must cater concurrently to low- and high-density applications without compromising flexibility (scaling up or down) or efficiency. The traditional raised-floor environment becomes obsolete if your density profile changes over time.
4. It’s all in the data and therefore the software
The traditional colocation model is designed and built starting with the building and its infrastructure; how to monitor, control, manage and optimize data is mostly an afterthought. Today at the “IT layer,” we manage the movement of resources (or workloads) through software between racks, within a data center and even between data centers. Without intelligence and feedback from the site, you will lack the visibility and control to ensure that your facility is operating at its maximum performance level. Software is at the heart of all future data centers, and the “bolt-on” DCIM approach that is undertaken by many colocation sites today is certainly not the best way to optimize resources.
Sooner or later, most organizations will need to scale their data center environments. When that time comes, I encourage you to take the more strategic approach and consider creating a next-generation data center with a software-defined modular colocation service that is truly scalable, efficient, secure and managed by software. By doing so, you will be able to position your organization to manage the data center in a more intelligent way in order to drive more-efficient operations and improve performance.
About the Author
Darren Webb is IO’s Managing Director in Singapore and Southeast Asia. He’s a veteran of the telecoms industry, having over 20 years of experience in senior positions across the globe. Darren leads IO’s business in Singapore and regionally, driving growth and establishing Singapore as IO’s strategic Asian hub.