Co-location is nothing new. A highly useful alternative to “do-it-yourself,” it’s a viable option for any company looking to build out the data center. In this challenging economic environment, there is more pressure than ever to cut costs. As companies explore new ways to keep expenses in check, many feel it doesn’t make sense to incur additional capital investments to expand in-house data centers. Enter the co-location or “Co-Lo,” or a bit more broadly, the “Multi-Tenant Data Center.” Currently, it’s estimated there are more than 1,000 co-location data centers in the United States alone.
But the road to co-location is getting bumpy. With a large number of competitors, Co-Los are looking for ways to differentiate their offerings, and they can’t always choose to win by cutting prices; at an extreme, the cheapest co-los are pure real estate plays. Many must get creative through new value-added services; the answer can be found in offering special Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM), to handle a multi-tenant data center (or multiple centers). Simply put: customers need better visibility into their piece of real estate and equipment within Co-Los.
A strong provider will offer customers a clear roadmap – delivering all information necessary to be successful – and in real-time. But for years, operators achieved this in a highly manual fashion – wasting both time and money. So where do we go from here? For many, DCIM has become the GPS necessary to lead providers in the right direction and continue to show the desired path.
Data centers today look nothing like those of 20 years ago. Companies face a massive amount of information to store and manage. Rising energy prices and new technologies, such as cloud,have further complicated IT infrastructures – all of which has thrown a monkey wrench into service offerings.
In its 2010 “Digital Universe” study, analyst firm IDC reports a 62% increase in digital information between 2008 and 2010, to the tune of 1.2 zettabytes. Putting this into perspective, just one zettabyte is the equivalent of “The digital information created by every man, woman and child on Earth ‘tweeting’ continuously for 100 years.” In the firm’s 2011 report, IDC paints an even clearer picture: The volume of digital information to be stored is doubling every two years … a corollary of Moore’s Law
Take this to the business environment. Think about the endless possibilities for creating data: E-mail, invoices, billing, customer data – to name a few. There’s truly no limit to the amount data being created. But that’s only a portion of the issue. Businesses also have to contend with the explosive growth of processing all this data – applications, Web apps, mobile phone apps, Internet usage — that is also driving the proliferation.
Now let’s look at cloud. Most operators have plans to make the transition, if they haven’t already. The cost and efficiencies of hosting key services via a cloud model are too good to ignore. But it’s also causing many to rethink the size of their infrastructures. Gartner Group estimates the cloud services market will reach $129 billion by 2013. This is great for the market, but tough on data centers – as the “Cloud” merely means servers and storage managed by someone else, somewhere else, but you still have hardware, which puts significant strain on current data center resources. As a recent article points out:
“While the ‘cloud’ term seems somewhat celestial and ethereal, the impact has been immediate and forceful on the wholesale and co-location data center industry as it strives to keep pace with the rapid spike in corporate demand, with the growth in total data usage and storage rising to nearly incomprehensible numbers.”
In May 2011, The Uptime Institute confirmed this claim. In a survey of data center owners and operators, 36% reported data centers would run out of power, cooling or space by 2012. According to the report, operators must now explore options to handle the load, including co-location. Sixty-two percent said they would handle demand by consolidating servers, while 40 percent choose to build a new data center, and 29 percent plan to lease co-location space.
Steering Clear of Older Systems
There’s simply too much data processing for co-location providers to conduct business the old way. No longer is it feasible to manage critical facilities manually or by leveraging older monitoring systems.
Most have implemented some form of monitoring or management system. For the most part, these systems are proprietary and isolated monitoring systems, manually cobbled to present a unified view. Real-time information is non-existent and there is little room for collaboration across IT and facilities.
Traditional systems are severely limited in their ability to monitor systems and respond to alerts. Drawbacks include:
- Designed for single-user data centers: Virtually all systems were designed for a model of corporate data centers in which there is one “owner” who manages and oversees all of the equipment. In a co-location environment, different rooms, different cages, different racks or different servers are owned, perhaps managed and operated by different tenants or clients. Each of them needs to be able to see their piece of the overall facility, and associated power equipment such as UPSes or PDUs, and branch circuits, but with no visibility to any other tenant’s location.
- Thick Client Requirements: Most systems have thick-client protocols that don’t support the modern concept of 24/7, anywhere connectivity in a mobile business environment.
- Real-Time Monitoring: Older systems lack real-time monitoring and visibility. Gathering, blending and analyzing performance metrics from disparate monitoring systems across geographically dispersed data centers is time consuming and more prone to human error.
- Licensing Requirements
To proactively monitor a facility, all stakeholders must have access. Most operate with a per-user licensing agreement, making it extremely cost-prohibitive, blocking critical information from those who need it.
The result is inefficient power use, higher costs, and more downtime. So where do we go from here? For many co-location providers, the answer can be found in Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM).
DCIM converges IT and data center facilities functionality into one unified system. The goal is to help Co-Los not only optimize energy usage, ensure correct equipment layout, and support new efforts towards virtualization, but also to allow tenants to be able to see and monitor their piece of the data. A good system is powered by a smart infrastructure that monitors, collects, and analyzesdata in real-time. True DCIM manages infrastructures holistically, including all IT assets and efficiently linking both IT and facilities.
According to 451 Research, 2010 market revenues for DCIM were $245 million. This number will experience a compound annual growth rate of 39% through 2015 – growing the marketplace to more than $1 billion.
In his report “DCIM: Going Beyond IT,” Gartner analyst David J. Cappuccio reports data center managersand co-location providers cannot control costs unless they can access real-time data center software offering an accurate view of current consumption:
“Data center managers must have the information they need to make informed decisions for effective planning and management of data center assets and physical infrastructure to ensure the service levels the company expects. They also must have the insight needed to properly plan and forecast future data center capacities: including space, power, cooling and network connection … DCIM provides insights and drives performance throughout the data center, including data center assets and physical infrastructure.”
True DCIM can adapt to changing IT environments, monitoring everything from infrastructure changes and failures to power and cooling. Features of a true DCIM solution include:
- Real-Time Monitoring: Enables the accurate, real-time viewing of information – allowing for quick resolution.
- Tenant-Level Views: Ability for tenants to monitor, manage and be alerted on just their relevant section of the data center.
- Unified Information: A DCIM system is only as good as the information it provides. The right system creates a holistic view of all relevant information of the IT infrastructure and facility.
- Web-Based Interface: DCIM should be browser-based with the ability to deliver alarms via multiple devices. Users should receive alarms via e-mail, Web browser – as well as through traditional methods of phone and pager.
- Easy Integration and Use: Advanced DCIM tools are easy and intuitive to use. Simple to configure in-house, they consequently eliminate time and cost from the vendor and consultant. The best tools are vendor-neutral and interact with all data center systems with disparate protocols.
- Multi-Location and International Capability: DCIM should monitor multiple facilities in different countries and easily configurewith different measurement protocols.
- Universal Access: No limitations to the number of decision-makers viewing information. The best systems base cost on the number of points monitored – rather than per user.
- Holistic Visibility: Next-generation monitoring systems provide more visibility, scalability and control over the entire global information environment.
Gartner estimates DCIM tools can reduce operating expenses by as much as 20% and extend the life of a data center by as much as five years. As a co-location provider – that’s good news for your customers and even better news for your business.
DCIM is quickly becoming the solution-of-choice for Co-Los. In this challenging environment, it’s the one key differentiator that can determine success.
And these benefits are played out many times. Surveys of Co-Location providers have shown that DCIM helps in several areas:
- Faster response times
- Reduced risk of downtime
- Increased capacity utilization
- More accurate billing
- Ability to generate more revenue from given physical, power and cooling capacity.
- Energy savings
- Greater management involvement
This is proven time and again in several core areas. The first proof point is power management. DCIM can visualize true power usage – identifying stranded power and eliminating overbuilding. Through current and historical usage reports, Co-Los accurately gauge power usage effectiveness and efficiency.
Another manner in which DCIM sets providers apart is capacity management – offering true insight into both IT and facilities. This allows for more effective collaboration with an ability to maximize space and power and uncover underutilized capacity.
Cooling is yet another area where DCIM sets Co-Los apart. A comprehensive DCIM solution can manage the entire cooling system – offering insight into actual capacity and utilization. It manages the system holistically and provides a real-time status for each device.
At the highest levels, DCIM saves money while empowering workers. Manual processes clearly drain resources and come at significant costs. A good DCIM offering significantly improves team response to requests for adding, moving or changing computer equipment — reducing time spent analyzing, testing, and verifying capacity at each location. It also dramatically cuts downtime.This is especially important when monitoring energy usage spikes that can shut down a system.
DCIM and Co-Location: Beginning of a Journey
DCIM is a powerful tool for co-location providers. With the help of automated, real-time management, the tool providesfaster response times, reduced downtime, increased capacity and dramatic energy savings. This is just good business – driving a higher quality of service and helping to build out a customer base while saving money.
But DCIM is only the beginning of the journey. Undoubtedly, market dynamics change, infrastructures grow, and new technologies are integrated. What’s great about DCIM is it’s flexible enough to expand as the customer base grows, adapting to new environments seamlessly. For those providing co-location services, DCIM is not just a technology – it offers significant competitive advantages for capturing new customers. Several of these advantages are:
- Helping to ensure accurate billing.
- Enabling sales teams to reserve space.
- Tracking individual tenant usage.
- Offering more granular monitoring.
- Providing secure, Web-based portals for individual tenants.
So, think it’s time to deploy a new tool to help attract and retain Co-Lo customers? Consider partnering with a DCIM solution provider that can offer the right blend of features to get you there — customers will be including them on their RFPs!
Sev Onyshkevych is Chief Marketing Officer for FieldView Solutions, award-winning Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) providers.