Colocation has been a viable option for a long time, yet some data center managers fear that it can be a threat to their job security. I’d like to spend a few minutes listing some reasons why colocation should be considered a part of any healthy data center strategy for all enterprises.
Colocation is not outsourcing. There are common elements, but colocation offers a more flexible approach, in my opinion. At a minimum, with colocation you lease space with power and HVAC. The equipment you use and how you architect it is up to you. That includes your control of the lifecycle management. In a traditional outsource arrangement the assets are part of the deal and management of those assets is the responsibility of the outsource partner. Outsourcing is a valid option, but one that requires a lot more attention to the contract implications on the lifecycle of the IT infrastructure.
Colocation is not an all or nothing decision. In reality, colocation is part of a complete data center strategy that might include outsourcing, cloud computing, disaster recovery and your own private facility. If you are just beginning to contemplate colocation, then think of it as a relief valve for your data center needs. What will make a colocation project successful is having a clear line of sight to what you want to put in the facility and why. There is no one size to fit all users, so understand your own enterprise security and data management issues and carve out something that works. Once you’ve built comfort in colocation, you can easily expand and diversify. Those are two factors that are harder to do in an outsource arrangement.
Innovation is another great reason for colocation. Transition to a new compute platform for an existing data center is usually a migration plan that requires retrofit of existing space and reconfiguration of the legacy environment. That means that there is seldom a simple set of changes to make the migration happen. With colocation, you can find a facility to match your needs, build in the estimated capacity and start the application and data migration with fewer dimensions of change.
The second innovation benefit of colocation is that you typically own the assets. They are not tied to an outsource contract or to a physical facility that you own. Upgrades and refresh/replacement can happen at your tempo and within your cost structure. If you had a long term outsource commitment to a specific spend or number of units managed, you might be hindered in upgrading. The bottom line is that you have more flexibility to manage the ebb and flow of technology because you have control over the key elements that allow you to innovate.
Owning a data center can also be a hindrance to innovation. Many of us have legacy infrastructure. If it is more than 10 years old it is probably in need of some serious upgrades to get power and HVAC per square foot up to snuff as well as assuring all the safety and fire codes are being met. Negotiating with another department to spend their budget dollars on your data center can be difficult. Even if you are successful, that upgrade will take time and be disruptive. You might even miss a full cycle of technology innovation while you wait. With colocation you can find a facility that is ready to meet current and future demands.
To be fair, there are a number of items you need to be accountable for in a colocation project:
1) Pay attention to what you are signing up for. Colocation providers come in all of shapes and sizes.
2) Think about how they will operate in a disaster.
3) Plan for the 3-5 years out and at least one major refresh during that time.
At the end of the day, the business is looking to you for uptime, innovation and cost management. Colocation may be just the right option.
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