Creating Data Center Strategies with Global Scale

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Before you can begin to analyze or make any decisions as to where you want to locate your organization’s data centers, you need to first step back and understand what your immediate and long terms goals are for your organization’s business and how it is best served by its computing architecture. Decisions made in isolation by the typical separation of senior management, as well as the facilities and IT departments, represent a significant impediment to a global project. A cooperative alliance is imperative to its success.

There is an emerging trend, which is growing rapidly, toward outsourcing the data center, as many organizations re-evaluate the need to build, own and operate their own data centers. Many organizations are either outsourcing it (in whole or in part), in an effort to concentrate their resources on their core business. This was discussed in detail in “Build vs Buy”, which was Part I of this Executive Guide series.

Once you have made a business decision to extend the reach of your organization’s computing systems into a new global territory, it would be the ideal time to examine your entire existing IT architecture. Do an honest self-evaluation, using your internal business and IT teams, and possibly also using outside consultants. Evaluate if it has been meeting its goals and has been performing as expected or if it needs to be updated and optimized.

The time to upgrade your IT systems is before you start replicating them all over the world, rather than having to upgrade an entire new global network.

If you are confident that your IT systems are fully extensible, then potential locations for the new satellite data centers, as well as their projected size and scope needs to be closely evaluated, for both the immediate and long term requirements. If you are expanding into a new area where your organization does not have a large established base, it may be wiser to initially consider using colocation (colo) or hosted service providers in some countries. Virtualization and data replication technologies may allow you to cost effectively extend your reach. This is especially true if your expected levels of traffic and computing resources are expected to be low for the first several years in that general region.

This would allow you to begin to service the local market immediately and gain statistical computing usage trends and peak bandwidth profiles in order to better project your long term requirements before building your own data center to service that area. Consider shorter contract commitments, but try to negotiate fixed price extensions so that you will not be exposed to large price hikes once your initial term expires. This gives you the flexibility to leave a co-lo or hosting provider, if you are ready to expand into your own data center, but allows you the option to continue in place, in the event your expected growth projections in that area are not met. Be aware of contractual issues such as Service Level Agreements (SLAs), early termination penalties, the costs for any additional services, and, of course, the history and reputation of the service providers.

If you have never used a colo previously, note that each provider has their own formula for power provisioning. Some charge per-circuit (i.e. a fixed price for a 120V/20A or a 208V/20A outlet, regardless of actual energy used) for each cabinet, while other sites may provide metered actual usage charges. Depending on how many circuits you need and how heavily you load them, will greatly impact your monthly costs.

When planning your communications networks, also note that some colo sites are “carrier neutral” and allow you to directly connect to any communication provider, while others only allow you to connect to carriers that they have an in-house relationships with. The costs of bandwidth and the choice of providers and carrier diversity should be considered carefully. Also be aware of who you are contracting with for your services; the carrier directly or the co-lo operator. This can affect your future options, should you decide to move to another colo or when moving into your own data center.

Also review their overall security and access procedures, as well as any “hands-on” support options they offer.

Each week, we will launch the following articles in this executive education series on building a global data center strategy:

This is article series is the fourth of a six part series on data center strategies for executives. The other series can be found here:

You can download a complete PDF of Creating Data Center Strategies with Global Scale by clicking here. This series is brought to you courtesy of Digital Realty.

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