Robert Williams is technical director, Custodian Data Centre. As a specialist in the fields of data centre design, he is the primary author of this post. Please note Kate Baker, business strategist, co-authored this post.
With fast network routes to Europe and the rest of the world, London has historically been the natural home for data centers looking to compete in a global market.
However, with building space for expansion limited, data centers are often built on a small footprint of land towering upwards into the London skyline. Whilst able to cater for many servers and low network latency, many of these sites have limited power availability, thus having low capacity per cabinet.
Beyond power, the physical demands
Additional to the power challenge, companies choosing to colocate in a data center hub are positioning themselves in an area more likely to be targeted by terrorist activity. This is a growing concern for companies looking for disaster recovery sites that will meet auditors’ stringent specifications. Data centers located in areas with space around them is also a benefit that attracts auditors, as the security enables secure physical fencing at an optimal distance from your infrastructure.
Companies also need to locate their disaster recovery at a site that is far enough away not to be impacted by outages in major cities and close enough for staff to access the site within a reasonable time frame from their offices.
The sensible option would be to look at regional sites. However, network topography and customer needs often mean that many out-of-town locations, whilst offering better security options and access to power, are often unable to cater to companies which use latency sensitive applications or require fast transport links.
Identifying the ideal location
Companies looking for active replication, low latency, power availability and a secure location should be looking carefully at where to locate their servers. They need inner London connectivity in a safe outer London location. The geographic position needs to allow companies to enjoy all the benefits of a London data center plus attractive power capabilities and a secure location.
In terms of connectivity, some facilities would argue that it is best to totally avoid London for complete peace of mind; however it is extremely unlikely for the whole city to be taken down. A data center with diverse geographic routing options enables companies to take full advantage of a major city or the capital’s infrastructure without the premium costs associated with being in the center.
Another important benefit that out-of-city locations can offer is ample parking and secure unloading areas. Additionally, many regional sites are quicker to travel to than companies that try to travel across city networks and they can also enjoy close-by motorway networks or easily reachable airports.
Facilities in regional locations have the ability to tap into a wider range of green technologies using systems such as fresh air cooling or hot and cold aisle containment. With cleaner air quality and lower average temperatures than intensely built-up areas, regional locations provide optimal conditions for filtration systems and the need to manage temperatures with chillers.
The ideal location for a data center is one that is circa 80km from a city location, secure and not in a data center hub, with access to power and the ability to handle the requirements of an active-active data center solution. Many large organizations that have traditionally looked at London sites, now find that auditors stipulate that they base some of their colocation facilities outside the M25 with strong levels of connectivity.
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