Pros and Cons of Choosing Colocation IaaS Over Public Cloud IaaS

Should your organization use a colocation provider or a public cloud for its IaaS needs? Here are tips to help you choose.

Christopher Tozzi, Technology Analyst

July 17, 2023

4 Min Read
servers in a data center

Table of Contents:

Infrastructure-as-a-service, or IaaS, isn't just for the public cloud. Increasingly, data center colocation providers are adding IaaS to their list of offerings.

The question facing businesses today, then, is whether to use a colocation provider or a public cloud for their IaaS needs. There's no universally right answer, but here are tips on how to choose.

What Is Colocation IaaS?

Before explaining how to choose between a colocation provider's IaaS services and those of a public cloud, let's first define what we mean by IaaS in a colocation facility.

Colocation IaaS is a solution where a colocation company provides customers with IT infrastructure, such as servers, on demand. In other words, the colocation provider gives customers access to servers or other infrastructure that they can use remotely.

This makes colocation IaaS different from traditional colocation solutions, which consist just of physical data center space. Customers have to supply their own servers under a conventional colocation model.

In contrast, with colocation IaaS, they get both the server and the data center facility space. They may also get various managed services to help them provision and manage the infrastructure. This makes IaaS solutions inside a colocation facility comparable in many ways to IaaS on a public cloud, where customers can also spin up servers and other infrastructure on demand.

Related:Colocation Data Center vs. Private Data Center: Which Is Right for You?

Colocation IaaS is currently available from companies like Rackspace and Equinix (although the latter claims it's not trying to compete with public clouds through its IaaS offerings).

Pros and Cons of IaaS Inside Colocation Centers

If you can spin up a virtual server, scale-out storage system, or other infrastructure in seconds in a public cloud, why would you instead choose to use a colocation provider's IaaS solution?

That's an especially pertinent question to ask given that colocation IaaS is usually more expensive than public cloud IaaS, if you compare similar server configurations.

The answer, though, is that IaaS inside a colocation center provides several benefits you're not likely to enjoy in the public cloud:

  • More bare-metal server configurations: Colocation providers that offer IaaS tend to specialize in bare-metal infrastructure, whereas public clouds focus on virtualized infrastructure (although they do offer some bare-metal server instances). This means that, in general, you can find more server options and configurations from a colocation provider than you'd find in the public cloud.

  • More control: Colocation IaaS servers typically give customers a greater degree of control over their physical infrastructure. Instead of getting just a virtual server, businesses that use colocation IaaS get a physical server that they can provision from a bare-metal state. You also usually get more control over your networking stack in a colocation facility.

  • Managed services: As noted above, colocation IaaS may come with additional services to help customers provision and manage their infrastructure. You don't usually get that in the public cloud, which provides you with infrastructure alone and expects you to figure out what to do with it on your own.

In short, if you want more options, more control, and more hands-on assistance, colocation IaaS may be a better choice than the public cloud.

Limitations of Colocation IaaS

On the other hand, colocation IaaS has its limitations. Cost is one, as mentioned above. Businesses should expect to pay at least several hundred dollars per month, if not thousands, for each managed server that they spin up in a colocation facility. Many public cloud VM instances cost a fraction of that, especially if you take advantage of reserved instances and other pricing discounts.

Relatedly, colocation IaaS also typically comes with minimum usage periods, such as one hour. This means that customers can't immediately turn servers off to save money when they don't need them anymore.

A third limitation is that colocation providers don't offer the extensive suites of monitoring, security, and other tools that you'll get from a public cloud provider to help manage infrastructure. At best, expect a web portal where you can configure server instances.

Conclusion: Control vs. Cost

Colocation providers offer IaaS solutions that, in certain cases, are a great alternative to public cloud IaaS solutions. But whether you should turn to a colocation company to meet your IaaS needs depends on factors like how much control you need over your infrastructure, how much you're willing to pay, and which types of monitoring and support services you need. As with everything else in the world of IT, there's no one-size-fits-all formula for deciding whether or not to use the cloud.

About the Author(s)

Christopher Tozzi

Technology Analyst, Fixate.IO

Christopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.

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