07 Febraury
2019

Data Centre Colocation – Paving the way for the new hybrid enterprise

Data consumption in India is swelling at an astronomical rate. India is outpacing even the most developed economies in terms of data growth; a phenomenon that traces its genesis to the advent of Social, Mobility and Analytics, and their maturation into Digitisation and Cloud. With the galvanisation of the Indian data economy, there is a heightened need for data storage, management and dissemination, for both enterprise users and retail consumers. The spotlight is now firmly focused on efficient, reliable and scalable Data Centres in India. For Enterprise customers, content developers, Cloud and OTT service providers, Datacenter colocation is the most common and perhaps the most efficient way of consuming Datacenter Services. However, despite this evident demand for colocation, there is still a section of enterprise users that harbours misconceptions around security and control in a colocated environment. As a result, more than 70% of organisations still channel huge capital investments towards in-house, self-managed server rooms and data centres.

Perhaps these mindsets are deep-seated on account of a limited view of colocation. Unlike common perception, a colocation environment is more than just a rented space for the hosting of servers. It is a highly specialised, cutting-edge ecosystem equipped with state-of-the-art components like air or water cooled chillers, computer room air conditioning(CRAC) machines, precision air handling units (PAHU), chemical filters, treated fresh air units (TFA), high-tension and low-tension electrical panels, power distribution units(PDU), change-over panels, transformers and switchgear for power, high-speed diesel generators and uninterruptible power supply; all these deployed in a highly redundant design, individually underpinned by element managers, centrally monitored through building management systems (BMS) and supervisory control and data acquisition systems (SCADA), and overseen by skilled technicians focused on achieving mission-critical service level agreements (SLAs). As complex, resource-rich environments, data centres require steep upfront capital investment and continual, seamless maintenance.

Enterprises that choose to outsource their data centre requirement to a highly specialised third-party data centre services provider not only move to a simplified cost savings model, they also free themselves of the complexity of infrastructure management, leaving more time for core business applications and innovations. When it comes to Data Center colocation vs Cloud vs Managed hosted environments, fortunately and for all the good reasons, the choice is not an either-or. This stems in from the fact that a typical enterprise has hundreds of applications. These applications are not all equal, with each one presenting its own dependencies and complexities. While some applications are extracted from the cloud using SaaS models, others channel into it using IaaS and PaaS models (applications requiring burst capacities and web applications). Applications that are data hogs may be better served by a dedicated, private cloud. A colocation environment sweeps across all these environments evenly and effectively. Most SaaS and IaaS providers have an edge or core node with the colocation provider and by hosting their physical servers and private clouds in colo environments, Enterprises stand to gain as their captive setups will be one hop nearer to the cloud.

If planned and modelled optimally, a colocation environment can offer "Cloud" like scalability and flexibility allowing customers to ramp up or ramp down their capacity, space and power based on needs at pre-agreed intervals. From a connectivity perspective, Colocation environments tend to be carrier-neutral, giving enterprises the flexibility to opt for services from any internet service provider of their choice.

One of the biggest cost elements in any captive data centre is "power". In some cases, power related costs can be more than 50% of the overall Server Room costs. Overall, colocation environments are more efficient with significantly better Power Utilization effectiveness (PUE) than captive server rooms resulting in lower TCOs in most cases.

One of the biggest apprehensions CIOs typically have about colocation is security. Though, operator-hosted data centre environments are not only safer and more secure than captive set-ups, they also allow organisations to retain complete control of their data. A typical analogy that comes to my mind is that of money in bank or home - Just like your money is safer in the bank than under your bed, your data and servers are safer in a purpose-built Data centre colo environment than in captive server rooms.

Data centre service providers have evolved and offer flexibility in deployment, capacity ramps and commercial models (based on area, number of racks or power density). These models usually offer tariffs per rack or per square foot, with power either bundled, or charged on actual consumption. More recently, models with tariffs based on power density per rack or per KW of density per month, have emerged. On the deployment front, providers offer part or full customisation and flexibility with respect to varying loads per rack (if the entire server hall does not exceed the designated capacity).

Choosing the right colocation partner is one of the most important and critical aspects to establishing a conducive data centre environment. Besides gauging the operations and delivery track record, CXOs and IT leaders must consider and check the credentials of the promoters, financial strength and stability of the provider, current installed capacity, location of the data centre, past track record in on time deliveries and operations uptime, expansion plans, sources of funds, connectivity options, industry and customer endorsements, and transparency of doing business.

In summary, Colocation allows enterprises to avail all the advantages of a purpose-built data centre including scalability, reliability, serviceability and mission-critical SLAs. It also enables flexibility in deployment, total cost of ownership benefits, superior integrity of data and absolute retention of control through physical isolation and administrative control of servers, networks and applications. The arrangement minimises the capital outlay of organisations. Data centre colocation and cloud complement each other, and together, are paving the way for a new generation of hybrid enterprises.