As businesses’ data requirements continue to increase, many are looking to colocation facilities to outsource part of, or all, their data centre estate.
For smaller businesses, colocation facilities can provide a more affordable option compared to capital investment and lets companies outsource associated IT maintenance costs. Larger enterprises with global customers see colocation as a way to build a presence in multiple countries at a lower cost, in turn enabling them to adhere to local data sovereignty laws.
This is evident in Europe, where the colocation market is at an all-time high according to a report from CBRE. Cloud is said to be one of the main drivers of this activity – Google, AWS and Microsoft all have multiple cloud facilities across Europe.
Companies have likely also been attracted by tax incentives in many of Europe’s data centre hubs including Nordic countries and Ireland. These locations also have the additional benefit of natural cooling – another likely factor behind Europe’s colocation market success.
Downtime and disruption
From an operational point of view, running a colocation facility is not without its risks. A mistyped command by an AWS team member deleted access to multiple servers and caused many high profile websites and online services to go offline.
This included Expedia, Quora, and Slack – even sites checking website availability were affected by the outage!
The outage lasted most of the day, costing both AWS and its customers heavily – all due to human error. One case of human error cost the company in more ways than one. There are likely to have been financial implications, potentially including compensation to customers, but also damage to the reputation of the company’s reliability.
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Microsoft is another example. The company suffered downtime to its services when a cooling system failed at its Japan data centre. Equipment shut down to prevent overheating and caused disruption to its services for several hours. It also suffered another large outage in early March when users were unable to access Skype or Hotmail.
Colocation customers require the assurance that outsourcing their data centre requirements will not affect reliability. No service is immune but customers need to feel confident that their colocation provider is committed to disaster prevention and has procedures in place when outages occur.
Services are judged on how quickly they are up and running again. The earlier an issue can be detected, the faster the issue can be resolved or avoided all together.
How to help prevent outages
Reducing operational risks is important in this context and key for any data centre manager, especially for those who work for colocation providers.
One option is to consider real-time environmental monitoring, which can alert data centre managers to issues such as cooling system leakages and overheating equipment. Solutions can detect potential issues before they have a chance to develop and data centre managers can address the problem before it becomes a major event.
IT asset management is another option to evaluate. This provides location data on equipment and additional insight to assist decision making. Data centre hardware is frequently updated and older equipment is more likely to break. Having information about the age of equipment and upcoming warranties can help businesses better manage their data centre estates and finances.
IT asset management provides the intelligence to ensure equipment is running smoothly but also to track its whereabouts. Colocation data centres are vast and trying to find the one asset in need of attention through manual methods could take hours, by which time the issue could have escalated.
Surprisingly, environmental monitoring and asset tracking are often still performed with a clipboard and spreadsheet. Not only is this prone to human error but it is a time-consuming – time that could be better spent maintaining equipment and preventing outages. Automated data collection eliminates the need to manually collect environmental and asset information and reduces the risk of human error.
Making the move
Moving to a colocation facility has its benefits – a secure building and environment, connectivity and the benefits of not having to run and pay for a facility. Data centre estates can also be spread across multiple locations to better serve an enterprise’s needs and the costs of running a data centre are reduced.
Colocation providers have SLAs to uphold, and any downtime is costly, so having the intelligence and tools to resolve issues as quickly as possible is key to keeping customers happy. Providing additional insight and demonstrating a commitment to reliability is now the deciding factor for customers when choosing a colocation provider.
The data centre estate is still evolving and colocation and the cloud look likely to continue to be part of this. As more organisations outsource their data centre requirements, providers will need to stand out from the competition and demonstrate they are the best choice.