The Centurylink Technology Solutions Blog - Trends in IT Infrastructure

Results tagged “colocation” from The Centurylink Technology Solutions Blog

Value of a Hybrid IT Environment

CenturyLink is a premier sponsor of the upcoming Gartner Data Center, Infrastructure and

Operations (I&O) Management Conference.   The theme of this year's event is Leading I&O:  Delivering New Levels of Innovation and Productivity and will be held in Las Vegas on Dec 2-5 at the Venetian Hotel.

 

To exemplify how the data center is playing a leading role in innovation, I will be hosting a panel of our customers at the event titled How IT is helping the Enterprise Revolutionize their Markets.

By Guest Blogger: Julian Kudritzki, Chief Operating Officer of the Uptime Institute

In the world of Multi-Tenant Data Centers (MTDC), as in much of life, not all things are created equal.  The levels of redundancy and robustness vary widely across centers, geographic locations and providers.  It is for this reason that the Uptime Institute created the Data Center Tier Classification System (I - IV) almost 20 years ago, and that the corresponding Tier Certification has become the company's fastest growing certification segment today.  

The IT Freedom Movement

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Poet Robert Frost once said, "Freedom lies in being bold." It's the ability to take charge of your destiny and to make the tough choices necessary to drive freedom. This is especially important when applied to today's IT infrastructure.

The IT infrastructure is becoming increasingly complex. The vast amount of data being generated by businesses - from customer relationship management and accounting to e-mails and Word documents - creates a flood of data to be stored and managed. At the same time, emergence of such forces as cloud, data center integration, and increasing security threats creates an added layer of confusion. Unfortunately, CIOs are being forced to do more with less as IT budgets are closely monitored.

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CenturyLink just announced the availability of our hybrid IT managed services in China.

The enormous opportunities in China have created strong demand from our multinational corporation customers to access the Chinese market, but logistical issues and concerns about security and navigating the business and regulatory climate present unique challenges.

Your Next Data Center: Build or Buy?

You've heard it said before: "If you build it, they will come." It's one of the more popular lines in the movie Field of Dreams.Yet when you think about it, the same phrase can be applied to data centers. 

An ability to build a complex, powerful infrastructure -- capable of handling the flood of data and new technologies such as cloud -- is essential. Unfortunately, many managers don't have the budget, staff, or bandwidth to ensure day-to-day reliability and availability. That's why many are turning to service providers for colocation and other IT infrastructure solutions. Really, the question isn't: "If you build it?" The real question is: "Will you BUY it?"

I had the honor of attending a ceremony a few weeks ago to accept CenturyLink's recognition by ComEd for our ongoing efforts to promote energy savings and green initiatives at our Chicago CH2 data center. Through ComEd's Smart Ideas for Your Business® program, CenturyLink was acknowledged for lowering the PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) of our Chicago data center footprint. We are very proud of our ongoing sustainability efforts.

 

Why do data centers have a bad reputation as energy consuming behemoths? Data centers house large amounts of IT equipment that provide computing power to organizations across the world and they must consume large amounts of power to remain online. Our use of smart phones, tablets, PCs, video on demand, and streaming music are just a few examples of the technology and applications people use every day. We expect our devices and apps to work every day, all the time.

 


As you'll recall a few months back we announced our plan for expansion in Canada with the launch of a new 100,000-square-foot TR3 data center that will support up to five megawatts of IT load in the Toronto region. It was big news then and still is big news because the big day is nearly here!

 

As I mentioned then, our expansion is part of our plan to power businesses in Canada through CenturyLink Technology Solutions' world-class infrastructure services, which is a component of our strong IT services portfolio along with cloud, big data, business applications, content management and e-commerce initiatives for Canadian and global companies.

Bitcoin Mining is Hot, Hot

CoinTerra LogoLook any day in your news feed and you'll learn that Bitcoin mining is hot a topic - from the rush of venture dollars flowing into the Bitcoin ecosystem to the reported $600M in spending on infrastructure expected in the second half of this year.

According to 
Data Center Knowledge, the growing interest in Bitcoin and other virtual currencies has spurred a massive investment in servers and infrastructure to process transactions and 'mine' bitcoin. Computing power in virtual currency mining is measured by the "hash rate," the number of SHA256* calculations that hardware can perform every second. Since January, the Bitcoin network hash rate has grown from a total computing power of 10 Petahash per second to 135 Petahash per second, and is expected to reach up to 700 Petahash per second by the end of the year.
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When the topic of choosing a colocation provider is discussed, a famous Forrest Gump quote comes to mind: "Life [is] like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."


Like a box of chocolates, data centers are all different. What may appear as minor nuances between providers could result in a major impact to the performance of your business. Whether it's an improved customer experience, 100 percent uptime for critical applications or better alignment of IT with business priorities, knowing what to look for in a data center colocation provider is crucial to success.

CenturyLink Big Data

If you're considering leveraging a solution from an Anything-as-a-Service (XaaS) managed service provider, make sure you understand what infrastructure underpins that solution.

Businesses - large and small - often turn to
colocation and cloud services because they want to focus on their core competencies rather than on using valuable resources to design, build and maintain an IT infrastructure that allows their organization to run smoothly. And now there's an interesting trend in which many XaaS providers are doing something similar: They are contracting with larger IT service providers to host their equipment and manage their IT operations.

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Hybrid IT solutions - particularly those involving data center colocation, managed services and cloud - are thriving.

 

Some prognosticators believe that cloud is the future of everything in enterprise IT. While certainly bold and attention-grabbing, forecasting a future without colocation and managed services is extreme. Cloud certainly is at the forefront of our industry, but hybrid IT solutions will continue to flourish.

IT groups are under increasing pressure to deliver new capabilities more quickly - without a corresponding increase in budget.

 

But as they strive to increase agility, many IT groups are hobbled by the fact that they spend the majority of their limited resources maintaining their existing IT infrastructure and applications. That's why so many IT leaders are asking themselves a key question: "How do I optimize my resources in service of the company's business growth opportunity?"

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Having spent more than a decade as an executive in the corporate technology field, I sometimes find myself a bit mystified by the prognostications about who is winning and losing in the race for dominance in any given category.

 

The enterprise cloud falls into this pattern, with observers discussing the industry as if it were a football game at halftime -- the winners clearly delineated and the competition all but over. I beg to differ. If enterprise cloud were a football game on TV, we would barely be at the "brought to you by" commercial in the pre-game show. Clearly the players are on the field, and today we are going to show that CenturyLink is most definitely in the game.

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"What is the one thing that can't be compromised when it comes to data centre space?"


The question continues to be an extremely popular topic amongst the data centre community but never ceases to confound me. It may be a popular conversation starter, but in my opinion, it's no longer a question that needs asking.

Every day, we're bombarded with information about cloud computing, and while, it's important, it's often not the whole story.

Clearly, the traditional capital and labor-intensive model of IT infrastructure ownership has become unwieldy - its days are numbered. Over-provisioning to create headroom has become unsustainable - financially and environmentally - and unjustifiable for meeting short-term or temporary workloads.

"Mindfulness" is a state of nondistraction, characterized by full engagement with a current task or situation. Very few of us actually live in the moment; instead, all too often, we are caught up in past successes and failures and trying to guess what is coming next.

This is no different in business, with many decision makers basing growth plans on existing business models as they attempt to gauge demand for services and make a commitment upfront. 

IDC predicts that by the end of 2013, the 'digital universe' of all digital data created will reach four zettabytes - nearly 50 percent more than 2012 volumes and almost a quadrupling of 2010 volumes.

 

Just as the proliferation of digital data drives rapid improvements in the way businesses innovate their operations and customer engagements, so too is it propelling new approaches to managing the IT that supports it. 

IT as we know it is on the cusp of a major migration.

 

With the rise of cloud computing, it may not surprise you to learn that a recent Savvis study found IT leaders expect to outsource nearly 70 percent of their IT infrastructure workloads by 2018.

 

But to assume this five-year migration involves a direct shift from on-premise to cloud is premature in overlooking the vital role of colocation.

 

The next five years is set to bring a dramatic, hybrid shift in the way IT leaders approach the IT infrastructure that supports their business growth and innovation, according to a global IT outsourcing study released today by Savvis, a CenturyLink company. 

 

In fact, by 2018, this global report predicts nearly 70 percent of IT infrastructure will reside in colocation, managed hosting and outsourced cloud models - a near full reversal from the 65 percent of infrastructure living in in-house environments today.

Hosted SAP HANA: What does it really mean?

 

The more I talk with business leaders about this solution, the more I see many understand its advantages for speed, resource efficiency and infrastructure management, but they're somewhat surprised to learn hosted SAP HANA also means options.

ColocationIcon_Larger.jpgSix years ago, businesses considering colocation wanted to know all about the physical infrastructure - the hardware, the cooling, the facility itself. While those features are still very relevant today, we're seeing a move toward conceptual, strategic needs driving colocation decisions.

 

No longer are businesses focused exclusively on what is in your data center. They also want to know who is in your data center and how relationships within this data center can support their high-level business objectives.

CloudIcon_Larger.jpgJust back from a trip to Europe - the perfect rally point for meeting with many of our European customers to discuss how they are using our growing London-based cloud platform and how Savvis should prioritize its development backlog.

 

We were also able to meet with a number of industry analysts Cloud Expo Europe and update them on some exciting new developments inside the Savvis Cloud, such as our Symphony Cloud Storage offering and the savvisdirect project.

Looking at ocean.jpgGoodbye 2012. Hello 2013!

 

It's another year, wide open with opportunity. Let's savor its newness for a moment and capture our surroundings as they exist right now. For in this fast, tech-driven world, we know one thing is certain: What concerns us today, probably won't a year from now.

 

That may have been clear to those of you who took a look back at 2012's most-read blog posts, according to Google Analytics. So now that the slate's been wiped clean, what IT infrastructure topics take priority?

Colocation IconDistance may make the heart grow fonder, but how much does it really matter for the average company choosing a colocation provider?

 

We in the colocation world often talk about the "server huggers," those leaders who want their data centers as close to their offices as possible. But as efficiency and cost gains advance this market, location might be slipping in rank on the priority list.

 

That's good news for colocation providers and their clients because it opens the doors to more low-cost location and low-carbon design options.

 

Why We Hug Our Servers

With the threat of downtime hanging overhead, it's understandable that some clients want to hug their servers. Data center downtime is costly to business, and when a client's IT staff can travel quickly to the facility to troubleshoot the problem, operations come back online faster, minimizing detrimental expense and other repercussions.

 

But when third party data centers are used, uptime responsibility generally lies with the colocation provider. That means these providers have incentive for maintaining maximum reliability for all the enterprises that rely on its services.   

 

Latency is another common concern among huggers. But for most third-party data center users, a couple hundred miles creates small latency - so small, in fact, it's usually only noticed by users involved in online trading, gaming and other high-stakes activities.

 

In reality, being close to a third-party facility is of little or no benefit to clients. Even if they're just a short car ride away, a third-party service provider can often fix the issue remotely before the client arrives.

 

Enterprises Grow the Distance

Increasingly, we're finding enterprise clients growing the distance between their offices and their third-party data centers. In fact, we've anecdotally found providers in traditional disaster-recovery markets have high percentages of customers from beyond 100 miles away.

 

The reasons? Efficiency and focus.

 

Many companies test out colocation with their nonmission-critical IT workloads. These are easily outsourced, allowing in-house IT to focus on more pressing priorities while the third-party manages day-to-day operations.

 

Another factor is trust. Once a third-party provider establishes a solid track record, companies are more likely to streamline additional workloads.

 

As the technology world moves further into colocation and cloud, don't be surprised to come across clients with shifting attitudes on location and proximity. This is particularly pertinent when we consider urban data centers, which can be more constrained by space and more expensive to power than in other areas.

 

As clients increasingly regard facility location with less importance, third party colocation providers will have the opportunity to reap power-cost savings and gain advantages in space and power capacity. These are tangible benefits that can also be passed down to clients.

 

While the majority of today's customers still operate within an easy, 100-mile driving range of their data centers, the tide is turning. And that's promising news for providers and today's server huggers.

 

Drew Leonard is vice president, colocation product management, at Savvis, a CenturyLink company.

Colocation IconStructured cabling is an important part of any colocation installation. Proven industry expertise is required in network infrastructure design and installation. The resources needed to implement structured cabling solutions manage the installation for a wide range of clients. Consequently, colocation customers should consider the important reasons to utilize structured cabling for data center colocation implementations.

 

The client gets a complete design package that includes design elevations and material lists. Structured cabling should have the look, feel and support of the colocation provider offering. The offering should meet or exceed the proposed design and implementation specifications and be provided directly by the colocation provider.

 

The structuring cabling should be at market price parity and consistency. With the volume of business the colocation provider offers, leverage their increased buying power with their suppliers, and consequently trickle down to greater overall cost savings on labor and materials, which is passed on as the lowest pricing for the highest quality structured cabling design and implementation.

 

There are significant performance, composition and cost differences in cable types available in the market place. This applies to both copper and fiber cable. It is important to understand the performance requirements and standards associated with the active components (servers, switches, routers) when considering the physical infrastructure that will interconnect and support the active component assets.

 

The physical construction of the cable needs to be considered within the environments the cable is going to be used. If cable is installed today, knowing that additional cable may be installed in the future in an overhead or under floor system, the construction and composition of the cable should be considered as future cable may be installed on top of existing cable. Again, for pennies per foot, a higher quality cable should be considered so that performance degradation does not occur when future cables are installed on top of existing cables. There are also significant differences in connectors and termination hardware. It is important to utilize components that have been manufactured and rated to comply with the overall solution being installed.

 

The installation, testing and warranty of structured cabling solutions should be implemented by those that have been formally authorized and trained to install in accordance with manufacturer and industry standards. The solution should be warranted by the manufacturer of the components through the colocation provider installing the solution. Such certifications occur both at the company and individual installer level. Upon completion of the installation, the installer should be able to provide a Certificate of Warranty that is issued by the manufacturer to the customer owning the solution. This is a result of not only using properly certified installers but also by having the installer issue the certified test results of the project to the manufacturer. Upon submission of the proper paperwork and the certified test results by the installer to the manufacturer, the project is filed and warranted.

 

Colocation providers should incorporate checks and balances as part of their structured cabling process. To ensure the highest quality at the lowest price, colocation providers should internally audit completed designs to ensure they are within market pricing and that the quality of work is in line with the industry.

 

As you can see, colocation is not just about space, power, cages and cabinets. Structured cabling is a critical component of the colocation solution for enterprise organizations. As infrastructure specialists, Savvis offers comprehensive design and installation services associated with structured cabling solutions. Savvis provides the physical connectivity to a customer cage and also has the expertise to design and install services associated with infrastructure builds within the cage environment. These elements are critical when delivering a high-performance, reliable and secure network system infrastructure to the colocation customer.

 

Drew Leonard is vice president, colocation product management, at Savvis, a CenturyLink company.

Green IT facts about data centers

Colocation IconMany progressive companies are expressing increasing interest in ways to establish their organizations as "green" by moving to environmentally friendly practices. IT can be an integral part of such a move, when it comes to transport, energy and other areas. While improving these areas might be second nature to some, few organizations were motivated in the past by green initiatives. But when the benefits of changing to greener products, systems and data centers are realized in terms of cost savings, brand recognition and public perception, organizations begin to sit up and take notice.

 

Studies have shown that an estimated 2 percent of the world's total CO2 emissions are a result of IT sources. This figure could be reduced if everyone would work together, but IT can support the greening of other processes as well. Data centers consume a lot of electricity and this demand leads to higher utility bills, which result in increased attention, concern and scrutiny from company boardrooms.

 

To understand savings opportunities in the data center environment, organizations must look at the building envelopment, IT equipment, virtualization software, building controls, cooling methods and HVAC equipment.

 

The U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is the gold standard in building design. Optimizing the building envelope to reduce solar loading can minimize the impact of outside temperatures on data center operations. In particular, roof designs can significantly reduce the absorption of solar heating.

 

Many server computers run at less than 30 percent of capacity, which is more effective than your average desktop machine, but systems aren't often used to their maximum potential. If the amount of each processor is doubled, the number of devices can be reduced by half, resulting in a significant impact on the environment. Virtualization software is a common solution, enabling applications to run wherever there is room for them, thus reducing the number of servers needed to do the same amount of work.

 

Recent advancements in electronic equipment enable systems to operate at much higher temperatures than in the past. Accordingly, ASHRAE has altered its guidance suggesting that air intake temperatures can be significantly increased.

 

Data center efficiency can be significantly increased through the use of sophisticated building control systems to optimize cooling and air flows, pull in "free" outside air to supplement cooling and provide zonal lighting control. Additional HVAC savings can be achieved through the installation of variable frequency drives, which allow fan speeds to be adjusted to allow the motors to operate within their highest efficiency range.

 

Proper data center floor layout is key to efficiency. Server placement to form hot (exhaust)/cold (intake) aisles and proper placement of CRAH units, blanking plates, supply vents and returns can minimize the mixing of cold-delivered air with hot-exhausted air and assure that the HVAC system efficiency is optimized. Additional savings can be realized through the installation of curtains or other containment systems to further reduce the mixing of cold and hot air.

 

The advances in building and IT equipment technology, combined with the proper floor layout, allow the data center to operate at higher temperatures resulting in significant energy savings. Some organizations reuse waste heat for warming adjacent areas, thereby cutting the energy required.

 

While energy consumption and CO2 emissions reporting requirements vary significantly from country to country and state to state, it is important for forward-looking organizations to understand their output and set forth a strategy to reduce their carbon footprint. IT systems can play a role in helping measure and report those emissions and create a greater exchange of environmental information throughout the supply chain. Computer software can help analyze this information and help optimize data center management, factory operations and product design. By metering, monitoring, analyzing and reporting energy data and process flows, companies can identify where to focus remedial efforts.

 

Green IT Colocation Services

The best place for companies to start involves no measurement or groundwork. It's all about changing behavior. Following is a list of tips colocation providers and their clients can use to help deliver green, IT-based colocation services:

- Commit as an organization to sustainability, from the top down

- Make use of the many sources of publicly available environmental information

- Include lifecycle questions in requests for proposals (RFPs) and when researching the market

- Assure that all equipment is properly maintained to maximum performance

- Increase the temperature in appropriate areas of the data center

- Enlist CIO-level executives to be responsible for all computing energy accounting

 

Establishing a Corporate Environmental Policy

Savvis, which operates data centers worldwide, is working to reduce environmental impact using a thoughtful, balanced approach: data center design and operational excellence, promoting the use of highly-efficient, shared and virtualized IT environments, establishing benchmarks for continuous improvement and encouraging a daily practice of considering sustainability in the decisions that are made. A balanced approach means supporting the fitness of our business and that of our clients' organizations. Any sustainability effort must consider the quality of service offered to our clients and the value created for shareholders.

 

Examples include:

- Seek to build and operate efficient data centers

- Invest in service delivery models that provide highly-efficient IT solutions to our clients

- Pursue sustainability initiatives that reduce the energy and materials consumption of our organization

- Consider sustainability in terms of client value when establishing energy conservation initiatives

- Address and meet all applicable legal requirements regarding sustainability

- Monitor the results of our sustainability efforts

 

We firmly believe that we can take steps to reduce the environmental impact of our business and that of our clients by establishing standards in operational management and taking our clients with us on a path toward greater utilization. Our pursuit of environmentally favorable data center design and operational excellence, coupled with the promotion and use of highly-efficient virtualized and cloud IT environments through the concept of green IT will help us achieve environmental sustainability and benefit our clients, employees and the IT industry for generations to come.

 

Drew Leonard is vice president, colocation product management, at Savvis, a CenturyLink company.

Colocation IconAs they move through different points in their lifecycle, it is common to see companies change their mentality around colocation. The overhead of managing their own increasing colocation equipment rises in parallel with the complexity and size of their business. This steers them to start planning a move to managed services or the cloud because they realize that it is a better use of resources to leverage the expertise of their service provider's technology specialists to manage infrastructure, freeing them to deliver and migrate apps and features rather than maintaining their own IT infrastructure.

 

This type of a scenario has led to an increase in demand for service providers that offer a full portfolio of services ranging from colocation to managed hosting to public, private and hybrid cloud services. However, developing the facilities and the capability to integrate this full range of technologies has been a major challenge for many colocation providers.

 

The biggest of these challenges is effectively managing the data center. Running a data center is similar to attempting to keep a vehicle on the road 24 hours a day, 365 days a year without stopping - yet driving as efficiently as possible. Even if you started with the best equipment in the world, planning and then implementing the necessary rolling maintenance is critical if single points of failure and outages are to be avoided. The evolution of technology is helping, bringing cheaper UPS, generator and cooling technologies together with planning, automation and monitoring tools. But as yet, one of the most valuable assets in colocation provision continues to be experience.

 

The desire for fine-tuned control over systems has been one of the primary needs that colocation has satisfied. For most clients, a sufficient level of control is currently available in the cloud, which eliminates the burden of configuring and maintaining equipment. Therefore, to maintain relevance in the future, colocation providers need to evolve and become a bridge to a wider range of managed services. This approach will provide a base for effectively connecting an organisation's unique IT configurations and intellectual property costs to the wider range of services required to support that technology. The parallel provision of colocation as host for, and part of, the full spectrum of cloud options is where the future lies for the industry.

 

Drew Leonard is vice president, colocation product management, at Savvis.
Savvis Colocation Services

Colocation: It's the oft-forgotten sibling in the managed IT services family. If you're looking in from outside the industry, you may be forgiven for thinking that cloud computing can completely replace colocation services.

 

In reality, over the past few years we have seen rising enterprise demand for colocation. This is the case whether colocation is part of a complete infrastructure outsourcing plan, just a point solution to aid compliance, such as for PCI, or needed to fix an issue involving integrating legacy equipment with new services.

 

Across sectors, there is a demand for colocation to help deliver greater efficiency. Colocating is almost always more efficient in terms of energy and cooling costs than having equipment in server rooms within organizations.

 

Beyond efficiency, there are other strong drivers for increased colocation uptake, especially when a provider has the scale to offer a choice of data centers. For instance, the need to minimize latency between certain applications and their markets drives regional colocation, increasing data protection scrutiny, as well as business continuity and disaster recovery demands where the need is for data to reside somewhere that the other copies of that data are not. More recently, colocation is also used to readily deliver auditable enhanced security to achieve PCI compliance.


CIOs and IT directors have become more involved in the corporate decision-making process and hence are tightly aligning IT budgets to deliver directly against business needs. They are increasingly eager to question and evaluate existing methods so that excessive fat can be trimmed from budgets to ensure that their businesses stay lean and scalable.

 

These IT decision-makers have become savvier, scrutinizing service level agreements (SLAs) and becoming increasingly eager to understand the intricacies of data centers and how facilities are actually managed. As a result, they are investing more time and resources evaluating their data center options, figuring out the best model to fit within their requirements and determining where they get the best value.

 

As IT directors explore colocation options, they are regularly asking themselves why they need this much data center space. Having only several racks of space blocked out and provisioned with power and cooling can effectively waste thousands of square feet inside the data center.

 

Colocation pricing models vary around the world. In some markets, this space is contractually reserved - but not charged for - until it us used. In others, all of the space where power and cooling is provisioned is paid for. With the political and financial pressure on to maximize data center sustainability, the option to block space for free is being removed, especially in top-performing data centers where space is at a premium.

 

This, combined with the close focus of IT directors, is causing a shift in the way colocation is used. Instead of deploying colocation in the old-fashioned caged kit way, IT directors are looking to make colocation more flexible by dipping into other services offered by their IT infrastructure vendors.

 

Here's an example of this approach being used in some markets:

 

Rather than incur the capital expense and delay the procuring and installing of a new storage array in caged space when capacity is needed, IT directors are buying capacity by the gigabyte from their host on demand. This offers multiple benefits, including near instant deployment, no capital expenditure and depreciation. It also provides the ability to scale the available storage up or down to meet demand, instead of keeping expensive, empty platters spinning on hand in case they are needed.

 

Drew Leonard is vice president, colocation product management, at Savvis.

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a data center and colocation?

 

While a data center is a physical building with the power infrastructure, cooling resources, security measures, colocation is a service based on the standards, policies, procedures, people and data center infrastructure. The quality of each of these components drives the overall end-user experience, as does the type of provider you choose.

 

Colocation is defined by three components: space, power and cooling. Space, measured by square foot or meter, is delivered in either cages or racks. Power is critical, because without it, there is no colocation offering. It is a robust combination of utility, generators, uninterruptible power supply and distribution at the circuit level to customer equipment. Cooling helps drive efficiencies and deliver greater data center densities, which translates into potential savings to the end-users. Combined, these three elements are a very sellable commodity.  

 

In colocation, core competencies such as security, facility management and carrier access should be table stakes. These required items can make or break the experience. Clients benefit from these offerings and can focus their efforts and resources on managing and growing their business.

 

The client's core business is at the pinnacle of its priority list and all aspects of the colocation experience must adequately support that. A colocation provider should deliver the stable foundation on which the client can execute on its IT strategy or e-commerce platform.

 

But how do you select a colocation provider? Which one should you choose? Let's look at the three primary types of colocation providers:

 

Real estate investment trust (REIT) or wholesale colocation providers - These providers want only to build data centers to their or your design, then lease you the whole site, floor or large powered suite. They deliver a building with the cooling and power distribution to the floor, but the client must distribute and manage delivery to the racks, as well as manage the entire space. This type of colocation is sold at commodity prices because you, the client, do everything! The client in this case bears a good amount of the time and costs to operate the data center.

 

Carrier-owned providers - Here, colocation can be viewed as the loss leader that the carrier uses to also sell its core service (network access). These providers offer a greater array of services that are directly enjoyed by the client, but limited carrier diversity can hamper choice and network growth.

 

Retailers/managed service providers - These providers, such as Savvis, have refined the commodity, distribute and manage the power and cooling to the racks, provide the racks and cages, and offer cabling, remote hands and support services. Levels of competency, ability and delivery of the end-user experience are the differentiators. As a refined product, this type of colocation carries higher prices than the wholesale proposition, so it's important to carefully examine how the providers differentiate themselves and show value-add over and above the other players.

 

With a commodity, price is almost everything. With colocation, a greater importance is placed on value adds like capacity, connectivity, location and the human factor, all well before pricing. In fact, as Tim Anker from Colocation Exchange notes, pricing is fifth on the list of key decision factors.

 

In the end, your level of expectation and need for levels of service should dictate your decision on which type of provider you choose - not the price.

 

A wholesale colocation provider likely will not offer power and capacity planning to accommodate for future needs. Security - not just a video of the halls and access ways, but complete security to the cage or rack level, etc. - also will be lacking. You will want to ask about network connectivity and proximity, onsite 24/7 support and flexible contract terms (typically one to three years with a managed service provider compared to about five to 15 years with a REIT).

 

Using a wholesaler may come with hidden costs as well. These may include:

  • Client costs for data center design, capacity, power, security and space management
  • Third party resources or internal staff who are required to travel to provide routine maintenance or upgrades
  • Network connectivity to multiple carriers - local loops as opposed to cross connects from within the suite
  • Staffing and training
  • Managed hosting and cloud services

 

I hope you now have a clearer understanding of the differences between full-service and other colocation providers, and know what to look for when selecting a colocation provider.

 

Colocation is a service. That service is based on the standards, policies, procedures, people and the data center infrastructure. The quality of each of these components drives the overall end-user experience.

 

Drew Leonard is vice president, colocation product management, at Savvis.

Study after study has shown that if you are a Web-based business and your landing pages are slow to load you will lose business. You will also pay a second penalty, losing search rank, making it harder to recover after fixing site problems. Likewise, an overloaded site can quickly turn a marketing success into a PR problem as clothing store Reiss found out last week.

 

Most companies know this, so they ensure that they have a solid SLA in place with their data centre provider covering the performance and availability of their cloud or colocation space so that their apps stay up and are on a platform that should deliver the designed responsiveness.

 

Unfortunately, guaranteeing that the lights are on, the platters are spinning and that the bandwidth is in place is not enough to ensure success for a Web-based business, your customers do not connect at the cage or even at the edge of your provider's WAN. Instead, your Web apps must traverse thousands of miles of fibre over multiple networks before reaching their destination. The variables these routes impose play a key role in the overall delivered responsiveness of your applications, and need to be monitored and reported on so that action can be taken to ensure that each end-user's quality of experience (QoE) remains high.

 

Savvis' End User Experience Monitoring (EUEM) service, which is powered by Gomez, can analyse performance both from the internet backbone in over 150 major cities, for an overview of performance, or drill down to customer level via tests run on a network of more than 150,000 end-user desktop computers located in multiple countries. We usually recommend that alerts from the network are copied to our own systems management teams so that we can start investigating issues and recommending ways to resolve them as soon as they arise.

 

The payback from end-user monitoring can be almost instantaneous. We recently set up an initial monitoring profile as a test for a client for just 24 hours. The tests highlighted that a particular code block was causing loading to appear to pause. The diagnostic information we provided enabled the customer's development team to modify the application so that the page now performs better.

 

As you run EUEM analysis over longer time scales you can establish trend data that informs capacity planning and allows for exception monitoring that can aid early fault detection. You can also use EUEM for strategic planning.

 

A great example of this is when planning to roll out a service to a new market. If, prior to roll out, you use the EUEM network to run test transactions against the application from your target market, you can compare this to the performance norms to identify if there are any particular local bottlenecks that need to be addressed, for example, by considering moving the load from that market to a more local data centre or modifying the application to split the transactions into smaller parts.

 

With this sort of flexible capability, I believe EUEM should be considered as part of every Web service infrastructure contract as a complement to standard SLAs. Used fully EUEM will help ensure that not only is the site up, but that it is delivering. Without EUEM can you honestly say you know how your customers see your apps?

 

Steve Falkus is product marketing manager, EMEA, at Savvis.

Migrations of IT infrastructure to a colocation provider's data center generally fall into four categories: Forklift, Phased, Zero-Downtime and Virtualized Systems. Each has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages, and is influenced by the complexity of the migration, budget and time considerations, end-user impact and other factors.

 

In short, a forklift migration involves shutting the machines down and moving them. It's one of the least complex migrations to configure. This type of move can save a company considerable sums, as there is just one window when minor changes occur. However, there are some disadvantages, including the potential for a lengthy outage during the migration and that fact that your company will still be using the same, possibly outdated hardware.

In 1789 Benjamin Franklin wrote, "In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." An obvious addition to this list, particularly looking at the financial markets landscape going into 2011, is "change," as the markets and their constituent players face, and sometimes embrace, constant change:

When do we evolve from colocation?

Colocation often gets overlooked in the managed IT services family. It's the forgotten sibling to cloud computing, oversimplified and viewed as solution whose time has passed. However, there's still a place for colo in the IT solutions toolbox, and I think it's a great time to take a fresh look at ways to optimise and strategise to get the most out of this so-called legacy solution.

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