We’ve all read this story or thought through the issues, what’s the big deal? I just need to move my stuff in to someone else’s data center. What’s so complex about making the decision to use co-location or hosted services? There’s more, much more. Simply finding a place to move your gear is no longer a feasible strategy.
The standard process is to identify a co-location partner who can satisfy the following requirements to a level that guarantees availability, performance, and support
- Must be in a location that supports latency requirements
- Needs to provide as good or better resiliency as your current facility in the face of geographic or weather based disasters
- Cost & quality of power
- Type of power (I.e., Coal fired or Hydro, etc)
- Needs to have enough immediate capacity to ensure you’re not looking for a new partner or location within a year of moving in
- Has strong SLA and contract options for providing support and penalty payment (remediation)
- Good location transportation options (I can get people and equipment there fairly easily and quickly)
- Availability of several network/connectivity options for diverse paths and competitive pricing
- Reasonable pricing for services offered
- Financially viable
- Strong operations and certification history
There are a few more of the “standards” but by and large the above are used for primary consideration when making a vendor partner selection
Before I go on, let me just say that the following statements in no way invalidate the need to worry about the above “standard” considerations/requirements. However, they do put in to question the value that you place on some of them and the fact that they could become irrelevant if not considered in combination with the following points.
The nature of how you acquire and use IT has changed, and continues to change to a model more aligned with buying “services”. Even though you may still decide to build and operate your own infrastructure the way you add or remove capabilities will be (should be) much more Lego like (See Fluid IT).
Why does Fluid or Agile IT play into a Co-location choice?
My suggestion on the IT environment of the future is that the flexibility and speed of service change everyone will drive towards, will force us to rethink how we buy. It will also force us to seriously consider “where” we buy. No, I don’t mean HP vs. Amax or Cisco vs. Juniper, it’s more of a “location” where.
Historically IT ecosystems (See “IT Ecosystem”) have been comprised of the internal team with several primary providers whom “collaborate” to create a supportable infrastructure environment (we’ve seen how well that’s worked). The limited nature of our traditional ecosystem will not suffice when considering moving to a Fluid/Agile IT operating model. Your proximity to a wide variety of providers (cloud, network, and equipment), along with professional services and skilled talent will become one of the single most important decision drivers. I realize this sounds counter-intuitive in this modern day of working remotely and semi-portable profiles and IT workloads, but if you read the other referenced blogs you’ll get a better understanding of why proximity does really matter.
The New Criteria (added to the old) for choosing a co-location provider
In addition to the criteria listed at the beginning of this blog, I argue that the following must be added in order for you to future proof your investment. It’s also critical to enable “choice” in how you make change to your IT service model and add new service options.
1. Network connectivity options on steroids
- The bullets above mention networking, but most folks only look to validate that they can get one or more of their preferred providers. The opportunity here is to really leverage a combination of scale and location in order to gain access to dozens of carriers. Then to use that availability to ensure access to the most capable and cost effective networking. One or two vendors does not a competitive landscape make.
- It’s true that the cost of networking goes down every couple days, but it’s also true that our demands for capacity are ever more rapidly going up as well. It’s also true that your WAN (Wide Area Networking) costs in many cases can exceed the cost of power for your infrastructure. These costs should be factored in to the long term TCO of picking the appropriate co-location provider.
2. Independent and varied services available in the co-location facility (not services provided by the colocation company)
- How many cloud providers and who are they?
- Are there big data options?
- What about managed services or professional services
- Can your new provider offer “trusted advisor” services to help you at no cost to navigate the various solutions available?
3. How effectively has the provider solved future proofing of their facilities?
- Do they have scale with room to grow on campus or even the same building? Your burden of support goes up significantly if you find that over a few years your infrastructure ends up being distributed across three different data centers in different parts of the city or state.
- How about the ability to take on diverse, complex, and very dense environments? Can/will your provider be able to support everything from a mainframe or tape drives to a high density 30kW per rack server install
4. Disaster Avoidance and Resiliency
- Location and design are almost always considered, but not to the degree I believe they should be.
- When you move your equipment and applications to a new location, you want to be sure that for the money you’re paying you’re getting the most value (right?). Assuming we all agree with that simple concept, then it should be safe to also assume that given a comparable cost, going with the safer location makes common sense
5. Sustainability Requirements
- Regardless of your company’s current position on climate change or being greener, you most definitely should keep sustainability improvement over existing options as a goal. Some basic sustainability considerations:
- Density: If your future provider builds to low density design standards (< 750 watts a square foot) then they are likely to be building a much larger foot print that they need. This practice is not sustainable for obvious reasons (see Density & Sustainability)
- If the facility isn’t designed to a very high level of power/water usage effectiveness, then regardless how efficiently you run your systems, there will still be unnecessary waste
- Some additional thoughts were captured in the first set of search criteria bullets
What’s the real goal of Co-location?
In the end we each may have slightly different reasons for making a move to co-location or hosting, but regardless of the reason (lack of expertise, financial, desire to avoid CapEx, concern over risk or scale, etc., etc.) the opportunity is the same. You should use the move to gain opportunity and improve flexibility of your IT organization. Changes in the IT market are coming hard and fast, and with them come choices and opportunity. The last thing you want to do is paint yourself into a corner by putting your infrastructure in a facility or location that doesn’t have a majority of the criteria I’ve spelled out here. I love analogies, and have used the following one several times, but think it apropos; If you go to buy a basic no frills car (because you don’t need the frills), but you can get the full of frills version for the same price, which car do you choose? Such is your choice in the modern co-location market, get the most bang for your buck, even if at the moment of purchase you’re not sure you’ll need everything offered.