Friday, July 9, 2010

Data Center – Solo or Colo?

So you need a new data center. The question is, “Should I build my own or go with a collocation facility?” The answer: it depends.

There’s no denying that the demand for data center space is on the rise. The world is becoming increasingly digitized through trends such as mobile computing, cloud computing, social media, email proliferation, HIPPA, and IP Voice applications. The most recent “wow” statistic I heard was that corporate data storage demand will increase by more than 650% over the next 5 years. And all of that data has to reside somewhere.

I get frequent calls from organizations who want a space that includes a data center or that is primarily a data center. Their hope is that they’ll find a move-in ready space and dodge the data center build expense. To be honest, they can dodge a tremendous part of the expense… an existing vacant data center will have power and cooling systems, fire suppression system, power and data feeder reliability (probably), raised floor (if applicable), a generator, and possibly racking and wire management, saving them tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. The part that surprises is that 2nd generation (aka pre-built vacant) space will likely require them to lease more space than anticipated or be prepared to spend large sums modernizing a the power and cooling systems.

2nd generation data center space will almost always have been built more than 5 years ago. The miniaturization of electronics during that time has allowed manufacturers to fit more gear in less rack space, resulting in much higher power consumption AND heat generation per square foot of data center space. It’s entirely realistic that a 2nd generation space will need 2-3 times that of what the 2nd generation space was built to provide. OR a user will need to spread out their gear so that they don’t overload the power and cooling systems, resulting in them having to lease more space than they really need. If either of these scenarios is acceptable, then solo may well be an option.

There is a challenge with finding 2nd generation data center space… it’s not always well-promoted, and there are varying degrees of accuracy in what is conveyed. Non-technical real estate agents don’t always realize the value such facilities offer, so they don’t promote them when they’re part of a larger space. They ARE out there, they’re just not promoted (click here for a blog entry listing such spaces in Atlanta). Regarding accuracy, I’ve personally had agents tell me that something is a 2nd generation data center even when it’s been completely gutted!

For those lacking the capital or expertise to update (or build) their own “solo” facility, collocation is a great option. There are over a dozen facilities around metro Atlanta alone that are move-in ready, offering turnkey solutions to meet any need. Whether you need to host your web site in someone else’s server, need a few rack units to locate your own server, or need a caged area that’s totally yours, these providers can accommodate you. You’ll get connectivity, physical security, primary and backup power, cooling, and constant improvements… all at the hands of another. And while their dollars per square foot equation will look high, I regard it to be a sound investment.

A few of Atlanta’s collocation providers include (in alphabetical order to be fair!) AT&T, Colocube, InterNAP, Level3, MCI, Peak10, Quality Technology Group, SAGO, SAVVIS, SunGard, TelX, TW Telecom, NationalNet, Xilogix, XO, and others. Each has its own facility type and “sweet spot,” so you’d still be wise to engage someone who can narrow the list depending upon your need.

Next Step
Your best next step is to engage a commercial agent who can understand your needs and drivers and who is aware of what the solo and colo markets have to offer. If a good 2nd generation option is there, they’ll be able to find it. If your needs point to colo, they can pair you with the best 2-3 fits and provide their own insight along the way.

I’d love to be that resource… call or email anytime!


1 comment:

Brian said...

Great blog John! Being a data center provider, I can certainly second everything that you just said. There is much religion in the buy vs. build discussion. And nowadays, a prospective data center customer/owner needs to account for more than just the facility costs. They must contend with compliance regulations AND the ever changing environmental rules that points towards LEED's certifications.

Another important point that is important for customers and agents alike is that geography is not the factor that it once was. The dense, highly configurable data center infrastructures assures that an agent can sell data center space anywhere in the country.

The customer can also reliably maintain, manipulate, and configure all aspects of their DC infrastructure on an as needed basis.

While DC infrastructure is becoming more complex, it is also becoming more accessible and user friendly.

I'd certainly be glad to help, no matter the size of your needs. BTW, Tier 3 infrastructure capable of up to 300 w per sf... :-)