What to Look for in a Colocation Data Center
As the costs of managing and maintaining owner-operated data centers rise, enterprises are reconsidering their infrastructure and attempting to minimize on-premises data center space. Colocation data center providers are an attractive and cost-effective solution, offering physical space as well as power, cooling, network, and security services for their customers.
According to 451 Research, over 40 percent of enterprise end users are already renting space in a colocation facility and that number is expected to continue rising. If you are considering using a colocation provider, choosing the right vendor for your data center needs can be a complicated decision with many factors that must be weighed. With the average colocation contract being three to five years, it is important to make the right decision in selecting a colocation provider that meets your current and future needs so you don’t have to worry about the cost, effort, and downtime that accompanies moving data centers every several years.
What Is a Colocation Data Center?
A colocation data center is the placement of enterprise-owned compute, storage, and networking assets in a third-party leased facility.
Colocation facilities offer scalability, continuity, and security. They often provide access to the most advanced data center technology while removing the need to build, staff, and manage in-house data centers, giving clients the ability to focus on their business instead.
What Are the Services Offered by a Data Center Colocation Facility?
Typically, a data center colocation service offers the building infrastructure, cooling, power, bandwidth, and physical security while the clients provide the servers and storage. Space is leased by the room, cage, rack, or cabinet. Many colocation data centers today are expanding their portfolio to extend managed services that support their client's business initiatives.
What Are the Types of Colocation Facilities?
Not all colocation data centers are the same. Types of colocation facilities include:
- Retail colocation. In retail colocation, the customer leases space by the rack or cage.
- Wholesale colocation. In wholesale colocation, the customer leases a fully built data center. Wholesale location can be more cost-effective than retail colocation but typically includes less power and space capacity.
- Hybrid cloud-based colocation. Hybrid cloud-based colocation is a mix of in-house and outsourced data center services.
Data centers can be certified by Uptime Institute according to its grading system of data center tiers. Tiers 1 through 4 are assigned based on the data center’s design, operational sustainability, redundancy, and other criteria.
10 Things to Consider When Moving to a Colocation Data Center
For some data center managers, moving your assets to a colocation data center may seem like an obvious choice. After all, carrier hotels and other colocation facilities provide data center managers with scalability, reliability, and security for applications, data, and systems—without the pressure to build, staff, and maintain increasingly complex enterprise data center environments. The various benefits combined with the market expansion into new geographic areas are driving the growth of the colocation data center at a CAGR of 15.4%.
Once you’ve decided that moving to a colocation facility is right for you, it might be tempting to sit back and wait for your colocation provider’s remote hands to do all the work for you. However, choosing a colocation operator is just the first step. Here are ten key considerations you should think about before moving your assets to a colocation data center:
- What are your power, space, and cabinet requirements? There are a few essentials that you should know about before moving your assets to a colocation facility. You need to determine how much power your potential provider can deliver to you and how that compares to how much you need. You also need to know how much floor space and how many cabinets your organization will require. Most colocation facilities lease space by size (square foot or meter), cabinet, or rack. Having an inventory of assets can be helpful during this step so that you don’t buy more space than is necessary and waste money. Consider power density, cooling capacity, and physical infrastructure when determining your requirements for moving to a colocation data center.
- Where is the colocation facility located? The physical location of your potential colocation data center is very important to consider. Think about how close you want the facility to be to you and why it should be there. Do you want to be close enough that you can deploy reliable employees in case of emergencies? Or do you want to trust your colocation provider fully to take care of a crisis? Proximity to the colocation facility is an important thing to consider as it plays a large role in accessibility to infrastructure and daily operations.
- How will your assets be secured? Putting your equipment, infrastructure, and maintenance in the hands of a colocation data center can be difficult if you’re unsure of the security measures in place. Consider finding a colocation provider who keeps a strict list of people who are authorized to access your assets and is controlled by electronic cabinet door locks and card readers. You can also look for a facility where closed circuit TV (CCTV) cameras or webcams are used so you can monitor who has access to your equipment at all times. Having a secure colocation data center also protects the integrity of your data.
- Who will ensure that SLAs are being met? Before moving to a colocation data center, you need to make sure that you have enough space, power, and network capacity to operate your assets within the specifications stated in your Service Level Agreement (SLAs). Some colocation providers will have SLAs for everything from uptime for redundant power to allowable average room temperature ranges to network availability. It’s crucial to pick the right provider with appropriate SLAs and you should review contracts with legal teams before committing to a specific colocation data center.
- How will you monitor changes in the colocation data center? Tracking and executing changes on time and as specified will be a critical part of your colocation data center operations. Decide if you want a colocation facility that can provide hands for maintenance so you don’t have to deploy staff or if you want to be in sole control of maintenance operations. Many colocation facilities have third-party ticketing systems. It’s extremely helpful if your data center management software integrates with external ticketing systems to seamlessly track work orders and change requests and retain their history for auditing purposes.
- Does this colocation facility meet Uptime Institute’s tier standards? Based on your company’s needs, you will need to find a colocation data center that is certified as the appropriate tier. Different tiers can support different functions and demands from organizations and each tier has specific criteria it must meet to be tier certified by Uptime Institute. Once you’ve determined what data center tier your company needs, it will ease the selection process. If you have found a tier-certified colocation data center, make sure it can verify its certification and that it’s in compliance with the current criteria.
- Can the colocation provider scale to meet your future needs? When selecting a colocation data center, you need to know that the facility can support not just your current requirements, but future requirements as well. A facility that can easily scale your capacity as you grow will prevent you from having to move data centers every several years.
- What is the colocation facility’s network ecosystem? Colocation providers offer the ability to interconnect with other networks within a shared data center. You may have questions such as “Is the facility carrier-neutral?” or “Does the provider make it easy for me to simplify multi-cloud interconnection and management?”
- Does the facility have a good reputation? Picking where to keep your mission-critical infrastructure is a serious decision and you should perform your due diligence to ensure that you are partnering with a colocation provider that has a track record of success. Read reviews and ask for references to know that you are making the right choice.
- How is the customer service? Issues and emergencies happen, and you need to know that your colocation data center provider is there for you when you need them. Ensure that your provider has dedicated and experienced staff that is available 24x7x365 to quickly resolve issues before they become larger problems.
8 Challenges of Managing a Colocation Data Center
When you’ve made your selection and successfully migrated your data center, keep these common challenges in mind:
- Visualization. It can be difficult to have full visualization of your data center assets when they are being managed by a colocation facility. Without visualization, you will not be able to know what you have, where you have it, and how much capacity you have left.
- Communication. Even if your planners are remote, it is imperative that they communicate their plan into action.
- Verification. It is not always easy to verify that the equipment arriving at the colocation center meets the actual planned order.
- Validation. Transparency into the racks or cage power usage is needed to avoid overage charges.
- Assurance. It is important to know whether the colocation provider-managed services team can quickly identify and remedy errors or not.
- Change control. Not being physically on site can make managing change control tricky.
- Performance and reliability. You will need a way to ensure that your critical systems are monitored and redundant.
- Asset inventory control. In the new colocation facility, you must be able to assure changes within your inventory are completed as prescribed.
How to Ensure Success in Your New Colocation Deployment
To overcome the challenges of colocation data center management, it is important to properly monitor and manage your data center infrastructure. This will lead to better uptime, efficiency, and utilization.
Modern Data Center Infrastructure Management (DCIM) software makes it easy for you to tackle the challenges of having your assets remotely managed in a colocation data center while improving the efficiency of your operations.
With DCIM, you can:
- Remotely manage infrastructure. DCIM software makes moving, adding, and making changes in your colocation facility easier. You can send detailed work orders to remote hands in the facility and monitor the status. With DCIM software, you’re able to visualize the space, power, and cooling capacity within the colocation data center via color-coded 3D floor map reports, dashboards, and automated capacity planning. Additionally, DCIM software allows for more centralized security management with the use of reporting, audit logs, and surveillance feeds to monitor the security of your equipment with electronic door locks and remote control.
- Transparency and visibility into colo resources and conditions. Maintaining uptime and redundancy is easier with dashboards, reports, trends, utilization rates, and power balancing. DCIM software enables you to visualize, monitor, trend, and alert on temperature, humidity, and other environmental sensors. This helps to identify hot spots, avoid overcooling, stay within ASHRAE guidelines, and save money.
- More productive and effective colocation operations. The main pillar of second-generation DCIM software is automation via integration that reduces manual effort and swivel chair management. You can automate almost any activity with out-of-the-box connectors and fully documented bidirectional web service APIs that simplify integration with CMDBs, ticketing systems, BMS tools, Dev Ops tools, and more. In addition, remote 3D visualization allows you to view cabinet elevations, see where and how devices are located and connected, and analyze power and environmental data at-a-glance. Last, planning for the future is easier since you can reserve resources and use the built-in work order and project management system to automate workflow which can reduce delays and bottlenecks.
Bringing It Together
Colocation data centers may provide a cost and resource-effective alternative to managing your own enterprise data center. However, it’s important to consider proven best practices throughout the process from choosing a colocation facility to deployment.
Put your organization in the best position to succeed by knowing your requirements, selecting a provider that will support you now and, in the future, and leveraging modern data center management tools to simplify operations.
Want to see for yourself how Sunbird’s second-generation DCIM software can help you manage your colocation data center? Take a test drive today.