Article by Eckart Zollner, Head of Business Development, the Jasco Group
Data centres act as the data and app stores of businesses, they provide raw computing power and connectivity. As such, they are core to any business. Ownership is, however, no longer essential. Businesses now make strategic, often hybrid, choices based on their business and security requirements, and what their customers need.
There are essentially three kinds of data centres:
• A vendor-neutral data centre is owned and managed by a third party data centre company. This company will not offer any services other than data centre space and always available power, cooling and security. Clients pay a monthly rental for rack space and power, and bring their own equipment that they manage themselves.
• An on-premise data centre is owned by a firm, solely for the data centre requirements of the said firm. No third party provider selling services form the data centre will be allowed into the on-premises data centre.
• Data centres in the cloud offer virtualised compute service layers (Infrastructure as a Service or IaaS) or even application based (Platform as a Service or PaaS). They are generally owned by a single services company, such as Amazon or Microsoft (Azure), and allow their customers to request virtualised compute and storage resources in order to host their own applications.
Each type of data centre has its advantages.
An on-premise data centre enables firms to maintain total control, enforce their own security and remain as flexible as their own business requirements require. Critical data such as government data or financial data, which has a requirement for maximum protection against loss or theft, remain in on-premise-based data centres.
There is a growing market for vendor-neutral and cloud-based data centre services, however, especially as these offerings evolve and mature.
The evolution of vendor-neutral data centres
Service providers, financial institutions and large enterprises are the kinds of users that may benefit from a vendor-neutral data centre. Vendor-neutral data centres create large IP services communities and thus act as a global telecommunications and services hub. They create an ecosystem of competing service providers that offers clients maximum choice and lowest possible price options for IT services. Telecoms providers now offering over the top and other services are also now making use of vendor-neutral data centres rather than own their own infrastructure – its less costly and often increases accessibility to their end customers.
In fact, this trend is indicative of the evolution we are seeing in data centre use. Organisations are moving operations into distributed data centres that are closer to the edge of the network and closer to the client. Their goal is to lower costs of transport and increase the reliability of their services.
Service providers may use a number of data centres for failover. Indeed, many ISPs offer this as a benefit to their customers. However, in Africa, there are only a few large vendor-neutral data centres. One factor constraining data centre growth is that computing power is growing massively but the hardware is shrinking, so users now take up a fraction of the rack space they previously used.
In the EU and elsewhere globally, there is consolidation as larger vendor-neutral players invest in acquisition of smaller players to provide distributed services. In the EU, specialised data centres serving specific industry sectors are also emerging. For example, data centres for the financial services community may offer specific security features required by regulators. Offering such specialised services may well provide local data centres – and their clients – with an advantage in future.
And about cloud-based computing…
The benefits of a cloud data centre is that it allows software vendors, IT service providers and ISPs to offer modern day IT services and application solutions without the capex investment in infrastructure and operational structures – these organisations simply make use of existing infrastructure, often owned by vendor-neutral data centre providers. For cloud providers’ clients –
individual, SME and enterprise users – there is a similar cost benefit. They can pay per use and scale use of virtualised compute and storage resources as needed. Users opting for a cloud solution should be wary, however.
Despite growing uptake, cloud-based data centres may not always be the best choice for very high-speed, high bandwidth and latency-sensitive applications as the operational costs associated with the data transport to and from such data centres can become expensive, and prohibitively long delay times may impact service. Before signing up, users should investigate the reliability, speed, capacity and cost guarantees that cloud data centre providers can deliver, and put in place SLAs to ensure that delivery.
Which data centre is best for your business?
If you are wondering which data centre would best suit your business, here are some key questions to ask:
• What are my security requirements, and how am I able to address data breaches?
• Who are my customers? What services do they require?
• Does my business rely on other providers of IT services?
• What level does my company compete on – infrastructure, services, applications?
For many organisations, there is no single answer. Many firms chose a combination of the three types of data centres for different reasons and different services. What’s clear, however, is that making the right strategic choices can offer considerable advantage.