Do you have an endpoint in mind for your digital transformation journey? For many businesses it’s the cloud. Moving everything to the cloud seems like the modern thing to do, right? It’s so popular, in fact, that you will find headlines questioning whether colocation data centres still have a place in digital infrastructure management.
Not only does this question ignore the fact that many cloud providers use colocation services themselves, it also oversimplifies everything from workloads, to digital transformation strategy, right through to business development. Aside from providing a home for cloud, colocation services are still highly relevant and highly valuable – and we’re ready to prove it with a list of five reasons the colocation data centre is here to stay.
1. Data needs a home
The first and most obvious point – worth restating – is that cloud services need data centres. Despite the name, our data isn’t being uploaded and downloaded to and from the atmosphere – it all has a physical home. And though the likes of Microsoft, Amazon and Google have their own hyperscale data centres, they are not the only players out there. The smaller operators can only offer the service if they have the facilities. Colocation makes cloud possible.
2. It has to be the right home
Some tasks and applications are easily adapted to cloud migration. Some are not. A workload-first approach to digital transformation accepts that some workloads are better suited to legacy applications, or perhaps need a different level of security or service than the cloud can offer.
In these cases, keeping an open mind about where your workload ‘should’ live can pay dividends. And we’re not alone in that opinion. In a recent Gartner report, authors David Cappuccio and Henrique Cecci state that ‘cloud first but not always’ is a more realistic model than ‘cloud first’. The report states: ‘I&O [Infrastructure & Operations] leaders are not primarily concerned with whether moving workloads to the cloud is an option for them or not, rather how to determine which workloads would make the most sense to develop for or migrate to the cloud and which would have the most optimal benefit to the business.'
Determining the right workload to migrate, at the right time, for the right reasons, to the right provider, will be the key to success over time.
Sometimes cloud is the right tool for the job; sometimes it’s colocation. You don’t need to put all your eggs in one basket.
3. Scale = efficiency
While data centres are definitely not dying a death, it is true to say that the trend for businesses to own and operate their own data centres has subsided, with colocation and cloud services filling that gap. Commercial, multi-tenant data centres can offer many cost and technology advantages over business-owned facilities, thanks to the economy of scale.
Power, HVAC, connectivity and security are just some of the areas of interest – not just with the savings potential, but also in terms of the practicality of hosting a modern IT system. The increased power densities of modern servers need both reliable power and cooling, which would be very costly on a small scale. Even for those companies with just a few servers in an on-premises server room, the savings (and added peace of mind) can be significant.
Colocation providers also offer more scope (and greater appetite) to try out new technologies such as immersion cooling and other ways to improve the efficiency and sustainability of your operation. Again, these investments would be prohibitively expensive for most SMEs but are made affordable through colocation.
4. Location, location, location
Like cloud, colocation offers the flexibility to expand without having to undertake any building work. You can start with a quarter of a rack – or less! – and work your way up. But that’s not the only way a multi-tenant data centre can meet you where you are.
Edge data centres give you the option to choose a colocation provider close to home. This is a benefit over cloud services – where you may not actually know where your data is stored. It may not even be in this country, which is a rather complicated place to be right now with Brexit. Keeping your data close not only ensures easy access in the event you need to carry out any work on your servers, it also minimises latency and enables you to ensure your data is kept within the regulatory requirements of the relevant jurisdiction.
5. Privacy and security
No system, cloud or otherwise, is immune to cyberattacks. But handing over your data to a cloud provider is effectively handing over control to a third party – something that may be untenable for businesses where data privacy is especially critical.
Meanwhile, rising public awareness of just how much personal data is held and traded online is paving the way for new regulatory frameworks that may see some businesses choose to repatriate their workloads in order to minimise the risk of non-compliance. Here again colocation providers are able to step in, enabling businesses to maintain control of their data while still optimising performance to deliver a cloud-like experience.
The right tool, in the right place, with the right protections, at the right price
While cloud services have a lot to offer, there is still plenty of room for colocation providers to offer infrastructure management at a scale and price that suits you. In particular, for industries handling sensitive data, or for businesses operating legacy applications that can’t easily be migrated to the cloud, colocation delivers the performance you need with added peace of mind.
The future is not as simple as ‘cloud’ – the reality will be a hybrid of cloud, colocation and on-premises solutions that together comprise Hybrid IT. This is the workload-centric approach that will deliver the most value to businesses and their customers.
Look at your data centre as an IT partner rather than a facility, and choose one that can meet your needs while also sharing your values and ambition.