The datacenter collocation market is estimated to grow to 32.2 billion dollars by 2015.
Enterprises in North America and Europe are being joined by companies in other parts of the world as many embrace collocation as a way to save money and time from having to build their own datacenters. Are they right to do so?
First, let's take a look at collocation pros:
Collocation saves money
Especially upfront. Organizations can save as much as 80 percent of their upfront datacenter build costs as well as the two years it takes to build a best-of-class, LEED-compliant datacenter. On an ongoing basis, collocation costs versus the costs of running your own datacenter can run pretty close -- but if your goal is to scale out your datacenter rapidly and at least reduce upfront cost, collocation fits the bill.
Collocation delivers agility, flexibility, and scalability
When building datacenters, enterprises size them based upon anticipated IT needs -- but this can't account for unexpected situations like corporate acquisitions. And while IT can anticipate spikes in processing cycles (such as the holiday season, if you are a retailer) -- it inevitably ends up oversizing its datacenter to handle these spikes, while datacenter resources are underutilized the rest of the year. With collocation, you can scale resources up or down to meet business demand -- and only pay for what you use.
Collocation can preempt the need for that second or third datacenter
Recent disasters have most organizations paying more attention to their disaster recovery and business continuation plans. For large enterprises, this has meant extending beyond a primary and a backup secondary datacenter to a scenario where there are three or more datacenters.
The goal is to have primary and secondary datacenters in a proximate geographical area -- and to add datacenters in distant geographies that can run the company's processing if a disaster impacts the company's primary geographical area. Datacenter collocation is an economical way to build out multiple datacenters, with enterprises having the option of placing staff at these locations.
Collocation fits with cloud and virtualization
The more enterprises deploy virtualization and cloud, the less they are dependent on specific physical locations. New cloud-based and virtual IT infrastructure will continue to melt down the physical boundaries between facilities, making collocation even easier.
Now, here are some cons:
You cede some control when you collocate
You are consigning part of your IT operation to someone else when you collocate. This makes it imperative to fully vet a collocation partner before you sign on. Areas you should review include: physical security to the premises; the collo vendor's ability to meet your compliance and security standards; and guaranteed protection of your data and intellectual property.
Disaster recovery and business continuation can be compromised
It's not enough for a collo provider to say that it has a DR/BC plan. The question is: Will this plan synchronize with your own? One way to assure this is to require vendor participation in your own DR plan testing as a condition of your contract.
Vendor and company infrastructure investments may not synchronize
Companies can get so excited about upfront collo savings that they forget to spend the time that they should to ensure that the collo vendor has a similar technology vision and will be making datacenter upgrades that stay in sync with what IT is making in its own datacenter. This is important. You don't want to find yourself becoming progressively unaligned with your vendor as each year passes.
The collo provider may not own the datacenter
This happens -- especially in a collo scenario involving a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider that leases a datacenter from a third party you don't even know. Try to avoid this. An "arm's length" arrangement like this presents risk because you don't have a direct relationship with the owner of the datacenter.
As you can see, a successful datacenter collocation is more than just pulling the plug on "build your own datacenter" initiatives. Collocation can save organizations money, but there are also "other" costs, in the form of greater risks that come when you outsource services.
ó Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data