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Take advantage of this data centre boom now or risk being left behind

WITH NORTH AMERICA and countries across the Asia Pacific region accounting for a large proportion of the co-location market, providers in Europe need to take a serious look at how they can remain competitive against bigger players and, more importantly, add value to their customers.With the demand for data centre space exceeding supply and more businesses recognising the benefits of combining cloud computing with colocation, providers need to take advantage and develop new ways of meeting the changing needs of their clients. If they don't then others will, meaning businesses won't hesitate to move and store their data in the most suitable environment for them.

Come of age

It's clearly time for colocation providers to come of age and prove that they can consistently deliver a more resilient and reliable service than their competitors by developing a 'package' that is tailored to each of their customer's specific requirements. One way of achieving this is to offer a managed service that gives their customers more than just a building to house their data centre and a good supply of power.As part of this managed service they could manage and monitor the critical branch circuits, capacity & asset utilization, and environmental conditions necessary to maintain their equipment to a high standard and act as a trusted consultant on their data centre needs. If customers know these options are available,they can assess how much support they need,depending on their individual requirements at any given time; and choose a managed,partly managed or unmanaged service.

An overwhelming 90 per cent of colocation sites are completely unmanaged, despite the clear business advantages and potentialof supplying a managed service. Those who choose to invest in 'best of breed' technology, for instance,will be in a good position to offer a valuable managed service as they will have the best tools at their disposal to ensure they stand out from the crowd.

The best components

Providers need to think about all the small, individual components of the data centre that will make a difference to the overall service they can provide their customers. The best equipment will do more than just operate at a basic level and can help add value to customers, regardless of its size or the role it plays. A good example of this is the intelligent Power Distribution Unit OPDU) which, unlike its basic counterpart, can deliver significantly more in terms of value than just supply power to the server rack.

Although often overlooked and considered unimportant, the iPDU can act as the lifeblood of a data centre.It can continually monitor the data centre environment for threats and alert data centre managers of potential electrical circuit overloads, and any changes in the physical and environmentalconditions - such as fluid leaks or excessive temperature variations - which might place critical IT computing loads at risk. Colocation providers can use this information and feed it back to their customers, proving that they are a reliable, trusted advisor.

Businesses are confident that colocation facilities can keep their data safe, but providers need to go one step further and prove they understand the importance of uptime and availability by actively monitoring the data centre environment, and collecting feedback in realtime that is vital to their customers' operations. Minimising the possibility of downtime is often at the top of a provider's agenda, as an interruption to power supply could damage its reputation and profitability beyond repair, but how many could honestly say they monitor their customers' environments as closely as they can and should?

The ability to hot-swap PDU components allows engineers to perform crucial maintenance or replacement schedules without having to power down servers.Lockable cords provide protection against accidental power loss of the attached IT equipment caused by human error.So again looking at buying into the right individual components, such as lockable cords and hot-swappable technology, is the key to providing customers with 99.999 per cent availability of Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS).Businesses care about high availability,especially those needing to operate fast transaction websites in high-density environments.

Cutting costs

Maintaining a continuous supply of power is costly and the price of energy will surely increase, especially with non-renewable resources running out. Investment in new technology can seem like an expensive unnecessary option. But those who take this viewpoint are not appreciating the long term benefits it could play in their environment as the industry grows. UK providers should beware of taking this short sighted approach and instead consider ways of innovating their environment or risk being left behind in the race to profit from this boom.

The best technology, including iPDUs,withstand and function despite the high temperatures in the data centre.The latest advice from ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and AirConditioning Engineers) is to increase the temperature of the data centre by as little as one degree Celsius to save power and reduce cooling costs by 4-5 per cent.In fact,ASHRAE's recommended high end temperature range for class one data centres ranges from 25 to 27 degrees Celsius with an upper limit of 32 degrees Celsius.

There is no reason why providers shouldn't use equipment, like iPDUs, that can operate at this upper limit and, as a result, cut the cost of cooling for their customers considerably.The capability already exists and this is just one example among many more that shows that investment in innovative technology is a sound long-term business decision for colocation providers.

Can we realise an energy saving?

Those providers who use intelligent equipment to monitor energy usage in the data centre will start to realise how much they can save on their energy bills. Studies by McKinsey & Co and Gartner Research revealed recently that many data centres are responding to demands for service reliability and security by diverting as much as 90 per cent of their electricity to ensure availability of idle servers in fear of unforeseen downtime.By using the right technology to monitor the environment providers will be able to give their customers the option of switching individual outlets on or off in response to real time needs, removing the need for permanently switched-on stand-by.The money that was previously wasted on powering servers could instead be spent on services/equipment that are important to both the customer and the provider, for example, a provider could spend money on new equipment and more space to attract new clients or indeed pass on the saving to their customer.

Reducing cost in a data centre and utilising these savings to reinvest in the business, no matter how small to begin with, gives business a hope for growth, profit and more importantly, survival. We are working in a potentially,highly profitable industry, upon which both consumers and business rely on to store their personal and commercial data, but only those providers who keep an eye on and recognise what new technology will help their colocation facility grow and thrive will still be in business in five years to come.