Colocation – is it just space, power and bandwidth?

Colocation, that outsourced datacenter space, can on the surface appear to be much the same between providers. It’s just space, power and bandwidth, right?

Well, no, not quite.

While the basic services provided by any two given datacenters may on the surface appear the same, how those services are delivered to the client and managed behind the scenes can be completely different. In short, colocation is not a commodity. The infrastructure supporting the facilities themselves can be vastly different from a capacity, redundancy and configuration standpoint alone. When considering partnering with a colocation company, you should think about everything from the physical construction to how they are maintained and managed.

Starting with the obvious datacenter staple, power and bandwidth (or connectivity), facilities need to have redundant feeds from the main power utility with automatic fail overs to backup sources of power from generators and UPS systems through to redundant power feeds to the client cabinet and cage areas. Even the smallest items, like cable management, can tell a lot about how a facility is managed.  When you’re looking at a datacenter, look and see if the cables are labeled, clearly coded and organized. This small thing is indicative of how the rest of the datacenter is run and managed.

Now, you need to be aware of some of the not so obvious differences in datacenters.  Proactive monitoring is one of the top ways to evaluate the value of a datacenter.  To start, look for a datacenter partner that will proactively monitor all manageable network hardware and firewalls 24 x 7 x 365.  Make sure that they also have a notification system to let you know about any potential network or infrastructure outages that may cause a disruption or down time to your IT systems or services.  You not only want someone to monitor the hardware and firewalls, but you also want to find a partner that proactively monitors everything from the environment, to physical security and down through to your specific energy consumption. At Datotel, our systems allow our team to track the current status and overall health of the facilities and client specific environments.  In addition, our data repository allows us to conduct capacity planning, forecasting and what-if analysis to ensure that we’re best prepared to meet the changing demands of the facility.

Datacenter Infrastructure Management (DCIM) is becoming more important these days when considering the complexity of managing many thousands of servers, cables and environmental sensors. DCIM is a new form of datacenter management that is merging facility management with monitoring, capacity planning and asset tracking.  Essentially, this platform now gives the datacenter a comprehensive real-time view of the resources and systems within the facility.  At Datotel, we utilize a comprehensive DCIM platform from CA Technologies that not only provides us with a holistic view into the physical elements of the facility, from the UPS systems down to rack level servers, but is used to help reduce risk and provisioning time as well help with intelligent capacity planning.

Finally, when looking for colocation, the people make a difference.  Do they provide support 24x7x365? What extent do they have technical capabilities to support you? Is just the basic coverage of the environmental factors of the facility, or can they go beyond the basics and assist you where needed with trouble shooting, dealing with carriers, through to strategizing on how to grow your infrastructure?  Look for the extended services they provide.  Can they help you with penetration tests, risk assessments, DR and BC plans?  In addition, if you‘re in a business sector with compliance intensive requirements, such as healthcare, banking or the credit card industry, you will have certain regulatory and legal obligations covered by SSAE16, HIPAA and PCI.  Making sure both the provider and you understand who has responsibility and control over what aspects of the solution and can clearly demonstrate the supporting policies, procedures and practices that are in place is critical.

Colocation has come a long way from just space, power and bandwidth.  Make sure your vendor is a true partner and is up to date on the latest in DCIM, is audited regularly and is someplace well managed with comprehensive support.


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