Sunday , 25 June 2017


What Does Agile Colocation Look Like?

By Jeff Plank, CEO Agile Data Sites

Server Room“In a business context, agility is the ability of an organization to rapidly adapt to market and environmental changes in productive and cost-effective ways.” Wise words lifted directly from Wikipedia. Agility is a buzz-word, it’s true, but it is also an absolute imperative in today’s marketplace. One of the most difficult decisions for IT departments, where to house servers, often results in restrictive decisions. Many colocation contracts are written on 10 year terms with an SLA structure that makes innovation difficult. What’s more, many colocation providers cannot deliver enough power or cooling options to keep pace with innovation.

The tech market changes so quickly and so consistently that businesses can easily get trapped in contracts that suddenly hemorrhage millions of dollars because they have outlived their usefulness. It is not just a question of backing the wrong horse in a business context. IT departments require agility in all aspects of their enterprise even if they make all the right decisions. Colocation should be no different.

So let’s look at the biggest drivers of agile colocation:

  1. Migration
  2. Lease terms
  3. Space
  4. Power
  5. Cooling
  6. Security
  7. Managed Services
  8. On-site Cloud Services
  9. Disaster Recovery
  10. On-demand space

Over-spending on any one of those items could lead to huge cost overruns while carefully balancing all of the above factors can provide huge savings over time. Let’s look at them each individually.

  1. Migration

Migration can easily turn into a limiting factor not only when moving to colocation, but also when moving out. If your company does not have a high quality migration team able to support this size of a move it may quickly become prohibitively difficult to determine dependencies and to deprecate equipment in time for a scheduled move. Many times it is more beneficial to outsource this task to a team of highly trained migration specialists. IT departments often do not have the time or resources to investigate server dependencies.

Agile Data Sites can provide migration planning assistance to companies attempting to migrate. We partner with top tier migration consultants with experience in migrating thousands of servers. Once servers are migrated and that information is captured in a DCIM, your company can make a second or a third move with much less difficulty.

  1. Lease Terms

No one wants to get locked into a long lease term in a highly variable market like data center colocation. If your IT needs shift, say with a sudden motion toward the cloud, your total data center footprint may reduce dramatically. Or, after a new product has reached peak volume and cloud pricing skyrockets, your data center footprint may need to grow overnight. Many companies have seen such changes in recent years. It is so important to have a colocation provider that can work with you in setting the terms of a lease, to allow for flexibility and support.

  1. Space

As many of us know, space and power do not necessarily go hand in hand. Some equipment takes up tremendous amounts of floor space yet barely consumes any kW. Likewise, a single GPU or ASIC array can have as much power as an entire rack of servers. Space and power are not identical. Companies need to have a colocation provider that can accommodate both the floor space and power required for a build.

Agile Data Sites has 200,000 square feet of space available for colocation with flexible footprints available. If raised floor space is appropriate we have 12,000 sq.ft. allocated for traditional caged space. If a customer requires a private suite with high security entrance and no shared infrastructure, we can provide that as well.

  1. Power

Speaking of power, there are three fundamental aspects of the electrical system that affect data center colocation: availability, capacity, efficiency.

Availability refers to the uptime SLA for a kWh of energy. High availability is a must for any customer facing application or business critical function. However, development loads often do not require five nines of availability. Many developers choose to push development to the cloud in order to leverage the lower up-front costs, but it may also make sense to house a development data center on-premises, albeit at a bargain basement price without high availability power systems.

Capacity refers to the total kW available to a customer at any given time. A customer that runs its tax software once per quarter may require huge amounts of capacity for very short amounts of time. Perhaps a different customer is on the cusp of taking the market by storm. The total capacity must be allocated to make sure that when they both go live the system isn’t suddenly taxed beyond its capability.

Efficiency generally affects customers in two ways. Firstly, many businesses have sustainability objectives that can be aided by an efficient colocation provider.  Secondly, greater efficiency generally means lower costs because energy is the single largest expense for a colocation provider.

Agile Data Sites can provide concurrently maintainable and fault tolerant electrical distribution with up to 40MW of capacity available from the utility. Our sustainability program can help guide customers to demonstrate the benefits of our site.

  1. Cooling

The greatest challenge in data centers is cooling. Providing adequate cooling can be an incredibly complex prospect within the data center colocation sphere. Overheating servers can decrease life expectancy and even void warranties. Keeping server inlet temperatures within the T.C. 9.9 guidelines should be a top concern for any IT professional.

Agile Data Sites employs a constant improvement methodology in our cooling system to ensure that the system always adapts to the existing conditions. We utilize both computational fluid dynamics modeling and infrared imaging to guide our decisions regarding airflow.

  1. Security

Security in the era of big data leaks is of the highest priority. The threat vectors for data breaches can come from any direction, including from inside of the data center. Physical security of the site is obviously paramount with full audits of all security infrastructure a necessity. But more than that, the network security must be scrutinized to the nth degree.

Agile Data Sites can provide individual data suites with separate entrances and 6” block walls segregating customers from one another. We can provide individual contracts with carriers and direct links to dark fiber so that a customer networks never connect.

  1. On-Demand Services

An Agile enterprise needs to be able to meet any demand as quickly as it comes. A large server roll-out may need to take place over a matter of days, not the weeks it would take an in-house staff. Therefore it is important for a colocation data center to have the capability to provide remote hands-on with experienced professionals that can conquer any size of project.

  1. On-Site Cloud Services

It is crucial that developers today have the resources they need when they need them. To that end, colocation providers can partner with cloud providers on-site to enable on-demand storage, software defined networks, openstack deployment and other cloud services via ultra-fast 10gb connections directly to the infrastructure.

  1. Disaster Recovery

Agility never meant losing reliability. Just because development cycles are condensed into shorter and shorter windows doesn’t mean that downtime is now acceptable. It’s even less acceptable now. So companies must have a disaster recovery strategy ready to go at a moment’s notice, a fall back in case all of that complex agility runs into an unrecoverable fault.

Agile can provide on-demand desk space for hundreds of workers. We can be a DR site for businesses of any size.

  1. On-Demand Space

Not only do you need space in an emergency, but it may be necessary to have an IT training or event. More and more companies are choosing to allow remote workers. It may be less costly for some companies to use a colocation facility for more resources than simple rack space.

Agile Data Sites has a 200 seat auditorium and training facilities to aid companies that have limited central offices. Spaces can be reserved for large or small groups.

App development cycles have collapsed from years into weeks. In the old paradigm a developer might lock yourself into millions of dollars of colocation space for a feature that never actually goes public. Suddenly they have rows of unused servers sitting idle. What if instead they had purchased a smaller batch of server racks on a shorter lease term, say one year, with each rack part of an OpenStack cluster. If suddenly the development shifted from needing twenty racks to two then they could simply deprecate those 18 racks, move the servers out and no longer pay for those useless 18 racks.

About the Author
Jeff Plank is President/CEO of Agile Data Sites, LLC. He has more than 20 years experience in the hosting, collocation and managed services industry for both IBM and AT&T. Jeff served as EVP and CTO for Directlink, taking the company from startup to an extremely successful data center services provider with responsibilities including managing operations, sales, marketing and overall organizational direction.

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