IT leadership is all about decision making. While decisions about hardware and software are made routinely during the design phase of a project, data center decisions are made much less frequently.
The data center is a fixture of an organization. It’s a known value and the foundation from which IT services are delivered. If you have the space and power, the data center isn’t given much consideration (network assumed). So, when the time comes to move data centers or expand to a new geography, where do you start? What are the primary and secondary considerations? Unless you’re making data center decisions on a regular basis, this kind of exercise can be daunting.
Help can be as close as a third-party specialized aggregation, infrastructure and managed services team that assists clients in the data center arena. We step through this exercise with clients every day. Although every business is different and priorities may vary, there are some key considerations in the data center decision process. Here are a few.
- Location: The obvious first step. Major metros will have plenty of data center options, which translates to a competitive market. Also, consider the natural disasters of the region. Will the location you select be affected by natural disasters or are they built to withstand them?
- Security and Reliability: Security should not be taken for granted. You must understand a provider’s physical access controls and logical access controls. These controls should be audited and verified by a third party audit/accounting firm and validated in a SOC report. In addition to being secure, the facility should be resilient. You should know whether the facility is concurrently maintainable. This is often referred to as N+1, which means any component of the data center infrastructure can fail or be taken offline for maintenance without creating a service disruption.
- Network: Carrier neutrality is a must. You should know whose networks are available in the data center. It almost goes without saying that there should be multiple carriers on-net, not just the “house” brand. This ensures IP redundancy, generous bandwidth and future network options.
- Services: Think ahead: What service might you need in the future? Believe it or not, some data center providers only offer space, power and network. It’s best to consider the provider as a partner, not just a place. Understand the provider’s engineering skillsets and associated rates, should you need remote hands and talent.
- Ecosystem: This is a big one. The data center is evolving and many data center operators offer cloud services in addition to colocation. It’s good to know what those cloud services are, how agile they are and how quickly they can be cross-connected and provisioned. Even more sophisticated than that, some providers are creating an ecosystem whereby you can cross-connect to a company with whom you’d like to contract services; a business partner, a market feed, or SaaS platform for example. One step further, if you have an appetite for the big pubic clouds, make sure to ask whether the data center operator offers a layer-2 drain into those big public clouds or they have a network provider in their ecosystem that provides that. This detail future proofs your colocation decision and lays the groundwork for your hybrid cloud.
- Power and Density: If you have a sizable footprint, investigate the power cost (per kWh) in your preferred location compared to your second choice location. This will figure into the TCO. With regard to density, is there a limit to the amount of power the data center operator can supply to your cabinet or cage? You’ll want to know this ahead of time, especially if you’re running high-density racks.
- Expansion: Ask for right of first refusal. If you foresee adding additional gear to your footprint, it’s best to know whether you get first right of refusal on the contiguous space. This can save you headaches in the long run and ensure your gear is not spread to different areas of the data center as you add to your footprint.
- Loading and Storage: Ask about the loading dock and storage area. When you ship your gear to the data center, it’s best to go from truck to storage and avoid extra handling and moving. Is the storage secure, under surveillance and temperature controlled? Two out of three here isn’t half bad.
- Customization: It’s best to know up front if the data center operator will accommodate any special requests you have. For example, you may have a locked cage, but do they offer biometrics and IP cameras at each cage? Can you fix the floor panels or run caging through the subfloor? It may sound strange, but if you do business with any government contractors, these things may be asked of you. It’s really a question of flexibility: You should know if the operator is flexible and to what degree.
- Financial Stability: If the data center provider is not publicly traded, inquire about their financial stability and health.