Today’s data centre is large, sophisticated, and probably sited miles away from its customers, which poses a bunch of connectivity challenges
A decade ago, a typical corporate data centre was a stuffy little basement dungeon beneath head office where a couple of mini-computers whirred and whizzed as they processed information measured in gigabytes. Today’s data centre is a sleek, modern facility somewhere in the Thames Valley, probably 30 miles or more from where many terabits of data are generated.
The volumes of information generated by today’s businesses, and the high value of that information, mean that data centres are multiplying like bunnies. Dozens of state-of-the-art facilities across the UK are currently open for business or under construction to deal with a massive wave of demand.
Few of these facilities are being built within the M25. A combination of regulatory demands and real estate values mean that a data centre is more likely to be a commercial hit if it’s on the outskirts of a small provincial town than in the heart of Docklands.
This is, of course, a challenge for enterprises dependent on data centres, because there’s a world of difference between data centre space next to or near a main office and the more contemporary model of remotely located data.
Dilemmas remain, however. A data centre not too far from your office offers a low latency network connection, but may not be far enough away to satisfy regulatory demands concerning protection of information. Go too far away, and you may find yourself with latency issues.
Connecting your customers
Is it your job to deliver to a customer an ICT solution that’s dependent on connectivity with a data centre? If so there are issues you need to consider relating to the quality of the network connecting the customer with their remotely-held data.
But what sort of customer is likely to care most? One thinks immediately of banks and trading houses needing a network connection between their City of London office and the space they rent in an out-of-town data centre. Low latency is crucial for them if they’re to remain competitive in a world where a single millisecond can be the margin between profit and loss on a particular trade. Their aim is also to combine maximum network scalability and performance, but at the lowest possible cost. They may be banks, but their pockets aren’t bottomless.
Of course, it’s not just banks that rely on data centres and high performance networks. There are plenty of other data-hungry organisations in other sectors – such as media, public sector, retail – who all have major concerns about their data centre connectivity.
A problem all these organisations face can be summarized like this: ‘I know my data management needs will grow, and my use of data centre capacity will grow with it, and therefore so will my connectivity needs – but by how much and in what timescale?’
It’s essential to have as scalable a network connection to a data centre as possible, because nobody can be absolutely sure of their future requirements. Sure, a 10Gb connection may seem like more than enough right now, but it’s as well to factor for the sort of 40Gb and 100Gb transmission speeds that you’ll need from a network sometime down the line. Does the network supplier have this capability? Does it have direct connectivity straight into the UK’s main data centres?
Part of the backup plan
Lots of organisations use data centres as part of a backup plan in the event of some disaster striking their head office operations. If you want to ensure your operational continuity, you’ll need a cast-iron plan for the off-site storage of data that incorporates a resilient, high-uptime network. Data security is also vital when one of your most valuable assets is kept many miles from your main operations.
To connect and save
We’re all money-conscious at the moment. All organisations are under pressure to reduce IT expenditure and get best value from infrastructure and network spend. They may look to you, as their systems integration partner, for a way to outsource IT services and save money through migration to cloud and SaaS models, or the adoption of virtualization, anything with a low cost of ownership. They’ll also want value from the data centre connectivity that enables all of this. That value needs to come with choices too – is a network available as raw capacity that needs managing, or as a managed service, or either according to particular needs?