Photo of empty parking spaces, one with the inscription "reserved".

Data center seeks parking space

May 03 2019Marten Bütow

Gridlocks are very much a part of the real world, as I recently read from my fellow blogger Hermann Hänle. Finding an affordable parking space is becoming a Herculean task in some of Germany’s big cities. Now imagine that you’re looking for a place to park your data center, not your car.

Data centers are getting long in the tooth

Although a data center isn’t quite as mobile – and above all, quite as compact – as a Smart car, which is famous for being able to fit in even the smallest spaces, both can still face comparable situations. Image you run a data center. Your data center, which could be a former WWII bunker or a functional building from the 1960s, has gotten a bit long in the tooth. The air conditioning fails frequently, with fatal consequences for the operated services. The scales of the long-standing dispute between IT and Facility Management have tipped heavily in favor of investments in new buildings and building infrastructure, meaning major renovations or a completely new build.

Parking at colocation data centers

But where can you park your active servers until the new or expanded facilities become available? Colocation is a functional parking space solution for a data center. Even for indefinite periods. After all, you never know how quickly the funding will actually be approved. And whether the work will be completed on time.

In contrast to a car, a data center is only rarely off the rack – or from a standardized production process. Every data center has its own individual character; no two server-storage ensembles are alike. Ideally, the colocation data center should satisfy specific requirements. And not just size or a few more megawatts of energy supply.

Colocation: custom or off the rack?

Security is a typical custom feature. Sometimes simple caging isn’t enough. A metal cage with a padlock or electronic latch is nowhere near enough to meet the security needs of some data. It needs to be a separate room, sealed off with special doors. As a consequence, this means remodeling work at the colocation data center. A conventional colocation data center, based strictly on basic rent yields, can quickly reach its limits.

Where specific physical security demands exist, extraordinary virtual protection measures can’t be ruled out entirely. Additional network termination point equipment with specific encryption technology, for example.

And while we’re on the subject of special technology: an aging data center might even have a tape library – which also has to continue operation free of interruptions. “Housing plus” is more than just plugging in and switching on. To ensure that a complete data center, with its own unique personality, continues to run smoothly in its “parking space”, the moving party also has to demand IT infrastructure competence of its colocation provider, so that only the active components – servers and storage – require custom connections afterwards. This means setting up the complete network infrastructure, for example. Of course, this full “housing plus” approach also comes with a tight schedule and up-front investments in the millions.

Individual housing: verify feasibility, review the costs

It goes without saying that these extra services won’t be set up for just two or three servers – that would make little sense. But such “docking maneuvers” might be necessary for a complete, extensive data center that supports business-critical processes. And they come at a price, of course.

In return, parking space-seekers get the exact parking spaces they need – and the certainty that they can continue to run their hardware for an indefinite period, without any time pressure, and according to their own security and availability standards. In that case, it isn’t even tragic when our own capex project is delayed, perhaps because budgets have to be reprioritized.

The moral of this story: Choose a colocation provider that is appropriate for your project and consider all the necessary special requirements, beyond mere space and electrical capacity. Ultimately, you’re the one who will decide on “make or break”.

About the author

Marten Bütow

Senior Solution Sales Manager, T-Systems International GmbH

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