Data center colocation makes the Internet tick

Data center colocation is critical in making the complex machinations of the Internet work properly.

It may not seem this way at first glance, but each colocation provider is a vital gear in the complex array of systems that make the Internet work. Imagine a clock. On the inside their are gears, cogs and other precision devices that, when working together, form a machine that keeps time with precision to ensure people can figure out what time it is with relative accuracy based on the quality of the device. Similar, the Internet is made up of a variety of service providers and physical infrastructure systems that must be aligned effectively to ensure end users have access to what they need, when they need it. Data center colocation facilities play a critical role in delivering this functionality.

According to a recent TechRepublic report, the carrier-neutral nature of most colocation facilities ensures that they are able to provide the data center connectivity functionality that clients need to build their Web functionality effectively.

Looking at why colocation is so important to the Internet
The news source illustrates the way colocation impacts Internet services by considering a hypothetical situation in which two telecoms end up sharing infrastructure. In this case, one service provider has built the vast majority of the cabling infrastructure that reaches customers, but another vendor is offering services to customers in the region. This is an incredibly common situation as telecoms are frequently building fiber lines and leasing them to other vendors to maximize revenues while focusing on their specific customer demographics. 

In this situation, a telecom that wants to lease space in another provider's cabling and service delivery infrastructure will often use the interconnects in colocation facilities to bridge the gap between the two telecoms and ensure information can flow freely, the report explained.

The world is crisscrossed with operator networks that move data long distances between metropolitan hubs and other strategic locations. From there, a combination of telecoms, government organizations and specialized organizations will build middle-mile networks that go between operator networks and connect more localized geographic regions.

Middle-mile networks were popular projects when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was initially put into action. Once a middle-mile network is in place, telecoms will often build fiber-to-the-home systems or other infrastructure directly to customers to provide services. In this situation, a telecom could be leasing space on on the operator network and the middle-mile system to move data to customers using its FTTH services. This issue can be further complicated if a telecom wants to serve customers in a region without owning any of the infrastructure, but it is possible. Data center colocation plays a critical role in providing the interconnects between different service providers, operator and middle-mile networks needed to make contemporary connectivity architectures work.

Applying colocation's network services to individual businesses
Colocation is critical in helping businesses maximize the value of the telecom services and Web hosting functionality. A carrier-neutral colocation facility can help organizations access robust telecom services that they may be unable to access without the interconnects available from the hosting vendor. At the same time, the high-performance interconnects provided through colocation ensures that businesses get the best performance possible when moving data over long distances, whether it be supporting collaboration between branch offices, working with partners or getting services out to customers.

Colocation's role as a key enabler of contemporary network service models makes the hosting solution much more than just a way to lease some data center space. The connectivity advantages of colocation can impact every phase of a business' operations, leading to considerable gains that can be leveraged to improve revenues.

3 ways data center colocation works for customer-facing content

Data center colocation can be ideal for customer facing content.

Maximizing the value of customer-facing content is a key revenue strategy, and working with a colocation provider can ensure that such tactics get results. Any organization aiming to get the most out of their customer-facing solutions need to focus on three primary metrics – performance, availability and security. Data center colocation can enable companies to more easily achieve quality results in each of these areas, making the service model a perfect match when looking for the best way to host robust Web applications and services for customers.

A few ways in which colocation is especially noteworthy in supporting customer-facing solutions include:

1. Improving load times and app performance
Optimizing website load times and ensuring Web apps get the information they need to perform well plays an integral role in keeping customers engaged. Performance problems will often cause users to flock away from a website, so having a good experience is key, but the latency created by network limitations and geographic distance can be considerable.

A colocation strategy can make it much easier to reach new markets. An East Coast company that wants expand its data center footprint to the west could build a Houston data center to eliminate latency created by data having to move across the entire country. Splitting the nation in half allows data to flow to users based on the optimal operator network path at the moment, ensuring website load times are maintained at a high level when reaching a geographically diverse base of users.

Proximity can help with Web apps, but if getting data closer to users isn't enough, data center connectivity plans that come with colocation often feature high-performance interconnect options that get information into operator networks with incredible efficiency, ensuring Web apps work effectively for end users.

2. Keeping data safe
A data center colocation plan will feature a combination of physical and logical security methods that can be difficult to match internally. The combination of firewalls and network protection methods in place in colocation facilities can be an incredible safeguard against intrusion. However, these attacks aren't the only threat facing businesses. Industries that feature corporate espionage or are targeted by hacktivists – any company that has a large public presence – also must worry about physical security.

Access control methods are an incredibly important component of any data center protection plan and colocation providers can deliver the expertise and functional capabilities needed to keep your systems safe from outside access.

3. Ensuring constant availability
Few things will frustrate a consumer more than trying to complete a purchase or interact with an organization only to have the site go down at some point during the transaction. Downtime means lost money both in terms of immediate damages caused by consumers being unable to complete purchases or use apps and when it comes to reputation-related damages that cause customers to stay away.

Redundancy plays a key role in avoiding availability problems. Having multiple sources of power, uninterruptable power supplies that ensure smooth change-over to backup systems during an outage and backup network solutions plays an integral role in ensuring available. Colocation providers build their business around ensuring consistent performance for clients, so they need to devote a large chunk of their budget to availability or risk falling behind the competition.

Availability is critical for all organizations, but the core business models that fuel colocation ensure that vendors will put more resources into ensuring uptime than most organizations can afford on their own.

Customer facing content can be the lifeblood of a company's Web presence, but having the data center systems needed to maximize value from this source can be difficult. Colocation gives organizations access to the facility resources they need in a cost-efficient way.

Data center colocation and energy efficiency a natural match

Solutions like data center colocation can help companies improve energy efficiency.

Organizations that work with a colocation provider can access sustainability features that would otherwise be unavailable to them. Companies supporting a few small data centers in various branch offices often experience considerable waste as each of those server rooms or closets lack the power and cooling infrastructure needed to maximize efficiency. Colocation facilities, on the other hand, are purpose built to support sustainability goals.

Scale matters in the data center space. Organizations that plan to operate a large facility have an edge because they will inevitably end up with more resources to devote to efficiency than a company putting a couple dozen servers in a dedicated space within the office. This is why many of the industry leaders in data center innovation are companies like Facebook and Google – their business model mandates that they strive for energy efficiency or face startling energy costs because of the scale of their IT setup.

The data center colocation industry has a similar advantage. Providers are able to build incredibly efficient facilities because the cost-benefit ratio of sustainability tilts in the direction of benefits when supporting a large-scale setup. The end result is a data center facility configuration that can help clients achieve their efficiency goals.

4 ways data center colocation is perfect for high-density setups

Data center colocation plays a key role in supporting high-density computing efforts.

The move to support high-density data center configurations is progressing and working with a colocation provider can prove integral in supporting such plans. The idea of high-density data centers goes back a long way, but meaningful progress toward this end really kicks into gear with the data center consolidation movement. Just a few years ago many businesses began to eliminate the many small server rooms and data closets in their offices and replace them with centralized data centers that feature all of the solutions needed to support day-to-day functionality. This initial movement has progressed to the point that high-density configurations are becoming more common.

Virtualization got the consolidation effort started. At first, the virtualization trend was a boon to IT leaders because they could move their physically disparate servers onto a smaller number of virtualized systems in a consolidated data center. Then cloud computing started to rise and the move toward consolidation took on even more steam. After all, being able to move some apps and services into the cloud made consolidation even easier. However, a few emerging trends have combined to make these early consolidation plans tricky.

Increased video use, widespread mobile device use and big data have come together to make efforts toward consolidation nightmarish. Sure, you can still virtualize more machines, build public and private clouds, move away from small data closets and work toward consolidation, but the day-to-day data burden is so great that this process is incredibly challenging. High-density computing architectures are the solution to this problem. Increasing system and data density makes consolidation possible, even in an IT world dominated by video, mobile devices and big data. However, the facility challenges brought on by high-density workflows are severe. This makes data center colocation a prime option when increasing system density. Here are a few key reasons why:

1. Increased power capacities
Colocation providers build their facilities with power flexibility in mind. Their entire architecture is created with the purpose of handling large amounts of energy from the start and being able to expand over time. Because of this, colocation vendors are often uniquely positioned to support high-density workloads because they are among the few organizations that regularly have enough power being delivered to their sites to actually meet the energy demands of such workloads.

Furthermore, colocation providers often support a network of interconnected facilities, having both an Austin and a Dallas data center to support customers in Texas, for example. This makes it easier to meet the needs of especially demanding clients by giving them access to space in multiple facilities without sacrificing service quality or access to management tools.

2. Better power delivery
Having access to a large amount of energy will have limited benefits if organizations do not also have the ability to get energy to their systems quickly and efficiently. Power delivery systems can sap small amounts of power during transmission and face significant limitations in how much energy they can deliver to a rack at any time. Organizations that want to support high-density computing need to overcome these issues and make sure they are getting as much power to each rack as possible. 

Colocation providers are, for the most part, focused on delivering advanced performance capabilities in an energy efficient way. This results in an environment in which most colocation facilities already feature sophisticated power delivery systems that can support high-density computing without trouble.

3. High-performance interconnects
Getting information from the data center to operator networks is an incredibly important component of application and database performance. In high-density computing setups, more information is residing in less physical space, leading to more data moving through less network infrastructure. The colocation industry started to reach big-time status by supporting automated, high-frequency trading, so building sophisticated interconnects that eliminate latency is a primary competency across the sector. This results in colocation providers offering the network functionality needed to support high-density architectures.

4. Power diversity
We've been talking a great deal about energy, but with good reason. Power limitations are among the most significant factors that make hosting high-density systems internally difficult. You don't just need a lot of power to have success. Just getting energy to systems efficiently won't be enough to ensure consistent operations. You also need to make sure you have access to a variety of power sources available. The energy demands of high-density computing are such that just having one redundancy in the energy system may not be enough. For example, switching to backup generators when the utility system fails may not get the job done because those generators would be sapped of fuel too quickly trying to meet the demands of high-density architectures.

In many cases, colocation providers will source power from multiple locations – often a combination of different utility providers, local energy generation sources and on-site power plants – to make sure their customers have constant access to reliable, efficient power.

High-density computing is rising in data center environments, and colocation providers are well equipped to meet this trend head on.

3 Ways Data Center Colocation Enables Innovation

Data center colocation can be extremely valuable as an innovation enabler.

Businesses that work with a colocation can combine a variety of service capabilities to fuel innovation in the IT segment. A colocation plan delivers this value in a variety of ways, making it an ideal fit for organizations that expect their IT needs to change over the course of a few years, but still need to make upgrades now to keep up with competitors. When it comes to using colocation as a catalyst for innovation, there are a few capabilities that are particularly noteworthy.

1. Capacity flexibility
The ability to adjust data center capacity is an incredible innovation enabler for IT managers who have long been building their data center strategies around static, internal facility setups. Traditionally, businesses either used internal server rooms or custom-built data centers to host their hardware, forcing IT to find ways to support business needs while fitting the infrastructure into the limitations of their physical space.

Data center colocation plans give companies access to flexible facility resources, enabling IT managers to lease a cabinet, an entire rack or a large amount of raised floor space. Organizations working with vendors that have multiple facilities can even spread their systems out over diverse geographical locations when such plans make sense, such as for disaster recovery purposes. The end result is a situation in which the flexible facility capacity enables IT teams to freely upgrade and enhance their technology setup without being held back by their internal facility limitations.

2. Advanced network functionality
Many businesses can face upgrade struggles because investing in one aspect of data center infrastructure forces them to make corresponding improvements in supporting systems. The network is a major culprit in this area. As companies make investments in big data, cloud computing and other emerging technology trends, they often find that the network serves as a major bottleneck. WAN systems, in particular, are pose major problems. Data center colocation eases this burden through advanced internal networks and robust interconnect systems.

3. Management services
Colocation plans can be established with accompanying data center services. This solution allows businesses to take advantage of management services from the third-party provider. As such, the company does not need to manage the technology assets it is housing in the colocation facility. The strategy gives IT teams more time to focus on less hardware as systems are housed in an alternate location and managed by the vendor. This can be especially helpful as more businesses are asking IT departments to take on a more strategic role in operations.

Data center colocation ideal when IT needs a holistic solution

Data center colocation can be invaluable when businesses need a holistic hosting solution.

There are times when working with a colocation provider is a perfect option simply because the vendor can support a broad range of technological needs. Sometimes IT managers have highly specific problems they need to solve. They can range from needing to improve performance for a customer-facing Web app to hosting a few large, complex databases. There are a variety of options available for such situations. However, there are other instances in which the problems facing IT teams require a holistic hosting methodology. Data center colocation is ideal in these situations.

IT problems that require holistic solutions
Isolated issues can be dealt with through solutions that have a single strength, but many weaknesses, because those weaknesses are avoided by the nature of the problem facing the IT team. For example, Web developers facing scalability issues on test and dev equipment are an ideal match for the cloud because the short-term nature of test configurations is a natural fit with the quick ramp up and closure of cloud subscriptions.

However, companies that want to deal with a problem like supporting a group of users in a new location, need too many features – data center connectivity, app hosting, security, storage functionality and the list goes on – to wholly depend on solutions aimed at highly specific problems. In this instance, the public cloud could prove problematic because these users may handle data that is too critical or performance sensitive to host there. This is the kind of situation where colocation is particularly beneficial.

The holistic nature of colocation
The great thing about colocation is that it doesn't really have a specific weakness. If you are a control-centric IT department, you can own and manage all of the hardware that is housed in the colocation center. If your issues are network-related, colocation providers offer robust interconnect solutions and access to the best operator infrastructure. If you need to increase system density, colocation vendors can offer the power, cooling and management solutions needed to handle such a configuration.

Colocation services are built around giving clients access to state-of-the-art facility and connectivity solutions, meaning that the actual IT capabilities within the leased data center space are a blank slate for businesses to work with. The end result is a situation in which colocation users can freely establish a configuration that meets their specific needs without having to make sacrifices in secondary areas.

Data center colocation ideal when new projects stick

Data center colocation can be ideal when it's time to move projects away from the cloud.

Partnering with a colocation provider gives organizations the ability to cost-efficiently host systems for an extended period of time. This functionality can be incredibly important as spontaneous projects that start in the cloud need a long-term hope after they have been successful.

Cloud computing is widely regarded as a perfect match for new, innovative projects. The ability to subscribe to some cloud resources, use them for whatever is necessary and then stop the subscription when the project is over makes the technology model an ideal match when companies have new ideas they want to try out.

The problem arises when those projects bear sustainable fruits that a company wants to continue taking advantage of. It's one thing to have a workload in the cloud for a few months, but there comes a point when the ongoing operational costs make the cloud an inefficient model, especially when considering the performance limitations that come with the cloud.

Companies that want to move a project out of the cloud, but lack space in their internal facility, can stand to gain considerably from a move to data center colocation. The hosting service offers a leasing model that ensures cost efficiency, but offers many benefits that the cloud can't match, making it ideal for long-term projects and initiatives.

Layers of protection key in data center colocation access control

Access control plays a critical role in data center colocation plans.

Choosing a colocation provider isn't just about finding a good technology match, it is also about ensuring your systems will be protected. Firewalls, network monitoring and other data protection measures are critical parts of a colocation plan, but businesses also need to think about physical access to the systems housing data when trying to safeguard sensitive information. Access control is a key cog in the security machine, and it is especially important in colocation.

Implementing data center colocation solutions creates a situation in which you need to be able to get IT workers to the third-party facility and ensure they can work with systems conveniently and in comfort. At the same time, those systems must be completely safe from unauthorized access. The result is a need to blend convenience and security – a difficult balancing act. Companies considering colocation should keep a layered approach in mind.

Multiple layers essential in colocation security plans
Any security system with a single point of failure is incredibly vulnerable. Having multiple checkpoints within an access control system is critical, but this strategy needs to be handled in such a way that it doesn't make getting to servers a chore for IT workers. In many cases, a good access control system will use a combination of biometrics, programmable keycards and human security workers at checkpoints to authenticate visitors and allow entry.

For example, a colocation provider may have an entry gate that only opens with a code or keycard, then a manned checkpoint in the lobby where security professionals look out for suspicious individuals or people they haven't seen before. From there, there may be a keycard or biometric door to get onto the data center floor and locked cabinets as the final point of protection.

With biometrics, keycards and human evaluation, each layer of security may only hold an individual up by a few seconds, but having multiple layers of protection provides a major boost in safety. Just having a manned checkpoint can be beaten by human error. Biometrics systems can be hacked, locks can be broken. A data thief could even closely follow workers and hope that the nice individual holds doors open out of politeness.

These easy ways to get through any single layer of security make having multiple protection methods critical. Businesses turning to a colocation plan can access access control options that are expensive and challenging to employ internally.

3 ways supercomputers benefit from data center colocation

Data center colocation can play a key role in supporting supercomputing plans.

Many companies that use supercomputers are beginning to implement data center colocation plans to support their systems more effectively. Regardless of whether a supercomputer is air-cooled of liquid-cooled, having a specialized data center setup is integral to supporting effective operations.

In many cases, technology strategies like big data are driving supercomputing into the enterprise. The result is a situation in which more businesses are implementing high-performance computing devices. The problem is that most corporate data centers lack the power, network and cooling architectures needed to support supercomputers.

A few ways that companies implementing supercomputing solutions benefit from working with a colocation provider include:

1. Flexible power
Supercomputing power needs can be highly variable based on the number of processing cores being used at any given time. At the same time, supercomputing systems are often designed with expansion in mind, so having a scalable data center setup can make it easier to add processing or storage functionality to the system over time. Housing this type of system in a corporate data center can be a major issue because office buildings and similar locations often lack the ability to even gather enough power from the grid to support supercomputers.

Colocation providers, on the other hand, can develop specialized utility agreements and supplement that energy with on-site generation to offer the kind of flexibility that companies developing supercomputing plans need.

2. Advanced networks
Supercomputers are, essentially, a large number of interconnected systems that can work together on a common project. This means that data needs to move between processors without latency, making a robust internal network critical. In some cases, specialized data centers built to host supercomputers will operate in an all-fiber configuration. As if meeting these needs wasn't demanding enough, supercomputing teams also need to get large amounts of data out to partner laboratories when projects require collaboration, making high-performance interconnects critical.

3. Access control
Many supercomputing projects involve incredibly sensitive data that needs to be kept out of the hands of unauthorized personnel. Putting security and access control plans into place can be expensive and difficult, especially considering that issues like facility security require skill sets that many businesses do not have. Colocation providers are used to needing to worry about access control as part of their operational model, making them a natural fit for supercomputers.

High-performance computing is rising across enterprise segments as well as traditional areas for supercomputing spending. Colocation solutions are well positioned to support supercomputing plans and help companies get the most out of the technology.

3 ways that data center colocation can support globalization

Data center colocation can help companies support globalization plans.

Operating a business in multiple countries presents numerous challenges, but working with a colocation provider eases many technical issues that come up. Implementing a globalization strategy is incredibly dependent on a business' ability to not only serve customers in a foreign region, but also support workers. This creates a situation in which companies must not only get offices and support services aligned with the demands of the new market, it means they also need data center assets in the right location.

Data center colocation eases the burden of establishing a data center in a foreign location. Here are a few ways that the service model accomplishes this goal:

1. Robust connectivity models
Data latency is heightened the greater the physical distance information must travel. A company that wants to send data freely between branches in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, for example, will face significant latency challenges because of the distances information must travel. Colocation providers offer specialized data center connectivity models that take advantage of a combination of high-performance interconnects and strategic operator networks to minimize the impact of geographic distance.

Colocation cannot always eliminate distance-related latency in entirety, but vendors can optimize the data pathway to minimize latency.

2. Management help
Colocation vendors can often act as a data center services provider. This means that leasing space in a data center in a new region doesn't have to mean hiring workers to manage that equipment. With a good service level agreement, companies can depend on colocation providers to handle management tasks, making it easier to move into a new location to meet customer or operational demands without having to find new staff immediately.

3. Experience
The legal issues that come with operating in multiple markets can be difficult to wrangle. This is especially true when dealing with data protection and access laws that vary in regions with distinct regulatory guidelines and methods for enforcing those rules. Colocation providers will not only understand the legal considerations that come into play in regions where their data centers reside, they will also know how the laws in a business' primary host nation and the regulations in the region with the new branch interact.

The cost savings of the colocation leasing model make it easier to expand data center functionality into new regions. However, cost efficiency isn't the only way that colocation makes it easier to expand into new regions and go global. Finding the right provider for a business' needs can make it much easier to expand into new markets.