With DCaaS Evolution, Colocation is about More than New Capacity

Data Center Maintenance

Paul Mercina August 09, 2018

The rapid uptake and broad applicability of the public cloud notwithstanding, the industry is finding that bare metal and IT-provisioned hardware assets still have their place—often at the center of the enterprise’s core business needs.

IT enterprises are seeking to outsource non-strategic functions while enabling more flexible, scalable, and cost-efficient infrastructure. Although the public cloud is grabbing the majority of media attention, other market offerings are quietly transforming IT operations as well.

Data Center-as-a-Service (DCaaS) is among the largely under-the-radar changes in the I&O field. DCaaS refers to offsite data center facilities made available to lease for clients. Customers access physical space and security, rack installations, bandwidth, power and cooling, and in many cases, storage, server, networking, and other hardware from the DCaaS provider. The DCaaS concept has its root in data center colocation, but the term is generally applied to the most recent incarnation designed to support the on-demand resource-provisioning requirements of agile business.

Whereas colocation was primarily sold as an answer to capacity problems—when expansion of an on-premises data center was not practical for real estate, technology, cost, or timing reasons—DCaaS has attracted businesses of all sizes for a wide variety of strategic purposes. IT leaders stuck on the horns of a dilemma, between public cloud and on-premises data centers, may find a lot to like in DCaaS.

When DCaaS Wins Over IaaS/PaaS

In the XaaS sphere, Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) have received their fair share of coverage. Inherently cloud-based, these technologies have helped enterprises shift the IT burden off internal data centers, staff, and the capital expense (CapEx) sheet.

The problem, however, is that IaaS and PaaS aren’t appropriate for all enterprise technology needs. As Gartner has pointed out, most companies are pursuing a hybrid IT model, one in which public cloud combines with privately owned and/or controlled assets. The latter approach remains the go-to for many applications involving sensitive data, strict compliance requirements, or business-differentiating solutions. In these cases, the shared tenancy and black box technology of the public cloud frequently cannot provide the desired ability to directly select and “own” the environment.

The rapid uptake and broad applicability of the public cloud notwithstanding, the industry is finding that bare metal and IT-provisioned hardware assets still have their place—often at the center of the enterprise’s core business needs.

The Many Strategic Applications of DCaaS

At the most basic level, DCaaS offers a degree of control similar to that of on-premises data centers, without the costly and time-consuming build-outs. Early colocation solutions thus focused on the leased space as easy-to-startup capacity, but DCaaS has uncovered a wide range of unfilled strategic needs it can answer.

IT organizations are looking to DCaaS to advance their:

  • Capex vs Opex Strategy—DCaaS changes the cost equation. Adding capacity does not require capital, usually considered on a 10- to 20-year horizon line. Renting physical facilities makes the investment an operating expense, which can have various budgetary advantages.
  • Cost-Savings Strategy—DCaaS vendors generally deliver significant economies of scale, especially as the industry consolidates toward hyperscale providers. The sheer amount of bandwidth and electricity large DCaaS companies purchase enable them to access volume-based discounts unavailable most enterprises. This can enable DCaaS to drive overall cost-savings, despite the lease relationship.
  • Green Strategy—Businesses and their customers today care about the impact of their operations on the environment, leading many organizations to actively manage their carbon footprint, of which data centers are an increasingly large proportion. Few enterprises can take on the challenge of siting a data center near a fjord for natural cooling, but DCaaS providers are pushing the envelope with regard to such environmentally conscious choices. Far-northern climates and deep underground geological formations are among the locations DCaaS providers are leveraging to offer greener options to the market.
  • Uptime Strategy—In surveying our global client base, my company, Park Place Technologies, discovered just how much uptime matters to customers. So much so, “uptime” is now our mantra. Across the board, hitting those four-, five-, and six-nines uptime demands is a top priority. DCaaS can help. In many cases, power failover and backup, diversity and redundancy of internet connectivity, and even physical plant management and security features are beyond those which an enterprise can procure for an on-premises data center, especially a retrofit of an older facility. Being able to put uptime in the SLAs—and make them someone else’s problem to deliver—is an added bonus.
  • Disaster Recovery Strategy—A related point, many DCaaS providers offer geographically diverse, multi-site operations with automatic failover in case of outage or disaster. There is often a wider range of crises that will roll off the back of a DCaaS vendor as compared with an enterprise whose data center location is driven by the headquarters address.
  • Scalability Strategy—This is where the on-demand capabilities of DCaaS are game-changing. The premium providers are positioning themselves to deliver the provisioning capabilities of the public cloud without the downsides. Where DCaaS is most easily distinguished from traditional colocation is in this rapid, turnkey expansion (or contraction) of storage, compute, networking, or other needs as business demands dictate. Emerging lease and pricing models are helping enterprises to shape their DCaaS environments around seasonal variation, cyclic changes in the market, and other vicissitudes in a responsive, cost-efficient manner.
  • IoT and Edge Computing Strategy—IoT itself is a scalability issue, with a flood of data coming in to data centers from devices worldwide. The trend will also complicate the location of compute activity, as latency issues encourage enterprises to position more resources closer to the devices. Managing many more disparate data center locations around the globe would be a severe problem for most enterprises, but DCaaS makes local siting of required resources much easier.
  • Compliance Strategy—Data residency requirements and other regulations, such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), are forcing businesses with any cross-border activity to consider where information resides. DCaaS empowers enterprises to put data where it needs to be for legal reasons, without over-complicating their real estate and data center management portfolios.

With so many strategic advantages to DCaaS, it’s a wonder more IT organizations haven’t shifted in this direction. The reason? The forces of complexity work against all but the best planned DCaaS implementations.

Enter the Chimera

The fact is, DCaaS cannot usually replace other XaaS services, whether those include salesforce.com for the business development team, Google machine learning tools for the marketing gurus, or virtual machines from Amazon Web Services for the DevOps folks. Most DCaaS use cases will combine with public cloud and on-premises IT within a complex enterprise IT ecosystem.

The move to hybrid IT—using the right environment for the business need—has created a multi-headed beast. Whereas the Chimera of Greek mythology combined lion, goat, and snake into a fire-breathing monster, today’s enterprise IT mixes traditional, cloud, and colocation options into a new species of IT that can be difficult for data center managers and CIOs to get a handle on.

There are ways to synergistically align DCaaS with other elements of the overarching IT architecture. This is an area where I spend a lot of time assisting clients. Most often, they have an on-premises data center (or several), which they may be keeping, consolidating, or dismantling. They may be accustomed to colocation or totally new to everything about DCaaS. And more than likely, they’ve got various applications—often hundreds of them—running in the cloud.

Park Place is expert in addressing three M’s of their DCaaS implementation:

  • Migration—Moving certain hardware assets or workloads to DCaaS is a migration challenge. In many cases, tapping a third-party provider can ensure greater success than pursuing a DIY approach. Not only that, internal staff can continue with strategic projects, without a days- or weeks-long process of preparing and completing a changeover.
  • Maintenance—Some DCaaS providers will include hardware maintenance within their service package, but not all do. Even when maintenance service is an option, customers may find a better price and greater expertise is available with a specialist IT maintenance vendor. What’s more, using a third party maintenance provider empowers IT to consult with the same company for on-premises and DCaaS support. This means fewer contracts to manage and greater insight from a provider that’s keyed-in to more of the IT assets.
  • Monitoring—DCaaS is a remote environment, so it’s important to find out what tools and dashboards are included in any package. These can also be supplemented. For example, ParkView from Park Place Technologies, is our 24/7 monitoring solution, which integrates machine learning technologies and AI algorithms to foster predictive maintenance. It can be used for systems residing on premises or in a colocation/DCaaS facility.

Third party maintenance is just one example of how to find simplicity in a hybrid environment. As enterprises spread their assets and applications over a more diverse landscape, unifying any possible functions under the auspices of a high-quality outsourcing provider will be ever-more important in maximizing uptime, relieving internal staff, enabling focus on strategic objectives, and completing the digital transformation on which business success relies.

About the Author

Paul Mercina, Director, Product Management Marketing
Paul Mercina brings over 20 years of experience in IT center project management to Park Place Technologies, where he oversees the product roadmap, growing the services portfolio, end-to-end development and release of new services to the market. His work is informed by 10+ years at Diebold Nixdorf, where he worked closely with software development teams to introduce new service design, supporting implementation of direct operations in a number of countries across the Americas, Asia and Europe.