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June 3, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 1:23pm

Do I need to change my data centre?

Matthew Gingell of Colt has the answers.

By Jimmy Nicholls

We sat down with Matthew Gingell, head of product and channel development at Colt and a man with 30 years in telecoms and data centres, to discuss what the right time is for IT managers to upgrade their servers.

When it comes to data centres, what are the important things for a business to consider when facing big organisational changes?

The data centre decisions are quite often prompted by organisation change, but we really look at the data centre business in three phases. The trigger for the decision is a recognition the existing centre is outdated.

The average data centre is 9 years old, and there’s quite a few out there which are 15 years or more. The issue is, what do you do about that? They are not effective, not efficient, and not fitting the current demands, because the old tech is completely different to what it is now.

What’s the first move then?

In the short term the focus is on efficiency because these things cost a lot, and power is going through the roof. The older data centres are not anywhere near close to the new ones.

The second, the more medium term activity, is about how you buy yourself more time by giving new life to existing estate – the refreshment phase. There are quite a few things you can do, putting in new chillers, putting in containment, other mechanisms that make better use of the power you have. In order to make it possible you have to make it efficient and upgrade the systems – what it’s going to do is buy you five years time.

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The third stage is much more strategic. There is 60% odd making these decisions. 63% said the decision process is getting longer. But at some point they have to buy the bullet. A lot of these are led by mergers and acquisitions. It could be a new IT paradigm is put in place, it could be a company is growing much faster than expected.

This is the point at which you can take decisions for a new IT paradigm, for example migrating to cloud or deciding that you want to have a hybrid of data solutions. Instead of having your own data centres, this is the opportunity to consider outsourcing all or part of your estate, or build a new data centre yourselves.

How does location of a data centre impact on a business?

It’s unfortunately not a simple answer, otherwise we’d all be up in Iceland. There’s no question access to green power and cheap power, such as in Iceland, is a real benefit. There are issues with latency and with proximity. Some data laws require that data is held in the country in which the organisation is. The other things about efficiency still apply as well. Productivity is incredibly important as well.

What security challenges does the cloud pose?

The cloud has to live somewhere, and they live in data centres. Security is critical to the physical security. The logical security is just as important, so I guess in the same way you have to be careful choosing your data centre providers, you have to be careful about using your cloud provider. The fact the cloud providers use secure facilities is part of that discussion.

Are energy costs a big issue for IT managers?

I think it’s very much an issue for it managers. If the IT gear within the data centre is not operating as it should you are just spinning wheels. You need to focus on whether the resources are doing what it should do. The type of apps that will benefit from underlying infrastructure are dependent on putting that in place. The advantages include being able to replicate between data centres or switch workload between servers in real time in order to get the benefits of location of resource power. Those are all IT manager functions.

The data centre industry is not rocket science. It’s about security, cooling, that sort of thing. You just can’t forecast how much demand you are going to need, so the real requirement is that you have capacity to go in quickly. Flexibility can be brought in a number of ways, but that is the fundamental in terms of strategy.

How is EU regulation affecting data centre usage for businesses?

It does make a difference for different types of application. In Switzerland there are certain benefits to having your data housed inside a tax district, so a data centre there will attract banks and operations that benefit from that. Security and government contracts have got certain criteria wrapped around them in terms of impact assessments, as well. So it does have an impact.

What future innovations to data centres do you foresee in the near future?

In the data centre world we’re still going very strongly. We’re averaging 14% growth within Europe, it’s probably 28% growth in Asia. That’s being driven by increased usage in IT. In cloud it’s a virtualisation user that’s the driver. In itself it should increase the efficiency, there’s less idle time of servers doing nothing. So that’s the theory. What I think will happen is that in order to deliver on that promise of better efficiency, better usage of IT, you need two things: an upgraded estate and monitoring tools.

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