The Benefits of a Blank Piece of Paper

Written by Phil Alsop, Editor, DCS Europe Published 2017-02-02 09:04:00

We’ve all heard the story of the tourist on holiday who stops to ask directions of a very ‘rural’ villager, only to receive the answer: “Well, if you want to go there, I wouldn’t start from here.” 

For those seeking to optimise their existing data centre and ICT environments at the present time, the honest answer to the question: “How do I make a start?” is: “Don’t start from where you are”. In other words, legacy infrastructure is a major drawback to any organisation seeking to position itself as a modern, agile, digital business. No matter how well-meaning the vendors and channel organisations who will help you to migrate from the old to the new, the timescales and complications involved in such a transition are depressingly large.

Put it another way – if you were starting a business today, would you honestly purchase physical servers, storage, networks and software programmes, in the knowledge that, within a matter of weeks or months, some or all of these assets would already be ‘out of date’, superseded by newer, more efficient and/or cost-effective versions? If you didn’t understand how the data centre and ICT industries have moved towards colocation, the Cloud and Managed Services in the past few years, perhaps you just might do.  

Hopefully, there’s been enough publicity, and enough success stories, surrounding these recent developments to make it much more likely that, as you plan for your start-up, you understand that the sensible option is to concentrate on what you do best – the running of your company – and leave the data centre and the ICT aspect to the experts.

Indeed, however knowledgeable one might think they are when it comes to building, running and maintaining a data centre, there’s a fair chance that they don’t know as much as a colocation provider. Furthermore, when you’re starting out, do you have any idea how big, or small, you need your data centre to be? Underestimate and you’ll be hampered, as the lack of space in your data centre acts as a bottleneck to the business expansion opportunities you can see. Overestimate, and you’ll be paying for some wasted space. 


Use a data centre provider, and you can take as much space/infrastructure as you need, with an agreed scale up (or down), plan.


Indeed, colocation contracts are almost infinitely flexible these days, allowing for extremely granular terms – if not in minutes, then probably in hours, and most definitely in terms of days, rather than the months or years of the previous era. Similarly flexible terms are now being offered over power requirements.

So, you can take out an initial data centre contract that gives you what you want right now, and allows for planned expansion over a period of time. Better still, your data centre provider will almost certainly give you the additional flexibility to ‘burst’ your infrastructure requirements. For DevOps in particular, this ability to harness additional resources for a period of time, and then hand them back to the provider, provides a level of agility never previously imagined. Or rather, imagined, but very problematic: ‘Please Mr/Mrs IT Manager, I need some extra compute/storage/network capacity to work on this project. Ideally, I need it now, but I only need it for a month…’ The likely answer: ‘Once this has board approval, it’ll take six months to provision the new resource, at a major cost, and, once you’ve finished the project, then the new asset will lie unused’

Back to today’s data centre provider, and this additional infrastructure requirement can be (self-) provisioned in minutes, and the only cost is that of hiring the extra resource for a month.

Furthermore, as the colocation provider makes their living from offering optimised, efficient and agile infrastructure to its customers, there’s a fair chance that this infrastructure will be refreshed on a rather more frequent basis than it might be if actually owned by the end user. So, colocation customers can be getting access to the very latest technology at a fraction of the capital cost of this new hardware and software.

And we haven’t even started to talk about the similar benefits that the Cloud providers and the MSPs can offer the start-up business.

For many potential start-ups, access to flexible, agile data centre and ICT resources, for a pretty much fixed monthly cost, is the difference between success or failure, especially when compared to a traditional, capital intensive business plan. Compare the scenarios:

a) Please Mr/Mrs bank manager, I need £500,000 to start my business, in six months’ time, most of which will be spent on purchasing and building the ICT infrastructure required as the foundation on which the business will operate.

b) Please Mr/Mrs bank manager, I need £50,000 to start my business, in a month’s time, most of which will be spent on hiring the ICT infrastructure required as the foundation on which the business will operate.

While it might appear extreme to suggest that any organisation which doesn’t embrace the Colocation/Cloud/MSP model is doomed, there’s little doubt that, for many, if not most organisations, the attractions of outsourcing – access to a flexible, agile, cost-effective, secure, regularly-updated, previously unaffordable data centre and ICT resource – are becoming hard to ignore. 

For those start-ups staring at a blank piece of paper, the argument is impossible to ignore.

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