If you had to choose one word that best summarises the rapidly evolving data centre and IT infrastructure of the Digital Age, what would it be – Cloud, software-defined, managed services, flexibility, agility, scalability? How about the word that is, almost certainly, the only one guaranteed to give you access to all those other chosen words – hybrid?
Take Cloud. Even if you believe that your organisation’s complete IT needs can best be served by the Cloud, it’s highly likely that you’ll have a mixture of private, or on-premise, Cloud and public Cloud or, at the very least, more than one public Clouds – the multi-Cloud approach, or a hybrid Cloud strategy.
And what about flexibility? Is one, fixed data centre, however well designed and equipped, going to give you the optimum environment from which to run all your IT requirements? And will such a facility be agile enough to cope with the constantly changing demands of your business and its customers? Which basically means will you build in extra capacity to cope with the peaks, and then have this capacity stand idle during ‘normal’ times, or build for normal times and then struggle to cope with the peaks?
Then again, what size should your data centre be – you know you have plans to expand over time, but should you build a facility to allow for this expansion (say, twice as big as you need it now), and have empty space costing money, or build for today’s exact needs and find that, by the time the facility has been commissioned, it’s already too small for your company’s needs (we might call this the M25 syndrome!)?
And, even if you are confident that your existing data centre infrastructure addresses most of these issues to your satisfaction, what happens when we mention the word ‘edge’?! Maybe you don’t bat and eyelid, so confident are you that your existing data centre infrastructure, with centralised, regionalised and local data centres, is more than capable of handling the demands of digital transformation? Then again, you might open your eyelids and realise that it’s almost impossible for any individual organisation to possess, or even to develop, an optimised data centre and IT infrastructure, without calling on outside resources.
If money and time are of no concern whatsoever, then, yes, you could build/refresh your existing data centre(s), and then add some regional facilities. However, the investment required, and the time taken, could just put you a little way behind your rivals, who simply knock on the door of a colocation provider, who can provide access to the edge almost overnight, or maybe just go straight to the Cloud and have someone else run an application for you.
Let’s go back to ‘hybrid’ for a moment. Just as an effective, optimised Cloud strategy is almost certainly going to be a hybrid one; the optimised data centre infrastructure for any particular business will be a mix of centralised, regional and local facilities; and this data centre mixture will have a mix of owners as well – you, plus one or more colocation organisation.
You might continue to use your own data centre infrastructure, and even refresh it, for much of your day-to-day business. But what about when you need to develop a new application quickly to respond to a market opportunity or even just to match the offering of a rival? By the time you’ve provisioned the necessary infrastructure in-house, if you’d gone the colocation route (or used some kind of a Cloud or managed services environment), the whole project would have been long finished.
Similarly, a Big Data project could be planned, provisioned and run in-house or by accessing external resources. No prizes for guessing which one comes in quicker and offering a much better ROI!
Need to develop a data centre strategy to address the needs of an IoT project you’re planning, or simply to get data and applications to your customers faster? By all means, build out the facilities yourself. But it’s going to cost rather more than simply accessing the right colocation facilities and take much longer as well.
Traditionalists might want to hold onto their in-house data centre facilities. Traditionalists are disappearing from the UK high street almost every week. Rather than ask: ‘Why should I outsource my data centre and IT infrastructure?’, the right question to ask is: ‘Are there any mission critical reasons as to why I should not outsource more and more of my data centre and IT requirements?’
Let’s finish with the planes, trains and automobile analogy. Want to travel locally? Then a car is the best option, whether you own it yourself or choose to rent. Looking to go further afield? Then you could take the car, but the train starts to become attractive. Looking to travel across continents? Then you could drive, you could take the train, but it’s highly likely that flying is your best option. Of course, all these choices depend on a combination of your priorities – which can best be summarised as time and money.
Your own, single data centre can do everything you want - but at what cost? Far better to develop a data centre modernisation strategy that make best use of the options available: in-house, colocation, Cloud and managed services.