Colocation facilities – a critical aspect of cloud expansion

Colocation facilities – a critical aspect of cloud expansion

The colocation facilities where many clouds reside should not be taken for granted

Written by Phil Alsop, Editor, DCS Europe Published Tuesday, 13 July 2021 08:45

It’s no secret that the pandemic has caused many businesses to accelerate their digital transformation strategies, and many have turned to the cloud to help address both the short term disruption of lockdown, and longer term, strategic plans focusing on the need for increased agility, flexibility and scalability.

The numbers speak for themselves. 

According to Synergy Research Group, full-year 2020 European cloud infrastructure service revenues (including IaaS, PaaS and hosted private cloud services) are over EUR 23 billion, up 31% from 2019 (1). 

A recent research white paper produced by Vanson Bourne on behalf of the Cloud Industry Forum (2) found that not only did 69 per cent of organisations speed up their digitalisation plans as a result of the pandemic, but that 91 per cent said that the cloud had played an important part in their response, with just under half describing cloud’s role as ‘critical’. Additionally, the research revealed that 55 per cent of businesses have increased their cloud adoption as a direct result of Covid, and 88 per cent expect their adoption of cloud services to increase in the next 12 months.

Meanwhile, the headline finding in Nutanix’s third global Enterprise Cloud Index survey and research report (3), is that 86 per cent of IT professionals believe that hybrid cloud is the ideal IT infrastructure model. Almost half of the survey respondents said that their investments in hybrid cloud have increased as a direct result of the pandemic; and the number of organisations using multi-cloud (two or more public clouds) is set to rise from 63 per cent in 2020 to 71 per cent this year. Additionally, hybrid cloud deployments are predicted to increase by more than 37 per cent over the next five years.

A word of caution at this point. While cloud adoption seems unstoppable, and for all the right business reasons, there are significant challenges that need to be addressed along the way.

A recent Accenture cloud value survey (4) reveals that just 37 per cent of companies are achieving the ‘full value’ expected from their cloud investments. Part of the reasons for this would appear to be that organisations which commit heavily to the cloud obtain a much better outcome than those classified as moderate or low cloud adopters. Nonetheless, 75 per cent of the companies surveyed believe that the cloud is a means of both mitigating business uncertainty and lowering risk.

Meanwhile, iland research (5) into the hyperscale cloud found that companies have encountered both unexpected problems with and have low confidence in some features of cloud services. Challenges around cloud migration are also a significant issue. Interestingly, 53 per cent of the individuals surveyed said that security is the number one cloud provider selection criteria, with 76 per cent believing that CSPs should be involved in customer data compliance.

Recent Virtana metrics (6) confirm both Covid causing a ‘rush’ to the cloud, and the importance of taking the right approach to cloud migration. Virtana suggests that two thirds of companies are at risk from unexpected cost and/or performance issues because they ‘lift and shift’ applications into the cloud, as opposed to optimising them prior to migration. And Virtana quotes the Gartner-sourced statistic that organisations who do not have a cloud cost optimisation plan in place will overspend on cloud services by anything up to 70 per cent. Finally, Virtana’s previous prediction that 50-60 per cent of workloads would be migrated to the cloud over the next five years, has been revised to as little as three years.

At a time when everyone throws around opinions about the cloud in that we might call a somewhat casual manner, it’s good to have a range of reliable reporting on just how the cloud uptake is likely to expand and the importance of proper planning ahead of any cloud migration.

A number of years ago, a Government minister (who shall remain nameless and party-less!) was heard to ask a data centre professional: “When everything goes to the cloud, what’s going to happen to all the empty data centres?”!! While I’m sure we’ve all imagined bits and bytes sitting on white fluffy clouds in the sky (and never dark, stormy ones, for some reason) at some stage, we all know that IT clouds live in real, physical data centres. Some of these data centres are owned by the cloud providers themselves; many of them are owned by colocation providers. 

These colocation providers can offer CSPs a wide range of data centre locations and sizes, great connectivity options, and the flexibility, agility, scalability (and speed) to build out new infrastructure at relatively short notice and, occasionally, to reduce the infrastructure footprint. Many of these providers also host multiple cloud providers and/or specialise in providing their services to specific industry sectors. This provides a major advantage when it comes to connectivity speeds, for example, which leads on to faster interaction and collaboration between different organisations accessing cloud services in the same facility.

While many organisations who invest in cloud services may never visit or indeed be interested in the data centre where the cloud infrastructure resides, I would suggest that end users would be well advised to ask a few questions about where their applications and data are going to reside. And a good CSP will be happy to, at the very least, give full details of the what, where and how, if not invite a potential customer to visit the relevant colocation facility. 

Firstly, it’s good to know that the cloud services being offered can be relied upon – that you can be confident that the data centre is not a potentially weak link in the chain. That’s both in terms of the facility itself – is it new or old, how does it address business continuity and disaster recovery, for example; and the data centre provider itself – are they a trusted organisation?

Secondly, with more and more emphasis being placed on sustainability throughout the supply chain, you might just want to know more about the characteristics of the data centre behind your chosen CSP(s). Embarrassing to discover that, while your corporate environmental report extols your company’s sustainability credentials, your cloud provider’s data centre is inefficient and environmentally poor.

In conclusion, moving to the cloud makes a great deal of sense for many organisations. However, the migration process needs careful planning and implementation. And the colocation facilities where many clouds reside should not be taken for granted, indeed, should be a part of the migration process. ‘Yes, I know that my application is going into your cloud, but where does your cloud live?’ is a question that needs to be asked.

(1) European Cloud Providers Struggle to Reverse Market Share Losses | Synergy Research Group (srgresearch.com)

(2) The cloud delivered for over 90 per cent of UK plc when tackling the challenge of COVID | Cloud industry forum

(3) Study Shows Hybrid Cloud Steps Up to Meet Business Needs Amidst COVID-19 (nutanix.com)

(4) Most Companies Continue to Struggle to Realize Full Business Value from their Cloud Initiatives, Accenture Report Finds | Accenture Newsroom

(5) Pandemic-driven demand for cloud may be stymied by migration challenges (globenewswire.com)

(6) Two Thirds of Global 2000 Risk Unexpected Cost/Performance Issues by Rushing Their Legacy Applications to the Cloud Due to COVID-19 – Virtana