The data centre has become one of the most critical infrastructure elements in the modern business. As requirements and technology have evolved, so too has the data centre, and a number of trends are currently evident around this business-critical solution.
The over-arching trend affecting data centres currently is a move away from organisations owning their own physical data centre infrastructure. This is a result of a number of challenges, including cost, rapidly evolving technology, security concerns and others. The data centre of today and the future paints a vastly different picture to this technology in the past, and we are sure to see further evolution in years to come.
While the data centre is essential, it is also expensive to build and maintain, and is often physically tied to a location, hindering the agility of a business in terms of their ability to move. This is resulting in a growing trend whereby many organisations are exploring alternative solutions to the bricks and mortar data centre building. The influence of this trend is driving data centres in a number of different directions. Shared data centres are becoming increasingly popular, enabling co-location of different vendors, providers and customers in a single physical infrastructure, providing economies of scale, best practice security, increased cost efficiency and more. Virtualisation of infrastructure is also on the increase, whether in on premise or shared and hosted data centres, as software-defined data centres come to the fore. By adopting software defined services in a shared data centre, organisations can now access a variety of technology, from storage and servers to backup and recovery solutions from a service provider or multiple service providers without the requirement to build, manage or maintain their own infrastructure.
In addition, as a result of cost and economy pressures, organisations that do require their own physical data centre infrastructure are adopting modular solutions that can be easily deployed and self-powered. Many organisations still require ownership of certain functional areas, making hosted or virtualised data centre services impractical. However, the challenge of the physical construction of infrastructure remains. Pre-built, containerised modular data centres are thus emerging as an alternative solution. These data centres are pre-built and then assembled on site in a matter of a couple of months, rather than the years it has taken in the past to build a traditional data centre. Furthermore, supplementary capacity can be incorporated with the addition of another data centre container module, improving data centre agility and scalability.
The driving factor for the majority of data centre decisions is cost efficiency. The latest developments within data centres highlight this, including the emergence of software-defined data centres and a growing trend toward hosted services in a shared data centre. Organisations are increasingly looking toward service providers to drive economies of scale through converging technologies, a solid skills based and sound managed services, enabling reduced costs, increasing numbers of software services, and consumption-based services that move technology from a capital expense to an affordable monthly fee.
When looking to outsource data centre services, organisations need to examine the total cost of the data centre and the infrastructure. If there is no benefit to maintaining this infrastructure in-house, and the services provisioned out of it are not core business solutions, then the decision is simple in terms of cost versus risk. In other situations, organisations must carefully weigh the benefits and risks to determine the applicability of outsourcing these services.
Data centre solutions delivered as a service offer a number of benefits aside from agility, scalability and a predictable monthly fee. With electricity tariffs on the increase, power consumption is a major cost factor in the data centre. Hosted data centres will not only be more likely to incorporate the latest in energy efficient technology, they also share the cost of power consumption between customers, and this is incorporated as a fixed monthly cost into the services bill. Increasing capacity will thus have far less of an impact on power consumption, as customers do not have to pay for the full infrastructure and the full increased cost of electricity. In addition, organisations can leverage fast provisioning of new services, agility, scalability, shared infrastructure costs, and best of breed solutions in terms of heating, cooling and more.
As data demands continue to increase and more devices become smart and connected, the data centre will play an even more pivotal role in the future. Hosted, shared and virtualised data centre solutions offer organisations access to new and innovative services while addressing the combined pressures of reducing cost and improving agility and scalability, and as a result, will continue to grow in popularity in future.
By AJ Hartenberg, Portfolio Manager: Data Centre Services at T-Systems in South Africa