Energy costs, reliability and air conditioning are all important criteria for choosing an external data center. But today’s key considerations also include efficient process implementation and, above all, fast and secure access to global cloud and application providers. Private, public and hybrid cloud solutions demand a hacker-protected connection with fast response times and colocation offers the ideal platform for this, enabling providers to act as a digital marketplace for the implementation of IT concepts.

Due to the increasing digitization of our lives, the amount of data being stored in data centers will continue to increase dramatically. According to IDC’s 2017 study, Big Data and IoT will reach a data volume of approximately 163 zettabytes by 2025. For comparison: In 2016, only one-tenth of this data volume (16ZB) was produced. In addition, the same IDC study predicted that this generation of data will increasingly shift to the enterprise sector. But many enterprise data centers will not grow to the same extent. Data centers must evolve and grow in line with this data growth.

From colocation to the marketplace

inside a generic data center
– Getty Images

Colocation today is about much more than just putting racks together – the classic colocation model is changing. Activities range from optimizing the physical footprint, to resolving redundant power supplies and connectivity services. The increasing pressure on companies to provide their users with modern applications, some of which run independently in public clouds, presents CIOs with completely new challenges. In many cases, an unplanned multi-cloud approach has already developed in order to meet users’ needs, but this can be complex and uneconomical especially when departments go rogue and start independently purchasing services from third-party providers without the IT team being involved.

It is now that data centers (DCs) have the opportunity to move into a new role. They can offer companies an ecosystem in which they can choose the optimal solution for them, just like in a marketplace. The colocation data center now has the central role of advising the customer. For example, customers may want access to various cloud providers, enabling them to tailor their multi or hybrid cloud strategy flexibly, inexpensively and across multiple providers. This variety also lets them implement platforms in an environment that ensures the compliance of operating systems and reduces operational risk through a secure infrastructure and service level agreements.

Scalability and redundancy

Outsourcing parts of the data center provides more scope for growth. Colocation vendors are continually expanding their capacity in distributed locations to meet global data growth and allow users to tailor their capacity to their current needs. For customers, having growth options is essential. This ensures that they can flexibly book capacity based on their specific business needs and, if necessary, terminate or distribute them to any number of data centers in the provider’s network.

This enables a wide range of redundancy concepts with outsourced server capacities sent to mirrored data centers with separate paths and supply networks. Connections can be made via any carrier and even over several network providers with the necessary service level agreements and users can also choose between different service providers.

Flexibility and choice in a protected environment

In the modern colocation center, users have access to numerous partners with different expertise on site, which they can access flexibly: from various carriers and cloud providers, to system integrators. A technology change from pure colocation to the use of cloud solutions is made easy for users, who can easily access interesting solutions from a wide range of services. The colocation data center in its function as a marketplace also gives users access to a large selection of potential partners offering comparable services. This increased competitive pressure in turn has a positive effect on quality and affordability.

Technically, the spatial proximity aids the realization of hybrid cloud solutions. Since the applications are only separated by one cross-connect, latencies are minimal. This allows a seamless transition from a traditional or private cloud application on a colocation-powered server, to a provider’s public cloud application in the same data center. In this way, peak loads of applications in the public cloud can be intercepted and for enterprise IT teams, which brings a high degree of flexibility and agility.

Partner networks can be leveraged to offer customers a variety of solutions and services for planning, implementing, migrating and managing their hybrid cloud environments. Concrete solutions can be used to manage the hybrid cloud environment, dynamically managing resources and applications. And with the increasing use of public cloud offerings, bandwidth requirements and low latency can be realized through direct access to the cloud solutions.

The future is getting more diverse

In colocation data centers, customers and cloud providers operate a wide variety of applications, each with very specific requirements. Developments such as Industry 4.0 and the IoT are raising the importance of issues such as real-time capability and distributed data centers.

With the growing flood of data impacting our world, the diverse range of applications from the cloud, along with the evolution of innovative applications - such as with 5G - companies will increasingly outsource data center capacity, including a greater number of applications.

Specialist colocation data centers need to take on a more advisory role, consulting customers on the planning, management and maintenance of the infrastructure and advise on the selection of suitable partners, to help their customers grow and thrive.

Volker Ludwig is the senior vice president of sales at e-shelter in Frankfurt