Thursday, 18 October 2012

Competing for European Data Centre Business


Sovereign Business Integration Group (Sovereign), CEO, Richard Barker recently wrote about creating customer focused data centres in a blog posted on the datacentre.me website. It was a brilliantly written piece articulating the need for datacentre developers to keep in mind what their customer base is and what their needs might be.

According to Barker there are a lot of business organisations now investing money in datacentres, web hosting, and managed services. So much so that he references a 25% increase in such investments so far in 2012. That's quite an impressive number when you consider technologyinvestment across the board is barely that high.

Yet despite the high rate of investment there is one specific problem: investors with no datacentre knowledge and no real vision of how to maximize their returns. As Barker correctly pointed out, many of these investors are re-purposing old buildings because it's significantly cheaperthan building new ones. And while there's nothing wrong with that strategy, a new data centre needs to be designed around meeting the specific needs of its customers.

For example, BMW recently moved a handful of critical business applications to a new data centre in Iceland. The appeal of that data centre was the fact that power and cooling needs are being met by 100% sustainable resources. That keeps BMW's costs fairly low in exchange for a robust infrastructure that assures the applications will always be up and running.

If an investor in a new data centre is focused on collocation, that's one thing. If the focus of the centre will be on managed services, then that's completely different. The idea is to plan ahead in deciding what types of customers are going to be pursued so that construction and design of both building and technology infrastructure is up to the task.

Don't Forget the Human Element

Another point to Barker makes -- and the one I think is more important -- has to do with the human element. It's great to promote a new data centre as having the latest hardware or a friendly environmental footprint. But to sell a service based on hardware and infrastructure really isn't a smart idea. At the end of the day those things are just tools to beused by IT staff in their support of customers.

The most important aspect of any data centre is the team that operates it. That's something investors need to look at very carefully before they begin selling services. Data centre recruitment is ofutmost importance to ensure the best talent is located and hired. And that holds true regardless of whether you're talking about web hosting, collocation, managed services, or cloud computing.

BMWs experience in Iceland should be watched closely by other European companies looking to get into the datacentre business. Officials in Iceland spent many years working on their model; hopefully they got it right. The rest of us would do well to wait, watch, and learn one way or the other.

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