The data center is a strategic asset of the digital revolution. As the demand for Cloud services continues to grow, next-generation data centers that are sufficiently secure, connected and energy efficient are imperative to support businesses as they expand their operations. They then turn to colocation specialists, which is their core business. According to IDC, 15% of total server deployments in Western Europe in 2018 were hosted in colocation data centers, representing 41% of company servers deployed offsite.

At the heart of this fluctuating environment, the role of the data center has changed from a simple technological and storage medium to a vector of innovation and differentiation, guaranteeing competitiveness, continuity and secure support for business operations. A colocation data center offers many advantages: easy access to a flexible and modular infrastructure capable of responding to increased activity and bursts; new-generation security; optimized cooling techniques to reduce environmental impact; access to public Cloud operators; proven DCIM tools… all for a lower TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) than building a data center of your own.

Faced with the multiplication of offers and suppliers, IDC presents the 4 factors to be taken into account to choose the best colocation partner:

1/ Evaluate flexibility and scalability to meet changing needs

The data center operator must be able to host companies’ existing infrastructures but also respond to an increasing volume of activity for 36 to 72 months. It is also necessary to validate that its expansion plan is truly in line with their needs, to avoid the forced fragmentation of colocation services – an option that IDC recommends adding to the contract. Another selection factor is geographical presence. If multi-country coverage, geographic separation of a disaster recovery or edge application requirements are critical, a vendor with an extensive network of campuses and data centers spread across a region or several countries should be prioritised.

2/ Measure connectivity capabilities and options

Connectivity is the lifeblood of the digital economy. According to a 2019 European IDC study on business communications, the main drivers of network evolution are cloud interconnection, dark fibre, bandwidth and improved latency. Accelerating migration to software-defined virtualized environments capable of hybridizing in multi-cloud environments is accelerating enterprise demand for multi-operator interconnects in co-located data centers. It will thus be necessary to assess the ability of the provider to supply comprehensive and neutral services to telecom operators or its own network to the major public cloud service providers.

3/ Obtain guarantees in terms of monitoring and urbanisation of infrastructures

An essential part of a modern data center is the ability to monitor, manage and automate workflows by collecting information on both the performance of the computing platforms (servers, storage and network) and the underlying elements such as temperature and power efficiency. Paradoxically, the level of adoption of such centralized performance monitoring solutions is quite slow despite the fact that IT staff costs nearly a third of the operating expenses of a data center. Automation of infrastructure monitoring and management should therefore be a key element of the specifications. The supplier will be required to provide a full range of real-time metrics – mainly temperature, humidity and electrical power – and deliver them in the form of reports and action proposals. In addition, all components of the data center infrastructure will need to be monitored and managed remotely. Armed with this information, the company will be able to drive a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that more accurately measures performance, reliability, cost and risk prevention to protect its critical applications and services while controlling costs.

4/ Monitor energy performance and environmental impact

The increasing digitalisation of companies, which now covers the supply chain, production, back office, sales and customer experience, leads to a sharp increase in computing and storage requirements, which in turn leads to high energy consumption for power and cooling. As the power consumption of the data center evolves in line with global consumption, optimizing its energy efficiency is a major challenge. The supplier must offer the best guarantees in terms of PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness). This energy efficiency indicator is calculated by dividing the total energy consumed by the data center by the total energy used by the IT equipment (server, storage, network). The ideal data center would have a PUE as close as possible to 1.

To this end, it relies on advanced energy distribution and cooling techniques (ambient air, adiabatic cooling, etc.) as well as space optimization. It is important to give preference to colocation providers with an active and continuous eco-energy strategy, including a commitment to implement contracts which guarantee that 100% of the energy consumed will be compensated by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar or geothermal energy. Where suppliers use fossil fuels, it will be worthwhile to assess both their carbon offset strategy and their roadmap for moving to a fully renewable energy supply.

As companies go digital, they require more than just power, space and cooling. They need a strategic partner capable of supporting them as they grow. Its value must be real – especially on geographic distribution, optimized inter-connectivity, monitoring of key metrics, and energy efficiency. The combination of these parameters is imperative to enable companies to continue to innovate in increasingly globalized and competitive markets.