It is easy to perceive that both data centers and thoughts about data centers have shifted dramatically since the first giant computers took up entire rooms to themselves. Data centers were viewed as sources of endless possibility — and total mystery.
Although the physical footprint of servers have shrunk, the data center’s cooling and power systems that support those servers have grown more complex, forcing many businesses to outsource their data center to the experts.
Considering how important a business’s computational processes are to their daily operations, trusting a colocation service partner to protect these critical assets can be daunting. Downtime or bad operational practices are too costly to be tolerated any longer. Businesses now seek to understand how their data center partner operates from top to bottom, to dispel the mystery, because it’s too important not to.
Unfortunately, many colocation service providers hold on to this veil of secrecy, subscribing to the adage that “there is margin in the mystery.”
Some colocation data centers, however, are opening their doors wide to their customers to give them a transparent view of their IT environment. With more granular control, customers can optimize their IT and increase efficiencies, which in turn helps the data center and saves the customer money. Offering this transparency to customers is the new differentiator in the colocation data center industry and the wave of the future. Customers are getting smarter, and colocation providers should let them. Unless they have something to hide.
A HISTORY OF MYSTERY
The mystery that surrounds the data center is due in part to the colocation customer’s historical lack of visibility of the data center’s inner workings, but colocation providers themselves are also partly responsible for the continuation of the mystery. Some colocation data centers do this purposely, while most have simply lacked the technology or skills to give their customers the transparency they crave. If a colocation provider makes a mistake or they don’t quite accomplish the level of service they guarantee, but the customer remains unaware, it’s easy for the provider to sweep these missteps under the rug.
This way of operation is coming to an end with the advent of data center infrastructure management (DCIM) systems.
DCIM systems are a relatively new tool that helps data centers monitor their facilities in greater detail than ever before. Although DCIM can be difficult for a data center to adopt due to financial or logistical reasons, this technology is steadily gaining popularity because the information it provides can be vital to a data center’s continued availability. Even so, it remains difficult to find a DCIM system customizable enough to fit a data center’s unique infrastructure, let alone customizable enough to create an easy to use enduser or customer portal. The capability is there for the colocation data centers that are willing to go the extra mile to give their customers greater visibility of their environments, but for all the reasons above, this evolution has been slow.
THE DEMAND FOR TRANSPARENCY
As businesses continue to gain a greater understanding of what outsourcing data center services actually entails and about the technology that enables their day to day operations, it is only natural for them to want to delve deeper and gain more granular control over their IT environments. It makes sense financially to be absolutely certain that their equipment is running at optimum efficiency. It also makes sense to be sure that their colocation partner upholds their service level agreements (SLAs).
Businesses should be wary of colocation data centers that withhold this information. If a data center conducts operations to maintain the best possible levels of reliability, they need to be able to closely monitor their critical systems infrastructure. If this infrastructure monitoring is already in place and running effectively, there’s no reason not to make the information available to their customers. Some argue that it simply isn’t necessary for the customer to have this kind of access, but with the data points a customer DCIM portal can offer — like measurements of power usage, temperature, and relative humidity — they can see whether their SLAs are being met, access real-time data about their collocated environment, and trend and analyze these data points to better optimize their colocated IT environment and plan for the future. Branch circuit monitoring benefits colocation data centers because data center service providers can ensure clients receive the precise levels of services they paid for, which allows them to optimize their allocation of resources throughout the facility.
A NEW MARKET DIFFERENTIATOR
Data centers opening up their DCIM and allowing the new wave of colocation customers access to their critical IT environments is simply the next logical step in this evolution. Although most data centers do not currently offer DCIM specific customer portals, either because they can’t or won’t, we will see more and more offered over the course of 2017 and in years to come as DCIM simply becomes a necessity and transparency starts to shine as the new market differentiator.