The colocation site selection process has evolved dramatically. Gone are the days when prospective clients only had to consider standard Tier III site criteria in addition to mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP). Today, the search for a colocation partner must move beyond the basics to investigate the issues that will affect client operations now as well as in the future. 

There are three critical areas to consider when it comes to future-proofing your colocation site selection strategy: cloud access and internal cloud services, network options and internal services, and data center infrastructure management (DCIM)/building management systems (BMS)/managed services. Evaluating these criteria is essential for forging a partnership with a colocation operator that will accommodate the technology changes to come in the next three to five years. The best providers will offer cost-effective and transparent solutions in their facilities to help users operate more efficiently.

Cloud Access and Services

When considering a colocation site and provider, you need to understand if the site has Amazon Web Services (AWS), Azure, or other points of presence (POPs) for  cloud services needed now or in the future.  If a POP for a cloud provider is on-site, it will reduce your latency and access costs. If not, you will need to determine what access the operator offers.

The next best option is access to a cloud connection device. There are two popular devices: PacketFabric (165-plus locations) and Megaport Interconnectivity (465 locations). These devices provide users with access to more than 300 cloud providers. Some colocation operators have white-labeled these services, while others have created their own in-house connection service. Ideal colo providers have the devices and bandwidth to offer cloud service, or they advise tenants on which services to use.

The future of data centers focuses on a hybrid solution of colocation and cloud. Progressive colocation partners understand the importance of having an intelligent cloud offering to provide consulting services. Some of these operators will evaluate your current cloud on-premises or in a colocation and help you understand how to use it more efficiently. Colocation operators can save users 20% to 40% on their current cloud spend. 

Fiber, Network and Bandwidth

In a recent independent study, 45% of companies cited additional bandwidth and better latency as a key driver for colocation adoption. As edge computing becomes more popular, it’s important to understand the operators internal networks and what partnerships they may have.

Tenants also need to understand fiber, dark fiber, and even satellite/microwave services.  Additionally, 5G will improve the transmission rate nearly 100 times higher than current speeds. This will make it necessary for data centers to introduce operations that could manage resource-intensive data without compromising on energy consumption and other cost factors. 5G will also bring the need for more content in the market, but the question is, how much? Tenants need to understand how this will affect storage and space in colocation facilities — an issue that is currently not being talked about enough.

Increased demand will also affect the cloud storage providers and make storage as a service more prolific. Edge computing will require more servers and storage cabinets. It is estimated that 5G mobile technology will force data centers and network companies to invest over $326 billion on IT infrastructure by 2025.

The best operators should have all the fiber providers you require, along with dark fiber, networks, and cloud POPs (and/or access to Megaport or PacketFabric devices). Tenants need to understand their current and future bandwidth needs and make sure the device, operator, and fiber company can provide them with what they need. The average enterprise company is expected to see interconnected bandwidth increase sevenfold over the next three years, culminating in a rapid change in data center/colocation needs that will require operators to expand their services.

DCIM/BMS and Managed Services

The colocation industry knows demand for the cloud is rising, so they are focused on becoming more involved IT partners, providing more services, and offering advice on how to save money. For example, operators will let tenants know when they are paying for but not using a cross-connect, so the tenants can decide whether to continue or terminate that service. But that’s just one way sophisticated partners are helping tenants operate a more cost-effective colocation footprint.

This One, or That One?

Today, it is safe to assume that most colocation facilities are Tier III sites. When considering who to partner with, these three key factors are what will separate preferred operators from the pack.