When you visualize a data center (DC), a very large room full of racks of servers in a cooled environment running 24/7 comes to mind. Running a data center is no child’s play. From procurement of equipment to opex, scaling and maintenance, each task is expensive. However, one can’t do away with them. Right from an SMS reminder in the morning about an approaching due date for a bill, to going off to bed setting your TV-STB to record a late-night football match in it’s programme guide, somewhere there is one or the other data center directly or indirectly affecting a considerable part of our daily lives.
1. Where do I keep it?
So, should you have your own data center or outsource it to a third party? If you already have your own servers but haven’t set up a full-fledged DC yet, what you might need is a co-location service. NetMagic, for instance, offers co-location services for it’s DCs. Do make sure that you are very clear on your requirements for space, power and bandwidth before you settle on any offering. There are also various OOB offerings from vendors such as Ctrl S, which can assist you in quickly getting up to speed with a fully-owned DC in your own premises in case you have none of the required systems currently set up. Organizations that need to meet certain regulatory/legal requirements as regards management of their business infrastructure might want to consider this.
If you intend to outsource, be sure to have no two opinions about your current and future requirements. Make sure that your provider has the technical capabilities and the experience to be able to scale (and also ensure that this is documented in the SLA). Data centers have specific `Tiers` to them, which denote their characteristics on a broad scale. The higher the tier of the DC, the better it is.
2. Why outsource?
If you have one, you might currently find no signs of trouble with your currently running data center. But as with any large system, there can be more than one ways of achieving the same result under identical conditions. It will be worth considering how much you can save on costs and time by optimising your existing data center systems. This also applies in case you have no existing data center and want to set up one from scratch. Vendors such as Gemini and LSI India offer solutions which are designed to reduce your TCO and ensure better performance and availability without making massive changes to your existing applications. It is not necessary that you need to make a lumpsum investment for outsourcing your DC’s operations. Different stages of the lifecycle can be outsourced. E. g. Mahindra Satyam offers services right from assessment during the consulting/planning stage to remote infrastructure management as a managed service when your data center is actually up and running. This might come in handy when you are short of in-house expertise to deal with a specific task. Be sure though not to end up with too many interfaces to your DC with several vendors.
3. How much?
You need not be neck deep in a swimming pool in order to feel how cold / hot the water is. Before visualising design alternatives for your data center, take a moment and realise which are the tasks most critical to the smooth functioning of your business. Draw fixed boundaries between tasks so that you can realise how inter-dependent they are and accordingly reach a decision on what should go unleashed and what you prefer to put a leash on so that it stays before your eyes. Let the chocolate bar be manufactured by you, you can always outsource the wrapper’s manufacturing by making sure it fits and preserves the chocolate bar to be fit for consumption (and attracts customers of course!).
4. What do I gain?
It needs no mentioning that having your own data center would give you visibility and total control for immediate action in your data center. You wouldn’t need to compromise on terms and conditions of the SLA. Provided you have the resources, you could use the best-in-class tools and expertise to build a DC that gives high RoI. You wouldn’t need to make management overly complex by outsourcing different tasks to different organizations.
On the other hand, outsourcing your DC would save you a lot of administrative work for mundane tasks. Think about round-the-clock manpower availability, think about regular hardware upgrades. Isn’t this easier said than done? It is not easy , especially in India to find expertise in the electrical / mechanical aspects of running a data center as compared to the hardware operations and application support talent available. These headaches go away when you outsource the corresponding tasks of your DC. If your DC is not a top priority for you, it might be receiving lower attention (and hence might be using sub-optimal processes, applications, etc.) compared to an outsourcing company whose main business itself is providing you a DC.
You have several alternatives to choose from. A purely in-house DC has it’s own merits and demerits as compared to a totally outsourced DC. You can also outsource only certain tasks. However, do keep in mind, that a glass half empty is also a glass half full. So be sure to evaluate the benefits of each and have them agreed upon. It is not easy to make frequent changes to your DC requirements in case you have an in-house DC and even if you go for an outsourced DC, your own systems which interact with the DC may not be agile enough to keep in sync with the changes fast enough to ensure continuous availability.