According to research by power management specialist Eaton, future-proofing data centre infrastructure is one of the key areas where IT professionals feel that they lack confidence. Out of a survey of over 300 respondents, just 37% said their facilities’ infrastructure was “strong and future-proof”, and just 30% said the same of their resilience and disaster recovery measures.
This shows how recent and rapidly advancing trends like cloud and virtualisation have put pressure on data centres to keep up with the rest of the industry. Or, as the report puts it: “Business demands on IT are ramping up, and in a majority of organisations this is increasing the pressure on the systems infrastructure, and in turn the underlying facilities.”
For business owners and service providers looking to outsource their infrastructure, this means choosing a data centre partner who is ahead of the curve - and future-proofing should certainly play a big part in your selection process. Whilst your requirements today are important, you should also take into account how your business will grow in the future, and choose a partner who can meet them.
Here are three questions to ask your data centre provider about the level of future-proofing in their facility.
1. What is the capacity of the data centre?
As your business grows in size and complexity, so will your demand for capacity, power and cooling. You’ll want to ask your provider whether they have ability to accommodate this growth.
Capacity in terms of rack space is simple enough, but power is a particular concern for many colocation customers today. According to the Eaton research, more than one in three (34%) IT professionals experience significant challenges in getting the right amount of power to their data centre infrastructure – making it a bigger problem than controlling their carbon footprint (cited by 32%) and managing the cost of power (26%).
It doesn’t help that the average data centre’s power consumption per rack has increased in recent years. As we described in our recent blog Data centre cooling and downtime risks: Your questions answered, a rack that would have required 2 kW half a decade ago is now drawing double that, reaching double figures in some cases. In turn, more power means more heat – so you need to ensure your data centre’s cooling provisions will continue to meet your needs as you grow.
2. Does the facility follow design best practices?
The way a data centre is designed and maintained will give you a good indication as to whether it’ll be able to meet your needs in the future. It also tells you whether your provider is managing the data centre in a smart and efficient way – which, in turn, will impact the service you receive.
As an example, consider the relationship between power and cooling we touched upon above, where a change to your power requirements will also mean a change to your cooling requirements. Some providers will have huge amounts of power available, but without the cooling systems and methodologies in place to deal with the extra heat load in the data centre – which somewhat undermines the benefits of that capacity.
Along the same lines, it’s now more important than ever to ensure that your provider implements hot and cold aisle containment correctly, with blanking plates to prevent the mixing of warm and cool air and sensors in place to monitor temperatures around the facility.
3. Are other hosting options like cloud available?
Any business owner knows how rapidly things can change. It’s likely that in the future, your IT strategy will change and evolve – which is why working with a data centre provider that can offer you a wide range of services, such as cloud hosting as well as colocation, is beneficial even if you don't use them all from day one.
You may, for example, initially buy a quarter or half-rack, but your requirements could change few months down the line when you launch a new product or service, or win a new customer with high requirements for flexibility and scalability. In this instance, having the ability to expand or move some of your workloads into the cloud without the overhead of sourcing a new provider will be invaluable.
Choosing a new data centre provider is no easy feat, and future-proofing is just one factor among many you should look for. We’ve written a guide to help you choose the best one for your business.