Posted by Matt Edgley on 14-Dec-2016 14:14:21

Should you care about other tenants in your colocation data centre?


Looking for somewhere to put your IT infrastructure in 2017? It’s pretty much a given that you’ll end up considering multi-tenant environments, whether in the form of third-party colocation facilities or public cloud services like AWS. For all but the biggest and most demanding firms, it’s fair to say the sun is gradually setting on the age of the in-house data centre buildout.

(Recommended reading: The service provider's guide to choosing a data centre)

That said, there are still concerns attached to the prospect of sharing a third-party environment with multiple other tenants, and a lot of conflicting opinions over whether it represents a risk or not. Here are some of our thoughts on the issue.

Security and competition concerns in a multi-tenant data centre

So why should you care about other tenants in your data centre? One reason that comes up a lot is security. Many cloud users in particular worry – quite understandably – that shared infrastructure lends itself to the possibility of one tenant getting access to another’s data, whether in error or as part of a targeted attack.

Is there any truth to this? Well, perhaps. Other commentators have written at length about the possible risks attached to multi-tenant clouds (as in this ZDNet article from way back in 2010), mostly with the consensus that it comes down to the robustness of the architecture and the strength of the access controls applied by the service provider.

In a colocation facility, meanwhile, it’s more a question of physical security, and whether the right layers of physical security are present to mitigate multi-tenant risks. As such, many providers offer dedicated caged areas to customers that want to keep their racks out of reach of other users, and even of on-site engineers and other data centre staff.

For some firms, another reason to care about other tenants in a data centre is competition. As with any supplier relationship at any time in history, they may fear conflicts of interest – the possibility of their provider working with their biggest competitor, for example, and delivering different levels of service due to bias and financial reward.

Ecosystem benefits of a multi-tenant data centre

That said, this argument isn’t all that compelling in the digital world, because the tech industry is fundamentally built on ecosystems. Consider the combination of browser, operating system and device you’re using to read this blog, for example. Or consider the software, hardware and infrastructure that delivered it to you in the first place.

From our own experience, proximity – in the form of a shared third-party environment – can play a big part in getting these ecosystems off the ground and helping them to flourish. Our Manchester colocation facility is home to a range of ISPs and IT service providers, and a lot of them have started to work together since moving in – taking advantage of the one another’s assets and skillsets, and creating a snowball effect in terms of increased network availability, increased capacity, and lower costs.

For this reason, there’s a clear case for choosing a data centre based on who you’ll be sharing it with – it could be a great way of taking advantage of an ecosystem that’ll drive your own business forwards in the future.

Choose the right colocation facility for your B2B tech company by following the pointers set out in our free whitepaper: The service provider’s guide to choosing a data centre.

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Topics: colocation, data centre