Weighing the Pros and Cons of Data Center Growth Options

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By: Esther Shein|

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Organizations find themselves pondering data center growth when they expand their operations or perform equipment refreshes. Among the options vying for their attention: finding a partner for colocation, retrofitting an existing data center or building a modular facility.

This growth is still on their radar, as Gartner projected spending on systems will reach $75 billion this year — a 3-percent increase from 2015.

The Changing Face of Data Centers

At the same time, the firm believes the data center market will undergo dramatic change by the end of 2016, prompted by four disruptive factors: competition, dominance by large cloud providers, economic warfare and nationalism. In the next three to four years, elements of all four will drive opportunities and risks in the data center market, according to Gartner.

Data center growth will peak at 8.6 million in 2017 and then begin to slowly decline, IDC predicts, although total data center space will continue to increase as mega-data centers replace smaller ones.

Factors to Consider for Data Center Growth

When evaluating which approach is right, it’s important to consider obvious factors like security and budget, and in the case of continuing to host their own data center, whether they have enough skilled personnel in-house.

Ongoing management of a data center can be expensive, but it allows the organization to maintain control over the facility and operations, industry observers say. Additionally, organizations that opt to continue running their own data centers can use data center infrastructure management (DCIM) tools, which help IT monitor, measure and control energy consumption. DCIM is now required in all federal data centers, which have received a mandate to achieve higher levels of efficiency by 2018, as reported by Data Center Knowledge.

To Build or Collocate?

Building a new facility to handle data center growth is a costly proposition and can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months to construct. Companies need to factor in price per square foot, cooling and security costs. Estimates can run anywhere from $4,046 to $6,100 per month, according to Ongoing Operations, not including ongoing maintenance, staffing or the cost to install fiber on-site.

Finding a service provider for collocation can be beneficial, particularly for companies that must adhere to corporate governance or regulatory compliance. Collocation is also frequently considered for backup and disaster recovery purposes, as well as for companies focused on deploying the next-generation data center.

The benefits of outsourcing to a managed services provider are that hardware refreshes typically happen sooner than in an internal business; there’s guaranteed uptime and workload demands can be met in real time. The downside is having to deal with vendor management.

Modular and energy-efficient data centers are other options. As the name suggests, the first benefit of modular is portability. A modular data center is made of prefabricated components that can be quickly built wherever a company needs one. It comes with all the necessary components: network connections, server racks, storage, power and monitoring. The negative is that standard configurations typically don’t meet demand for high-performance computing, which has significant power and cooling requirements.

Of course, energy efficiency is important, and cloud computing has helped reduce energy consumption in data centers — a trend that is expected to continue as more organizations use public clouds.

As enterprises weigh their options, the key is to make sure there is a clear understanding of which approach will help them remain flexible and agile, and enable them to transform and grow.

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About The Author

Esther Shein

Freelance Writer

Esther Shein is a freelance writer and editor specializing in technology, business and education. Her work has appeared in several online and print publications, including Inc., Computerworld, NetworkComputing, InformationWeek, BYTE, CIO, CMO.com and The Boston Globe. She has written thought leadership whitepapers, customer case studies and marketing materials in addition to news and feature articles. Prior to going freelance she was the editor-in-chief of Datamation, an online enterprise technology magazine. She was also a senior writer at eWeek (formerly PC Week) and worked at The Associated Press.

Articles by Esther Shein
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