By Roger Keenan, Managing Director, City Lifeline

After a long period of uncertain market conditions, the world economy is finally on a stable upward trend. The world is starting on a period of sustainable growth and the data centre industry needs to be part of it. Lead-times are shortening: colocation, communications and cloud projects in data centres which were on hold are becoming live again. In the UK, over 370,000 new businesses have been set up this year alone.

Over the last thirty years, economic activity has moved from being paper based to embrace the digital age. This has involved most organisations buying their own computer and communications equipment and installing it on their own premises. Sometimes, that was an in-house data centre, sometimes a communications room and sometimes a server cupboard under the stairs with a 13 amp socket and a fan. Currently, the major trend is for those functions to move from in-house operations to external data centres, where the relevant functions can be colocated with a wide choice of carrier installations alongside similar organisations who want to interchange data.

In some places, such as central London, space is at such a premium and its cost so high, that the decision to move functions such as general office computing to an external data centre pays for itself very quickly just in releasing high-cost floor space. If the facility is reasonably local, the transmission delays over fibre optic cables are insignificant and users will not realise their equipment is remotely collocated.

Sometimes, the best way forward for an organisation is to contract out the entire computing and communications infrastructure to a managed services provider, rather than collocating their critical operations remotely in a data centre. Such full operational moves have grown in popularity, although there is likely to be resistance from the in-house IT staff displaced by them. Nor does this remove the deep-seated and lingering concerns about data security in the cloud, which will probably be with us forever.

It is likely the hybrid cloud will be more common, with less security critical functions (although security is always important, some aspects of an organisation’s activities are more security critical than others) operating remotely in private clouds in data centres and exceptionally critical functions being retained in-house. A hybrid cloud, with a trusted private cloud partner in a colocation centre, offers an excellent balance between cost reduction, space release, growth potential and the emotional needs of the in-house IT staff who fear being displaced by cloud solutions.

Voice telephony is a requirement of every organisation. Voice has traditionally been handled by a switchboard on the organisation’s premises, connecting back to an exchange on copper wires. As that disappears, it is replaced by hosted voice systems connected on fibre optics back to specialist voice platforms colocated with a wide range of carriers in high connectivity data centres.
In every one of these cases, the driving force is the availability of high quality, reliable, trustworthy data centre capacity, located where it is required. As the world economy consolidates its early growth and stabilises into a steady upward trend, the demand for data centre capacity and colocation opportunities will increase. The data centre industry must support growth and be prepared to invest and expand in well located, high quality facilities to ensure the economic recovery takes place smoothly, effectively and sustainably.