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Colocation Data Centers: Does 'Local' Really Matter?

By: Ernest Sampera on July 31, 2014

According to a recent article from Datacenter Dynamics, rack units have almost doubled in size over the last ten years. What's more, this expansion shows no signs of slowing — like miniature skyscrapers, cabinets may soon reach data center ceilings. These expanding servers also push another trend: the colocation data center. Colo facilities offer all the amenities of 'home' but with 24/7 monitoring and oversight. Transitioning to colo, however, begs the question — how far is too far?

Reality Check

A few years ago, tech giant IBM announced plans to invest $1.2 billion into extending the global reach of SoftLayer. It had all the trappings of standard PR: Big dollar values, high-profile products, and no real commitments. As a result, many experts assumed this was all talk and no action — until Big Blue stepped up and said that in July 2014 a full-on SoftLayer data center will open in London. The facility will accommodate 1500 servers, everything from bare metal to virtual machines (VMs) storage and networking.

Some of IBM's reasons for a London data center are obvious: One-third of the world's largest companies call the UK's largest city home, while the small nation's climate makes it easier to keep servers cool. But there's another layer — servers closer to home somehow feel more secure and more accessible. For European companies, this security is critical in the wake of Snowden revelations, as is the ability to simply hop in a car, drive down the road and check on their servers. The intangible sense of comfort can't be ignored.

Creature Comforts

Good vibes alone, however, aren't enough to sell the idea of colocation data centers. Fortunately, going local also comes with several tangible benefits. First is the ability to swap out or upgrade hardware on a regular basis. If your data center is across the country or on another continent, it's prohibitively expensive to send out IT professionals, meaning upgrades and improvements happen at the last possible moment. Latency is also an issue, especially for companies moving large amounts of video or audio traffic. A few milliseconds on a text file or email may not seem like much but when thousands of users or employees all try to access the same content at the same time and experience 'lag', this becomes a real problem.

Does 'local' need to be a part of your colo discussion? If possible, yes. While networking and cloud technology make it possible to leverage servers across the state or across the globe, there are measurable benefits in data centers close to home.

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