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Reducing Data Gravity in a Cloud-Centric IT Environment

By: Blair Felter on May 8, 2017

 Scaling Your Way in and out of the Cloud

There’s even less reason to build or buy a data center than there was just a few short years ago. Now, even long-term leases are often unnecessary. It’s not news that tech progress moves quickly. So, if a company’s processes and data are constantly growing and their user bases are dispersing, the obvious question becomes:  why buy, build or lease a data center when you need only pay for what you use?

The larger a data set becomes, the more difficult it is to move. This is the principle behind the term “data gravity”. The problem of data gravity is central to addressing the questions that come from build vs. buy discussions. These questions involve connectivity, interconnection, efficiency, location, cost, access and the network effect. Innovation and the rise of cloud computing is driving demand for colocation services. Data gravity is one of the contributing factors, because colocation services make it easier to move your data or your entire cloud presence from one provider or set of providers to more affordable, more efficient or maybe just better connected cloud service providers.

Your Way to Cost Efficiency

Using a colocation service is often a better investment, because private or corporate data centers are real estate. No organization wants to own a building full of obsolete technology and systems when its useful life has come to an end. Data processing equipment and storage infrastructure depreciate in real financial terms, because their ability to perform mission critical functions deteriorates over time. Why not put budget to work facilitating current hardware solutions that run up-to-date software and applications? The beautiful part is that a company experiences far fewer requirements for updating their infrastructure, and there’s no need to acquire or develop yet another set of redundancies to protect it. Peak efficiency and utility for data center hardware is a fleeting thing. Why invest in that when colocation providers with purpose-built cloud connected facilities can take the risk, make the investments and implement solutions in the rapidly-changing cloud-driven IT era?

Enter the Colo

The rise of colocation, interconnection and connectivity discussions that often fuel “build versus buy” data center questions can be tied to the emergence of the public cloud. Managing network environments has taken on a new level of self-service for customers and created an expectation of constant access and evolution. Enterprise IT teams can make provisions within minutes through the click of a mouse or by making a simple API call. The self-service paradigm has become increasingly important, as companies invest more and more in hybrid strategies. Companies need the flexibility to host some applications locally, spin them up in the cloud for certain periods, then pull them back down (or, “repatriate” them) when necessary or cost-effective.

Colocation services provide the flexibility customers need to pay only for the cloud services necessary at any given time, like the two weeks around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, for example. In addition, colocation precludes the need for customers to provision cloud services at the absolute maximum level during a year-long contract period. Colocation allows cloud customers “burstable” services and offers the ability to use and pay for the broad facility of cloud services only when the customer’s business demands it.

In an age where user expectations are paramount, colocation enables enterprises to respond accordingly. Is brokering enterprise-level data connections a core business element for most cloud customers? Likely not. Colocation providers, on the other hand, do it all day. So, when it comes to brokering data connections, it’s very likely that a provider can outfit your company with the ecosystem, efficiency and ease of use necessary to make the most out of your time and resources. Data gravity will determine the cost and time required to move data and processes from one cloud provider to another, but it is greatly reduced by the utility and features available from a colocation service.

So, How Does Colocation Fit In?

Colocation is perfectly positioned to help customers implement cloud and hybrid initiatives. Connected to all the clouds, “colo” customers can go out to a national carrier or use direct connects. Like a brokerage point, colocation services can provide the benefits of scale and flexibility, particularly when customers are looking to make a change in their cloud service providers. A strong colocation service can connect customers to any public cloud that enterprises need to access (SalesForce, Zenefits, Oracle, SAP, ADP, Google Cloud, MS Azure, AWS, etc.). Instead of building connections directly to their myriad cloud providers, companies can go through a colocation provider and build out their IT landscape smartly through a centralized hub, or epicenter, to the computing edge. One major advantage to the hub model of colocation is leverage with their cloud vendors. Another is the ease of moving “heavy” data from one cloud provider to another.

Data gravity has become a consideration because cloud vendors are incentivized to attract customers and keep them. They are less keen on providing easy transfer of your cloud-based data and processes to one of their competitors. Like a department store that has studied the myriad ways to make it difficult to get out of the store and find the exit, cloud vendors have every reason to keep existing customers in their cloud. Colocation, on the other hand, can go beyond simple space and power to facilitate that easy exit when a change in cloud or content vendors is necessary. So, when your company’s contract with any big cloud provider comes up, and it’s suggested that you might switch to a competitor, their sales rep might say, “Do you know how much time and money it will cost you to switch over to another vendor?” Colocation service customers can say, brightly, “Yeah, it’s pretty much a turn-key operation since we got a colo.”

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