What Is Colocation Data Center?

A colocation (colo) is a data center facility in which a business can rent space for servers and other computing hardware. There are 2 basic types: Wholesale – where a tenant leases a fully built data center space; Retail – where space is leased in smaller increments within a data center.   The colo provider supplies the building, cooling, power, bandwidth, and physical security while the customer provides servers and storage.

Colocation data centers typically are certified by or follow the Uptime Institute’s data center tiring levels:

  • Tier 1 & 2: have a single path for power and cooling and few redundant and backup components. It has an expected uptime of 99.7%
  • Tier 3: has multiple paths for power and cooling and systems in place to update and maintain it without taking it offline. It has an expected uptime of 99.98
  • Tier 4: is built to be completely fault tolerant and has redundancy for every component. It has an expected uptime of 99.99

Is a Colocation Data Center right for my Organization?

In today’s modern hybrid compute infrastructure approach there are several reasons an organization would add a colocation data center to its compute assets. One main driver is the capital expenditures (CAPEX) associated with building, maintaining, and updating a large computing facility. Additionally, it can provide a vehicle for high density and hyperconverged computing that a preexisting data center may not be able to handle the power and cooling requirements for. Historically, and still today colos are ideal for disaster recovery of tier 1 applications, the cloud being used for tier 2 business continuity.

What should I consider in choosing my Colocation Data Center?

  • Flexibility – power and space are important if you are using a colo for growth. New power/cooling hungry equipment demand higher capacity and on-demand availability.   As you grow certain workloads demand adjacency for latency requirements and accessibility to nearby floor space is critical.
  • Serviceability – for internal and vendor support. Distance can translate into increased travel costs when equipment needs to be touched manually.
  • Term agreements – colo customers can find themselves locked into long-term contracts, which may prevent them from re-negotiating rates when prices fall.
  • Transparency – working with a colo provider that provides transparency and some degree of remote self-monitoring and management. It is important for an organization to closely examine their colo’s service level agreements (SLAs) so as not to be surprised by hidden charges.
  • User Experience – assuming you are using your colo for your more critical applications, network bandwidth and redundancy of core services are important to consider in their SLAs (refer to Tier classifications)

Is Data Center as a Service (DSaaS) the same as a colocation data center?

This depends on your point of view, or specific need. However, the simple answer is yes. A colocation data center should provide an “as a Service” experience for your organization. While your organization may have a need for more specific manual controls down to the cabinet and device level, a colo should provide a similar experience to a cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) experience. Many progressive colocation providers are offering user-based services and portals that allow for on-demand services and granular insight to infrastructure performance.

Do colocation tenants need DCIM?

A mature organization with an existing DCIM solution should be able to point their monitoring services to their colocation, remote, and Edge sites for a comprehensive view and management across their entire compute infrastructure. An organization building out a colocation only strategy may want to incorporate a DCIM solution to gain better granular visibility of the infrastructure being managed by their provider, and to monitor SLA performance.

Progressive Colocation providers are offering DCIM services to their tenants with a variety of insight, reporting, and local management capabilities.