Going global - how to choose the right data centre partner

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In the data centre world, we believe that build versus buy debate is finally over. Most companies now realise that while in house facilities might give them control over their infrastructure, building and maintaining a data centre is a prohibitively resource-intensive and requires extensive experience. Instead, outsourcing to a third party provides the best protection against increasing data centre complexity, cost and risk, and eliminates the need to worry about uptime.

But while one debate has subsided, another is now gripping the industry: how to most effectively scale operations. If outsourcing data centre capabilities is the norm, how do ambitious businesses choose the right provider to support them not just now - but as they grow. How can they best provide a seamless service, anywhere in the world?

Some experts believe that when it comes to data centre choice, coverage is everything. Global organisations choose providers that have a global footprint - purely because of geographical coverage. But for us it’s not that’s simple. Not all data centres are created equal - providers vary in many ways, from accreditations, space and power capacity, connectivity options and service levels, to location. It must never be assumed that because the provider is not a global organisation, it’s unable to provide a global service.

The alliance - introducing a new breed

In practice, this is rarely the case. The most successful alliances are made up of local providers who have the same core values - and self-regulate to ensure that all partners offer the same level of service and support. Consistency of service and local knowledge are not mutually exclusive - and alliances which go the extra mile to find partners with shared priorities are likely to deliver a better service across the world. As with any data centre deployment, organisations must also ask questions about flexibility and reliability in order to be assured they’ve found the right provider. 

The global data centre market remains highly fragmented. There are more than 1,200 companies providing services, but only three organisations have over $1bn revenue and only 19 have facilities across three continents or more. So it isn’t easy for organisations to find a truly global provider that can offer competitive pricing.

But there is another way. A new breed of players have entered the market, made up of an alliance of data centre firms, each leading the field in their region - and they allow customers to benefit from a global service with local expertise.

Local roots mean that alliance data centre providers know the on-the-ground business landscape enabling them to provide a highly tailored approach. They will also have strong existing relationships with a variety of local carriers and have developed deep ecosystems. It’s this knowledge that enables these providers to deliver a local service whilst still benefiting from a global network. Local offices also understand the local regulation, enabling a seamless approach to service delivery.

But how do organisations go about finding a successful alliance? Isn’t finding a network of partners even more labour intensive than seeking out one global provider?

Why going global doesn’t necessarily mean going big; a look at cost savings and beyond

A global provider does deliver some compelling benefits. Standardised service levels can guarantee performance, reliability and security levels across the world. However, there are several compelling reasons to consider the new breed of global alliance data centre providers instead.

The first is cost savings. A network or alliance can reduce cost aspects of many elements by negotiating with their suppliers to ensure they can get discounts. In country, local knowledge and established supplier relationships of the alliance data centres can achieve further cost benefits passing these on to customers.

Whilst the big global providers promote the simplicity of the homogenised global single contract or Managed Service Agreement (MSA), the reality is that it often gets complicated because of the sheer size of the organisation. A smaller alliance provider would simply talk directly to the local data centre provider and agree the contract locally. Another key benefit of customers working with alliance data centre organisations is the ability to speak directly to the people they need to deal with, in order to ensure queries and issues are resolved swiftly. Should a customer wish to implement something tactical e.g. deploy a cross connect over-night, often a large global organisation has processes and procedures that need to be followed, which may take a number of days to actually come to fruition. However, with local providers, customers speak to someone who is on the ground at their data centre, and this vastly speeds up the efficiency of the processing.

Alliance providers will go the extra mile to ensure customers use the most effective routes, often producing fibre maps, which don’t provide revenue, but demonstrate deeper knowledge. A global provider may have a challenge from a resource perspective to do something similar because they simply don’t have the time or solution people to do it. They may provide a list of carriers in the facility, but as standard they are unlikely to apply the depth of local knowledge such as the fibre maps and diagrams of how to connect it all together - using the best routes from one place to another can be a real competitive advantage. 

So, for organisations that need global coverage, the answer may not be in a large multinational provider. This new breed of alliance providers can help to combine global coverage capabilities with local expertise, delivering cost savings, efficiencies and a more bespoke and effective service.

Perhaps most importantly, strong alliances such as the ST Telemedia Global Alliance are beneficial to the industry as a whole - as they can raise professional standards all over the world, facilitate knowledge sharing for the benefit of alliance members (and beyond) and become the global voice for best practice in an increasingly complex market. For example, VIRTUS is able to offer local expertise and all the benefits discussed in this article in China, India and Singapore from a portfolio of over 250MW across 50 data centres.

Darren Watkins, managing director for VIRTUS Data Centres
Image Credit: Welcomia / Shutterstock