The growth in colocation providers has grown exponentially over the past 10 years, making it challenging to research and select a reputable colocation partner. In part one of a two-part series, Site Selection Group will discuss how to vet a potential colocation partner. Reputable colocation providers build, manage and support enterprise class data centers with accompanying IT infrastructure that most corporations cannot realistically deliver in-house. 

But vetting potential colocation partners—whether the need is for powered shell,wholesale colocation, a series of racks in a caged environment, data hosting or other mission critical operations means scrutinizing the essential details of every facet of the colocation operator. While the overall economics and projected savings in manpower and maintenance are key benefits, do not enter into a colocation relationship based solely on cost.

Tenants should consider the following things when vetting a potential colocation partner:

Choose a colocation partner for scalability and flexibility
The data center colocation provider’s ability to offer scalability across all sectors of its operations cannot be overemphasized. Business growth is an ongoing process that forces IT executives to project future demands with new technologies (such as cloud computing) into its network planning. 

From a data center user’s standpoint, a scalability checklist should include the developer’s ability to increase power density, expand or reduce square footage, and add more services. 

Some enterprise class colocation operators are better than others in meeting these demands. “Tenants tend to be solely focused on the upfront cost of the contract without taking a longer view,” explains Michael Rareshide, Executive Vice President of Site Selection Group, who negotiates mission critical and colocation projects for data center users. “In some cases, a slightly more expensive operator may be better equipped to adapt to a tenant’s growth over the life of the contract and ultimately becomes a significantly better solution,” he said. “You want to select a data center partner that will support you, not just a landlord housing equipment.”

Consider power density when selecting a colocation partner
As equipment densities escalate, the tenant’s IT department should expect that future deployments in the data center will reach 20, 30 or more kilowatts per rack. Certain colo providers are better equipped than others for available power and distribution, along with the enhanced cooling needs. Be sure the facility's available power will serve your future IT capacity, and examine the continuity of its power supply. Some questions to ask:

  • What is the maximum density (kilowatts per rack) available in the data center?
  • Describe the redundant infrastructure in place and what best practices are being used.
  • What cooling is in place now and in the future to meet increased power requirements?
  • Which utility substation or substations provide the power to the facility and what additional capacity do they have?
  • At what percent of current raised-floor occupancy will the operator commit to and what is the ease of bringing in additional power?
  • How quickly can the operator scale and implement new IT growth initiatives?

Examine the colocation partner’s ability to expand or reduce square footage
Enterprise data center operators need to plan colocation solutions with the customer to ensure that sufficient space is allocated for extra racks, rows or dense infrastructure systems. Some colocation providers may only offer new space necessitating non-contiguous cages or the movement of all existing equipment from one area of the facility to another. Some questions to ask:

  • Does the existing facility provide a large enough raised-floor environment to meet the tenant’s growth along with the other clients they expect to house?
  • How will the operator accommodate the expected growth?
  • How do you prevent the customer from being landlocked in the data center?
  • If the client does not need as much space in the future, how does the operator address that scenario?

Take into account value-added colocation services
Colocation providers often feature value-added services and technical expertise. The partnership between operator and colocation client should extend here.  Some questions to to ask:

  • Does the operator provide (and at what cost) a “remote hands” service, which provides professionals to assist in any on-site need such as a re-boot or monitoring?
  • What kind of data center infrastructure monitoring (DCIM) does the operator use to measure the overall performance and to advise on how to better implement and run IT equipment?
  • What other services can be provided to ensure that the client’s network is closely monitored by on-site experienced professionals around the clock who are available to the client?

As colocation customers prepare to sign long-term agreements, an operator’s capabilities to deliver a robust facility with flexible custom-designed colocation solutions can provide the customer peace of mind that its future planning is being addressed.

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