Magazine Button
Competing with cloud operators and remaining relevant

Competing with cloud operators and remaining relevant

CloudData CentresFacilities & ServersFeaturesOperations & SystemsStorageThought LeadershipTop Stories

“The Information Technology industry hasn’t always had a great reputation when it comes to sustainability, however, things are much better these days and the industry has stepped up to play its part in protecting this fragile planet,” said Andrew Brinded, SVP EMEA Sales, Nutanix. “But with cloud computing, the opportunity is there to take chunks out of the tech-related carbon footprint.”

Brinded says we can see many ways in which cloud is not just becoming the default deployment model for convenience, agility, value and scalability, but also the go-to model for the environment.

“It’s certainly the case that data centres account for at least 1-2% of global energy consumption and the forecasts suggest that this will multiply in the near future to perhaps 8% by 2030 and 14% by 2040,” Brinded continued. “That sort of growth would see IT surpassing even aviation (in the post-pandemic future when travel returns), one of the current bogeymen of energy consumption.

“That’s because cloud really fulfils a lot of the thinking about responsible ways to live and work. Cloud platforms are infinitely shareable, elastic and fit for repurposing.”

Brinded says that a cloud service provider plays host to the masses.

“Cloud data centres aren’t just scaled-up versions of traditional data centres,” he said. “They benefit from the latest approaches to HVAC (say ‘aitch-vac’), the facilities management techies’ term for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. HVAC was a bit of a dirty secret for data centres because for decades, it could be as expensive to cool data centres as it was to serve up Mips. And with a hyperscaler data centre, you’re highly likely to reap the benefits of being close to new energy sources too.

“These enormous facilities tend to be different in another way. The hyperscalers have the vast budgets to purchase the best equipment and modern servers and other hardware tend to be like refrigerators at home. That is, the more often you replace them, the smaller the relative power envelope they need. Stripped of unnecessary bells and whistles such as video chips, they are also far skinnier and purpose-focused than generic servers. The Open Compute Project, a collaborative project to reimagine hardware design, suggests that 3.75 corporate data centre servers could be replaced by just one server at a hyperscaler facility.”

Brinded makes a point of saying that just as cloud takes away a lot of the complexities and inefficiencies of data centre management, it can also obviate a lot of the heavy lifting that it takes to move towards becoming a net-zero business.

“Increasingly, ‘smart’ data centres will lead to savings of over a billion metric tons of CO2 emissions over the next four years, IDC said. When the numbers are so large and the stakes are so high, CIOs and other executives will do well to take notice.”

Noel O’Grady, Director, Ireland, Sungard Availability Services, commented: “Cloud computing continues to catalyse change in the data centre market and has become the competitive benchmark that data centre leaders must now meet. While both storage options can provide secure locations that offer fast access to company data at competitive prices, data centre leaders are trying to find ways to add additional value to their customers.

“This competition has caused a restructure of how data centres are presented to the market, with a focus less on the physicality of the data centre itself and more on the interconnectivity that they can provide by working within partner ecosystems. One of the competing factors of data centres is that they solve performance and integration challenges by connecting partners, clients and suppliers directly with low latency. Data centre leaders can integrate hybrid IT infrastructures with cloud-based applications and storage solutions. This provides a direct on-ramp connection to other providers to complete the circle, integrating a vast range of digital services to interact in real time. On-ramp allows businesses to securely scale into the cloud, while also providing colo/infrastructure services that can be a steppingstone to public cloud. Data centre providers can also offer direct access to major Internet exchange points, reducing performance issues felt by many businesses – something the cloud only goes some way to solving.

“Data centre providers also have the opportunity to add further services to their bundles in order to make them more attractive to prospective purchasers. On the network side, they can offer security services beyond the Internet and on the storage side, they can offer more consumption-styled services like Storage-as-a-Service (SaaS), creating a halfway house between colo and cloud. Data centre providers also have the upper hand in terms of cost; being able to offer a controlled and set cost for businesses, making it easier to budget and allocate spend to IT infrastructure.”

Matt Edgley, Director – Teledata, also commented: “Rather than competing, data centres have had to adapt in order to work together with cloud providers. It’s all about partnership.

“10 years ago, the big question was – cloud or colo? The two were competing against each other. But as times have moved on, this idea of cloud vs. colo is often completely unsuitable. Some workloads are best suited to a colo environment and some are best in a cloud/elastic environment. It’s about that hybrid approach and consulting with clients to provide the best ongoing solutions to their ever-changing business needs.

“So, the choice for the customer has moved on. Transformation is an ongoing process and what you need today isn’t necessarily what you will need in the future. Buyers are looking at data centres that can offer them agnostic hybrid options, which may involve a combination of services including physical hosting such as colocation, on-site IaaS and access to the big boys such as AWS, Azure and Google.

“Customers don’t want to be locked in and they need to see that choice as being available – if not for now, then for what may happen in the future. So, data centres that are able to offer that flexibility actually benefit from their end-users’ adoption of cloud and other technologies.

“Then there’s private cloud. Where do private cloud providers, or businesses that have the resource to build their own private cloud infrastructure, host their physical equipment? It has to live somewhere, as do all types of cloud solutions – so while the number of end-users coming to data centres for hosting may have reduced, the number of cloud hosting companies that need to take that space to provide the cloud services to the end-users has increased, so we are seeing a change in customer profiles.

“This again, is where being agnostic and neutral is key for a data centre. As much as partnerships with colocation resellers in the early 2000s was important for data centres – a market which has now almost disappeared – these days, partnerships with CSPs and MSPs are even more important. In a trust-based supply chain where service impacts are high, cloud hosting firms and data centres need to work together now more than ever.

“If there are data centre leaders out there that truly believe they are competing head-to-head with cloud operators, and that really don’t see the adoption of cloud services as a real opportunity; and these same leaders are setting up their business model and value proposition to cloud-compete rather than cloud-enable, then these same operators will be losing significant ground as data centres evolve with the wants and needs of their market.”

Spencer Lamb, VP, Kao Data, commented: “For today’s businesses, cloud computing offers a number of benefits and has, in many respects, become a fundamental necessity. However, in the worlds of High Performance Computing (HPC) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), the hyperscale cloud no longer competes with colocation. One, in fact, complements the other.

“In recent years, HPC has become cloud native, but the intricacies of parallel processing and other forms of intensive computational analysis means such processing has to be undertaken locally. This often requires specialised data centre expertise and a facility which has been designed to support industrial-scale computing. However, it’s important to note that the data coming into this process will be collected via the cloud and the findings, thereafter, will be dispersed back via the cloud – creating what is essentially hybrid HPC.

“One might even consider that colocation data centres working within HPC and AI are becoming the facilitators between data gathering, processing and dispersal. Yet some datasets, especially those generated via specialised use cases such as within FinTech and healthcare, must always be located safely in a secure, on-premises or colocation facility. Here, examples might include NHS patient data, security sensitive information and large-scale data libraries such as those used in genomics or bioinformatics. For financial services organisations, the speed of processing quantitative data is also paramount, so data becomes time-sensitive, which is another deterrent for hosting applications in the cloud.

“For users requiring access to such data, accessibility is crucial and at Kao Data we have specifically partnered with Megaport to help fluid transit between cloud and colocation environments. Our position as the closest hyperscale on-ramp to Cambridge enables businesses such as AI startups, pharmaceutical and life science organisations located in London or the UK Innovation Corridor, to gain the best of both worlds.

“Of course, for enterprise organisations, cloud virtualisation offers several benefits including large economies of scale and the ability to host numerous IT workloads efficiently. Yet cloud data centres still require access to land, low latency connectivity and resilient, renewable power. Hence the trend of hyperscale providers contracting multiple technology suites, or entire buildings with colocation operators.

“To further support the cloud community, Kao Data has created a dedicated ‘Built-to-suit’ service, providing operators with access to a planning-approved campus on which to build bespoke and sustainable data centres. Such services remove many of the construction and financial pain points, offering cloud service providers the ability to quickly build new availability zones and meet growing end-user demands.

“As I say, it’s important to highlight that cloud and colocation are no longer competing, especially where hybrid cloud native HPC is concerned. Together, they form part of a global digital ecosystem where one will undoubtedly continue to require the other.”

Click below to share this article

Browse our latest issue

Intelligent Data Centres

View Magazine Archive