Improving your business requires changing your business. When dealing with Migration, changes need to be researched per business case and methodically implemented. Stakeholders and leadership are always looking for opportunities rooted in IT and product improvements. Whether these improvements are driven by cost savings or the need for increased capacity, disaster recovery, proximity to customers, or IT/product agility, a diversified data center solution could provide the advantages you are looking for. Over half the market of Enterprise IT decision makers are in the same boat and are researching change that will include a hybrid IT solution by 2017.
To help outline the benefits you might achieve through migration, this article introduces:
- Four basic hosting options
- Hosting option characteristics
- Hosting option selection goals:
- Converting capital to operating expenses
- Offloading staff responsibilities
- Specific operational goals
Data Center Options
The market has responded to customer needs by providing several layers of data center options, offering increased offloading of facility and infrastructure management. Although individual providers have different mixes of features to offer and different ideas about what services to offer at each level, we can divide the space into four general categories.
Company-owned data centers run the gamut of sophistication from a gear closet to a stand-alone data center with dedicated facilities management. The defining attribute here is that the company owns, manages and supports the facility, infrastructure and daily operations of everything.
Colocation provides space, physical security, power, cooling, internet and telecommunications connections, and monitoring in multi-tenant data centers. Physical security is provided for the data center and the customer space which may be individual racks, mesh caged rows, enclosed suites, or pre-fabricated modules. Since managing the data center is their core business, colocation providers offer higher reliability through multiple power providers and advanced Internet configurations via separate building entry points. Other features include on-site generators, and reserve capacity for cooling and network bandwidth. The provider manages facility concerns terminating at the customer space and port. The customer owns, installs, configures, maintains, and supports all equipment inside their space. Some providers may offer technical support as a service to eliminate or reduce required company presence at the data center. Colocation centers can offer more economical space because they purchase power for equipment and cooling in bulk. Frequently, bulk purchasing provides cost reductions in Internet bandwidth and telecommunications services as well.
Managed hosting provides the same facilities management and benefits that colocation provides and assumes responsibility for the equipment as well. The concept of a dedicated customer space housing customer-owned equipment is replaced with dedicated customer equipment. Basic services include access to a variety of carriers, advanced Internet configuration, network design, hardware installation, configuration, maintenance, replacement, operating system administration and monitoring. Beyond the basics, providers offer an array of services including data storage and backup, security vulnerability scans, DDoS attack mitigation, intrusion detection, load balancing and firewalls, pre-packaged applications, technical support, advanced monitoring, premium bandwidth and service level guarantees. The customer retains root level control of the operating system and packaged applications, but the goal is to not need that level of control and, instead, to manage the applications through dedicated online tools.
Public/Private Cloud/Bare Metal
Modern cloud providers build upon managed hosting, offering cloud services in a public (multi-tenant) or private (isolated) environment. Advanced provider offerings may included isolated, dedicated bare metal servers for data security and advanced compliance adherence or high, steady capacity work loads. The public cloud now seems pretty familiar, offering self-service administration and automation on top of a virtualized environment. Most clouds will offer automatic horizontal and vertical scaling, scheduled scaling, and manual scaling to provide sufficient capacity for peak loads while eliminating charges for excess capacity during low peak intervals.
Cloud providers also offer a rich set of services from which architects can piece together their application stack. Each piece is typically a common architectural building block that has been productized into a service, allowing the customer to focus on business concerns instead of re-implementing undifferentiated building blocks. Common elements are various types of databases, data storage, load balancers, firewalls, workflows and front-ends.
Similar to managed hosting, providers will offer pre-packaged applications, security services, monitoring and data backup. Cloud providers will also offer an isolated version of their public cloud - private cloud - for sensitive data or to satisfy compliance concerns. Constant high capacity workloads, or some compute-intensive tasks, require the power of a dedicated physical server. Cloud providers may offer these "bare metal" servers with the same convenient billing structure as their other cloud offerings.
Two of the most basic considerations when choosing a new data center hosting option is what control you want to retain and what responsibilities you want to offload. If you have traditionally owned your facilities and equipment, you first have to wrap your head around the concept that ownership is not control, it merely enables control. If the hosting facility provides similar, or better, control over your assets than you have today, do you lose anything by relinquishing ownership? The same concept goes for facilities and equipment management, does it still make sense to devote staff and capital to these areas if the providers offerings meet or exceed your business needs and current solution? Offloading mundane operational duties allows your operational staff to focus on business specific tasks while decreasing capital expenditures and minimizing financial risks, on and off balance sheet liabilities.
Modern hosting options allow you to provide a graduated response to all of these questions. Let's define these areas generally and see what solutions each hosting option provides.
Facilities Management: Provides and manages physical space, physical security, power, cooling, telecommunications and Internet connectivity. Includes providing power and communication redundancy, backup power, customer level physical security and service level guarantees. Provide staff to monitor and remediate problems that arise.
Infrastructure Management: Provides equipment procurement, installation, configuration and network design. Also provides on-going equipment upgrades and replacements, monitoring, and issue remediation.
Operational Support: Provides operating system and application administration, monitoring and issue remediation.
Virtualization/Cloud: Provides a virtualized environment and the accounting and operational self-service and automation common in the modern cloud.
Compliance: Provides certification of standards compliance.
Security: Provides protection and monitoring against common network attacks: DDoS attack mitigation, intrusion detection and vulnerability scans.
Matrix of Responsibilities by Data Center Options
Moving left to right across the table, we see opportunities to reduce or eliminate capital expenditures and reduce associated liabilities and risks. Mixed areas indicate where the provider offers basic functionality that a customer may extend to suit their needs.
Reduction in Capital Expenditures
Mixed: Customer and Provider can share responsibilities in this area
Some fine-grained needs can influence or drive a hosting option choice. Some of the more prominent drivers are:
Frost and Sullivan identified that in 2011, IT departments based their cloud initiatives around avoiding new or non-capital expenses and ROI. By 2014 that motivation had shifted to business agility, faster time to market, and custom business support options. If your servers are in an on-premises or colocated facility, new business initiatives are tied to standing up new assets in your data center. Decoupling physical assets from business initiatives can dramatically reduce the time it takes to bring new offerings to market. Although most companies now have some form of virtualization, they rarely match the level of self-service and automation that a cloud provider can. Cloud providers have packaged their public cloud in a private offering: all the self-service and automation in a sufficiently isolated environment to suit internal IT needs. Whether public or internal IT product, a cloud exists to suit business agility needs.
Few businesses have implemented their ideal disaster recovery plan. Adding colocation or managed hosting to your hosting portfolio can provide site diversity while avoiding data center facility construction and management costs. Once you have sufficient site diversity, the focus turns to data preservation. Both colocation and managed hosting providers offer secure and reliable data backups to help simplify this effort. With a secure data backup plan in place, the focus now shifts to the recovery process. Whether your DR sites are all active (redundant), or you have an active-passive strategy, you need to provide for data consistency between sites. Managed hosting facilities can simplify this aspect as well, providing replication services, especially for their pre-packaged applications. If you are already in the cloud space, your provider should offer a wealth of replication services. The task becomes identifying a redundant site, deploying your applications, and establishing a suitable replication strategy.
Redundancy/Reliability/Availability - SLAs
Although many companies are proud of their on-premises data center accomplishments, few can match the redundancy and reliability of top-tier data centers. Look for multiple power, Internet and telecommunication providers and multiple building entry points, and capable support staff to remediate issues. Whether you are offloading facility management (colocation), facility and infrastructure management (managed hosting) or entering the cloud, you should be able to find a provider to meet the most demanding of SLAs.
New and evolving business concerns may take you into the realm of new compliance requirements. These certifications range from data center physical security to PCI DSS. Choosing a colocation, managed hosting, or cloud provider that already has these certifications can fast-track these business initiatives.
Having all externally hosted assets within one platform simplifies a Hybrid IT migration and future evolutions.
CenturyLink Cloud provides cloud product in both public and private settings. Our self-service portal, and API access to many underlying features, provide the foundation for the most demanding business agility needs.
CenturyLink Cloud also offers seamless portal integration of your Managed Hosting needs through the Bare Metal product, improving on basic managed hosting with hourly billing and API-based asset management.
CenturyLink Colocation services are available in over 70 data centers worldwide to satisfy your disaster recovery needs, as well as proximity to regional markets.
Stay tuned for future articles in this series on deciding what part of your Hybrid IT solution should be colocated, and what every buyer should know about colocation.