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Volta Data Centres Blog

Death of the Comms Room?

Posted by Matthew Dent on 02-Jun-2014 11:30:00

volta_imageMatthew Dent, CEO of Volta Data Centres, examines what today's digital revolution means for the once-humble ‘comms room’?

Today’s businesses are quickly having to adapt to a world that’s always ‘on’ - constantly collecting, analysing and outputting enormous amounts of information on a real-time basis.  As a result, every connected business is considering how to better handle its IT infrastructure and data storage needs for today as well as tomorrow.   But what do each of these processes mean for the once-humble ‘comms room’ whose job it is to back up all this technology and ensure information really is seamlessly accessible on a constant basis?

Firms can either store data on-premise in their comms room, outsource to a data centre / collocation facility, or a combination of both.  It all depends on the business model of the firm, the ambition of anticipated growth and the scale of required data handling.  Whatever the site, firms are seeking resilient, reliable and flexible infrastructure. 

Essential infrastructure

When businesses weigh up the options for comms rooms versus outsourced data centre they tend to focus on a number of requirements ranging from internal resource and expertise, to cost management, resilience of power and connectivity and also location.  Each firm will put different store on their storage and management needs, but broadly speaking they all outline the following requirements:

1)   Diverse connectivity 

In order to access global markets, firms are looking for diverse carrier feeds, providing both domestic and international links, to ensure fast and effective connections.  Connecting these feeds into in-house facilities can be a challenge, whereas, by nature, data centres have multiple carriers with diverse links already in place.

Businesses also need to be able to cross-connect within a data centre, enabling them to join up to a ecosystem including the carriers who link this ecosystem to the rest of the world - also clients of the same data centre. This allows for the potential of greatly expanding a company’s global footprint with not only increased local connections but also greater global connectivity for the business, without enormous overheads. 
2)   Flexibility & Scalability


Businesses need to ensure that their current comms room can handle today’s data requirements as well as having the space and facilities to handle future expansion both in terms of rack space, power, cooling and internal and external connectivity.
Scaling up at the right pace can be a gamble.  Empty facilities waiting to be filled cost money.  Overfilled spaces run the risk of being adversely impacted by operating in sub-optimum conditions.

3)   Resilient power

A huge amount of power and cooling are necessary to handle this generation of IT systems and the costs to deliver a resilient infrastructure can be prohibitive.  Access to a resilient and diverse power supply is critical to minimise any potential downtime.  By design, data centres inherently offer an uninterruptable power supply.  To give a sense of what this means, our Tier III, central London facility in Great Sutton Street offers diverse 33kV power supply of 9.6MW from not one, but two independent substations of the national grid. A large proportion of London would have to suffer an outage before we would need to invoke our back-up generators.
4)   Technology & Expertise


The in-house technology, including power and cooling, required to provide 24 x 7 physical infrastructure management and support can represent a considerable cost, not to mention the costs associated with on-going human expertise and resources.
Firms running their own comms rooms must be confident that their technicians are well informed about the latest changes in data centre technologies, which are becoming increasingly efficient and are quickly deployed in a purpose built hosting environment.
5)    Security & Location
The security of a data centre remains paramount and needs to stay second to none. We have seen a lot of interest from firms attracted by our procedures and protocols, as well as the choice of connectivity and resilient power.

Location can also be a factor when companies would like to feel more in control when accessing their systems.  Whilst Smart Hands technical support service should be a prerequisite of every modern data centre, there are times when engineers prefer to be able to get quick access in person.  Data centres located in proximity to your offices could be a potential attribute.

Time will tell

As firms are considering their data management, storage, handling and potentially cloud strategies, they are considering how to support and serve the growth at the right pace and in a way which will immunise them against having to over-invest in order to stay on top of technological developments.  Whether this is a full cloud or in-housed approach, or perhaps a hybrid approach with data centre support, 2014 will be filled with debate about how today’s firms will need to innovate and adopt technology, including their approach to data management.

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