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Volta Data Centres Blog

London Calling - by Phil Alsop, Editor, DCS Europe Published

Posted by Volta Newsroom on 09-May-2017 10:00:00

London Calling.jpg"Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."

Dr Johnson

 

Dr Johnson was writing in a different time and of a different age – but it’s fair to say that in the 230 or so years since his death, the importance of London, already significant in the 18th century, has grown to the extent that it is now one of the world’s major cities. Having been born and bred on the outskirts of the great metropolis, and having moved away from the capital city almost 20 years ago, I like to think that I have a balanced view of the whole London/South East-centric debate that dominates much of the UK’s political and business landscape. (And, just for the record, in moving away from London, I wasn’t demonstrating my tiredness of life, rather moving to what I saw as a better location for family life!).

For those of us living outside the capital city, there are times when it does seem that all of the Government’s and business world’s focus is on developing yet more infrastructure to serve the interests of a relative few at the expense of the rest of the country. Similarly, when there are initiatives to help the regions, it’s not always immediately obvious that these have been either well thought out or well implemented – HS2 being a prime example.

However, as the digital, global age develops, whatever one’s perspective, there’s no doubting that London is one of a handful of the world’s megacities that will only continue to grow in importance. The financial industry might dominate, and continue to do so, whatever the fall-out from Brexit, but there’s a very strong media industry that continues to develop in the capital, as well as a growing community of digital businesses, alongside significant numbers of companies from the so-called traditional industry sectors.

I don’t think this blog needs to promote the benefits of London to business – but it is worth pointing out that, as more and more businesses are based in London, and developments such as 5G, IoT, AI become mainstream, the fast and reliable movement of data is only going to become more and more important. And for any business where latency does matter, data centre location could prove critical.

Indeed, for any business, wherever it is based, data centre location is a topic that needs to be treated with respect. An onsite data centre sounds like the perfect solution, but as discussed in my previous blog, chances are that most organisations don’t really have the necessary expertise, or money, to build, operate and maintain their own data centre facility. So, using a third party, or colo, data centre facility, has to make sense.

And there happens to be such a facility just down the road from your business, so what better location to choose? Nice and easy to visit to install your IT infrastructure, to go and visit it for upgrades and maintenance work, to go and talk to the folks that run it…

And if things like latency, cross-connects, connectivity options and the like are of no major consideration, then chances are that a local colo facility will suffice. Other than the remotest of locations, I suspect that most businesses are no more than, say 50 miles away from their nearest colo facility.

However, the convenience of local data centre access has to be weighed up against the benefits of choosing a data centre facility that offers the optimum environment for the IT that may be critically important to your business. Depending on the industry sector in which you operate, there may be a major advantage in using a colo that has created a community for that industry – so data centre traffic is extremely local and fast. And then there’s the number of connectivity options to consider. The best-provisioned colo facilities offer hundreds of links – less well-connected facilities only a handful.

And, of course, we must return to latency. If you run a business in the centre of London, or another major city (whether in one of the fast-developing new industry sectors or a more traditional one) then the idea of using a colo facility situated somewhere less than central, might just cause you some problems with data feeds and speeds.

Edge computing is an emerging trend that is serving to focus attention on the need to ensure that data is located as close to the user as possible – to maximise the speed of delivery and, hence, consumption. If one accepts the edge computing premise when it comes to moving centrally held data to a more local location, then it must also be true that holding data remotely that needs to be accessed centrally, makes no sense either. So, using a colo facility that is somewhat removed from your business when you have a local but central option, is bordering on madness.

Globalisation is a rather more mature trend than edge computing, and, whether we like it or not, it does mean that international business centres, otherwise known as megacities, are becoming increasingly important. While a London location is not essential to business success(!), there has to be a reason why so many international businesses choose to have major offices in our capital city, and why so many UK start-ups are basing themselves in London. And the focus on developing the communications links between the world’s megacities to provide ever faster and ever large bandwidth means that the disjoint between the connected and ‘not-so-connected’ is only going to increase.

In summary, choosing the right colo in terms of data centre location is a complex business – and I haven’t even had time to talk about the physical location in terms of its security (are remote locations more or less vulnerable than city centre ones?), ease of access in terms of travel links, or the threats from the natural world (data centres in Iceland, a volcanic hotspot?!). I’ll return to data centre risk assessment at a later date. But, for now, I hope that this blog has provided some food for thought when it comes to choosing the right colo and the right data centre location, and I’ll leave you with some more words from the good doctor:

“Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.”

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