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Top 10 datacentre stories of 2015

Computer Weekly's top 10 datacentre stories and trend pieces of 2015

Much of the 2015 datacentre news agenda was shaped by the push in enterprises to downsize their facilities, and – in many cases - move more of their IT infrastructure to the cloud.

This trend prompted a flurry of merger and acquisition deals in the colocation space, as providers pursued organic growth strategies to keep up with the demand from enterprises wanting to outsource more of their IT.

Companies such as Netflix – who successfully moved all their IT infrastructure off-premise and into the cloud – also made headlines, while garnering the attention of enterprise sceptics who shied away from attempting a similar move themselves.

So too did those that decided to go against the grain and build private datacentres, prompting industry watchers to query why – in the cloud era – anyone would want to embark on such an expensive and labour-intensive endeavour.

Elsewhere, the environmental impact of cloud saw the activities of the datacentre community come under further scrutiny this year, while the fallout from the Safe Harbour judgement has already prompted declarations of new builds popping up in the UK during 2016.

Here, we delve a little deeper into some of the major stories and trends that emerged in the datacentre sector in 2015.

1.Equinix kicks off colocation sector consolidation with TelecityGroup buyout

A bidding war of sorts broke out during the first half of the year for colocation provider, TelecityGroup, with rival operators Interxion and Equinix both offering to buy the firm in May 2015.

Equinix won out, with its £2.35bn offer, but completion of the deal was held up by the European Commission who ordered both firms to sell off some of their datacentres on anti-trust grounds.

Despite this, news of the Equinix deal seemingly kicked off a flurry of merger and acquisition activity in the datacentre sector, with Digital Realty notably agreeing to buy systems supplier Telx in July 2015.

CenturyLink also confirmed in November that it was considering selling off some of its datacentre assets, explaining that the level of investment required to grow its colocation business was more than it was prepared to stump up.

Rounding out the year in December, Virtus Data Centres confirmed its purchase of Infinity SDC’s Slough facility, as it sought to flesh out its portfolio of sites in close proximity to the M25.

2. Netflix closes down its final datacentre

Online streaming service Netflix has been name-checked for years by Amazon Web Services (AWS) as an example of a high-profile customer intent on going all-in on the cloud.

The move will mean Netflix spends less on procuring and maintaining physical, on-premise hardware – leaving it free to invest more in growing the amount of original content it produces.

Furthermore, with the company regularly having to respond to peaks in demand for certain television shows and films, having access to a public cloud resource should make it easier to scale its operations accordingly.

The year marked the end of that seven-year project, as Netflix confirmed the retirement of its final datacentre as all of its IT infrastructure now runs in the AWS public cloud.

3. Solihull Council builds datacentre

While Netflix (and many others) talked about shutting down or downsizing datacentres this year, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council decided to go against the grain and announce plans to build a brand new 390 metre squared facility as a replacement for one its existing sites.  

The initiative caught the attention of a number of public sector industry watchers, who queried why the council was opting to build a new facility when it could save money by moving all of its operations to the cloud instead.

The council disputed this claim in a statement to Computer Weekly at the time, explaining that it had explored the option moving its operations to the cloud, but the cost of building its own datacentre would work out better value for money for it in the long-run.

4. London-based council IT chiefs float Supercloud idea

Sticking with the local authority theme, Camden CIO John Jackson and Newham and Havering ICT director Geoff Connell outlined their vision to create a London-wide “Supercloud” to deliver commonly used applications to the capital’s 33 local councils.

The concept was hailed as a way for local councils to avoid investing in datacentre capacity by encouraging them to re-use and share the surplus capacity they have using the LondonPSN.

The idea was welcomed by TechMarketView analyst, Michael Larner, who said it could pave the way for the development of a government-as-a-platform (GaaP) initiative at local authority level.

5. Cabinet Office takes steps to speed up cross-government datacentre consolidation

The Cabinet Office announced details of a seven-year joint venture agreement with Ark Data Centres in March 2015, as part of a wider push to wind down the use of private datacentres in Whitehall.

The partnership – operating under the name of Crown Hosting Data Centres - will allow government departments to host servers and systems in a central location that cannot – for whatever reason – move to the cloud.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said the move was designed to simplify the data hosting arrangements in place across government, and ensure each department is paying a fair price for the service they receive.

 6. The abolition of Safe Harbour

The European Court of Justice’s (ECJ) decision to rule the Safe Harbour data-sharing agreement between US and Europe invalid sent the US tech giants scrambling in October 2015 for an alternative way to process the data of European citizens and users.

For some – including AWS and Microsoft – that meant setting out plans to build their first datacentres in the UK, while those that had already built facilities on this side of the pond years ago boasted about how their earlier investments were now paying off.

At the moment, plans are afoot to create a new mechanism for transferring data overseas, with the Article 29 Working Party giving the US and European authorities until 31 January 2016 to come up with a solution.

Even so, it is fair to assume the fallout from Safe Harbour will continue for a long time to come and last long into the New Year.

7. Global insurance group suffers datacentre theft

A keen talking point in the datacentre industry during 2015 revolved around its preoccupation with physical security, with some arguing the sector should be concerning itself more with protecting the facilities they operate from cyber threats instead.

That discussion proved something of a moot point in September when insurance firm RSA Group confirmed the theft of a storage device from one of its datacentres, containing information belonging to a “small number” of Lloyds Bank customers.

While the company was quick to point out that, at the time, much of the data was already in the public domain, the news is sure to have sharpened the minds of datacentre operators about how to prevent a similar fate befalling them.

8. Datacentre community comes under renewed pressure from environmentalists

The Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) metric is often used by datacentre operators to talk up the energy efficiency of their facilities, but concerns have been raised of late that some might be manipulating the calculations to make their sites seem better performing than they really are.

For this reason, this year has seen the likes of Romonet and Emerson call on datacentre operators to disclose additional details about the resources their sites consume so that a more accurate picture of the environmental impact they have can be painted.

The Green Grid spoke out on this issue at the DataCenterDynamics Converged event in November, urging operators to consider the impact their activities have on the communities their datacentres are sited near to.

9. Etsy offers how-to guide for enterprise DevOps enthusiasts

DevOps has been a key talking point at many IT conferences in 2015, with vendors urging enterprises to adopt a more agile approach to software development in order to stay ahead of their competition.

In among the chatter, the debate about whether or not DevOps is possible (or even advisable) for enterprises with a large on-premise footprint to attempt raged on, but online marketplace Etsy’s experiences suggest it is.

The firm embarked on a DevOps push five years ago, with the software development strategy allowing it to rollout code updates every 20 minutes with minimal disruption for its users.

Etsy has managed to achieve this despite its operations being underpinned by an on-premise datacentre, which has come as a surprise to some that consider cloud and DevOps to be intrinsically linked.

10. Savvy colocation users prompt industry shake-up

Another trend that has dominated datacentre discussions in 2015 is the growing savviness of colocation customers, with operators regularly remarking on the impact this is having on their buying habits.

An oft-quoted example of this is the growth in colocation facilities outside of the major cities, as users have come to realise they do not necessarily need to house their IT in central locations to achieve their desired levels of latency.

There have also been anecdotal reports about users becoming more upwardly mobile when it comes to ditching providers who fail to deliver the required level of service.

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