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T-Systems embarks on enterprise-focused cloud push with colocation provider Virtus

IT services arm of Deutsche Telekom shares five-year plan to close private datacentre in Feltham, after signing colocation deal with Virtus Data Centres

T-Systems is embarking on a five-year wind down of its ageing datacentre facility in Feltham, after agreeing to run its private and public cloud operations from a colocation site in Hayes, Middlesex.

The company has signed a colocation deal with Virtus Data Centres, as it moves to address the data residency concerns of UK CIOs, as the uncertainty surrounding the successor to the Safe Harbour US data-transfer agreement continues to persist.

Speaking to Computer Weekly, Mark Turner, vice-president of IT delivery at T-Systems, said the move is partly driven by growing enterprise demand for SAP’s relational database management system Hana, hosted in the UK.

As the IT services arm of Deutsche Telekom, Turner said the company has traditionally met European demand for the service by hosting it inside its “super datacentres” in Germany, but users increasingly want access to IT services hosted a little closer to home.

However, despite having room enough in its Feltham facility, the company decided to go down the colocation route, citing the old-age and tired condition of the aforementioned site.

“If we stayed there, you’re talking a £20m refurbishment to get it up to date,” said Turner. “We’re also using blades for everything and highly dense storage, which means you can now get a huge amount of datacentre in a much smaller space,” he said.

“If you go to Virtus or to our Equinix site, we’ll have a rack full of blade technology, hosting 500 to1000 virtual machines, but we do around 25% of that in Feltham because you cannot get the level of power needed because it was never designed for that.

“In five years’ time, we want to be shutting that centre down, because–  if we’re going to build a strategic cloud stack in the UK – do you really want to put it in an old server room?” he added

The company’s private cloud stack, which Turner describes as the firm’s “raison d'etre”, will be deployed at the Virtus site first, followed by the roll-out of its public cloud infrastructure late 2016 or early 2017.

Winning cloud users

As reported by Computer Weekly in March 2016, T-Systems has been making a concerted effort to win over enterprise public cloud users with its Open Telekom Cloud, which it claims is 15% cheaper to use than competing infrastructure-as-a-service offerings from Amazon Web Services (AWS).

“We don’t meet many people who want to be 100% private cloud any more, and we’re yet to meet anyone willing to go 100% public. There are lots of clients who have things that are not going to move to the cloud soon,” said Turner.

“That’s what is really driving our growth, as we’re meeting client after client who is hearing the advice that they need to go to the public, but they’re not sure which bits really fit.

“They also have data residency and security concerns, as well as compliance issues, so this datacentre is seen as a key enabler for us to help solve those problems.”

Easy move for customers

While the company makes preparations to close its Feltham site by 2020, Turner is keen to stress there will be no big or forced migration for customers.

“Most of the customers in there will either come to the end of their contract, and we’ll be talking to them about a new offering, or are already on a cloud platform inside that centre, which means it will be very easy to move them from one service to the other,” he said.

In a statement to Computer Weekly, Peter Miles, client director at Virtus Data Centres, said its Hayes site - dubbed London 2 - will ensure T-Systems is well positioned to respond to the hybrid cloud and UK-centric data residency needs of its clients.

"The efficiencies of London2 coupled with Virtus’ highly flexible contracting terms will enable T-Systems to scale both cost effectively and very quickly, thus supporting their huge growth plans," said Miles.

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