Data centre space race blurs business outlook

Research reveals the issues facing customers as they review their data centre requirements and a data centre provider argues that power demands are clouding the real issue in the data centre: space.

Andy Ruhan, the chief executive of service provider Sentrum, discusses the company's research findings and customers' issues with space constraints.

In order to get a closer look at the mysterious happenings in the data centre industry, three years ago, vendor independent Sentrum initiated a research programme to identify and track developing data centre trends and to monitor the attitudes associated with them within large UK organisations. Interestingly, The UK didn't realise that it was about to enter one of the most far-reaching economic downturns in recent memory.

In 2008, the biggest change noted in the research was the rise in the number of businesses outsourcing data centre space for the first time. Second was that a considerable proportion of those not outsourcing data centre space requirements cited that they had plans to do so in the future (35%). In hindsight, the decision to outsource at that time was a wise one, yet today that trend is continuing and the indications are that they will continue across the data centre industry in the medium term.

Recently we have all seen turbulent times, and it was none too surprising, given the business challenges of the past year, that most respondents (71%) questioned in 2010 – and faced with outgrowing their data centre needs in the near term - said that they are looking for a better deal.

Interestingly, 78% of the senior IT managers and executive officers questioned whether their current data centre facilities would meet their needs during the next five years, which shows that the industry is still subject to a lot of changes. Thirty-eight percent expected moves, to bigger data centres, to happen sometime in the next three years and all still expected to be faced with constrained or even frozen IT budgets.

It would certainly be unfair of me to question any company that was looking at the bottom line when making its next data centre decision, because it's very important to the bsiness overall, but there is a very real business danger worth highlighting here for businesses that are only thinking about the potential financial savings. The risk is that these savings are achieved at the cost of lost technical expertise.

IT managers and business leaders are right to put data centre space at the top of their business considerations right now.

Andy Ruhan, chief executive, Sentrum,

I'm very concerned that the research showed that only 21% of respondents said their decision to switch providers would be based on securing greater expertise and improved guidance. This is a worrying admission from the market, but it also shows how easy it could be for data centre users to miss out on the additional business value that an experienced data centre operator brings to the table. These insights include potential power savings and how to introduce positive changes that can improve operational efficiencies.

More data centre space or power?
When Sentrum asked about wider industry developments over the past five years, 81% of respondents from large companies cited that they had expanded or moved their data centre they needed more space and/or power.

Whilst 33% said they moved due to requirements for both power and space, 20% moved specifically for more space and 28% moved based on power requirements alone. When we tracked the responses of those who currently do not outsource any data centre space, 13% have plans to do so in the future and it seems that the issues of capacity (cited by 43%) and better energy efficiency (mentioned by 40%) are the primary business drivers behind this happening.

IT managers and business leaders are right to put data centre space at the top of their business considerations right now. The issue of available high-end technical space is something that could limit business agility and growth in the near future yet the majority -- 60% of IT managers and 71% of CIOs and director-level IT professionals – considered power to be the priority over space (cited by just 38%) when choosing to expand or move to new data centre facilities.

Last year, Sentrum research reported that sound advice wasn't always forthcoming from industry consultants that advise on data centre specifications. However, more alarming was that the advice offered was often inaccurate. The latest research seems to suggest that the industry continues to fail to communicate effectively with customers, and this just isn't good enough.

Expertise and consultancy given by data centre operators must be improved. For example, 90% of the IT professionals surveyed last year commented that it was difficult to determine the energy efficiencies between different providers, which are often a crucial consideration when reviewing data centre operators or managed facilities. A year on and it is still appearing high on business agendas.

As the outsourcing of quality data centre space continues to be a defining trend in the data centre industry, my hope is that over-specification and then under-utilisation will start to fall from the current levels when nearly a quarter of UK businesses said that they were being effected here.

Andy Ruhan is the chief executive of Sentrum a vendor-independent UK service provider and a contributor to

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