Bringing colocation closer to the edge: A guide to the new paradigm shift

John Hall is Managing Director of Proximity Data Centres which operates a rapidly growing trusted network of regional carrier-neutral edge data centres across the UK. These allow clients to locate their data in local markets, close to the data end user. John is responsible for leading customer engagement. He has more than two decades of experience managing sales, marketing and commercial functions in the data centre, IT outsourcing and telecoms industry. This includes as Customer Director for Global Markets at Cable & Wireless, where John gained international business experience, and as Group Sales & Marketing Director of a venture capital-funded hosting and IT outsourcing company. Here he was responsible for leading initial investment in the data centre market and early entry into the hybrid cloud sector.

Seamlessly reliable and responsive applications are now expected by consumers and businesses: from video conferencing and content streaming to gaming and software distribution. Furthermore, ultra-low latency in the sub 10ms range, and so well below the current 50 – 150ms of Content Delivery Networks, is seen as essential in delivering future 5G and IoT enabled technologies and applications: from driverless vehicles to remote surgery and automated factories.

Moving data processing, storage and networking resources closer to users and end devices is key to all of the above as it reduces network cost, congestion and latency. Ensuring low latency in the ‘last mile’ allows cloud providers, network operators and enterprise businesses to maintain the experience and loyalty of their existing customers while also unlocking new market opportunities.

Mobile operator Three UK, for example, recently completed a major investment in a network of regional UK data centres, bringing its network services closer to customers. They are not alone. Colocation data centre operators also need to achieve the optimum balance between meeting customer demands for low latency and reduced data transit/backhaul costs, while at the same time, ensuring secure, resilient and energy efficient data processing and storage environments.

The stakes are high. Cloud providers are looking to colocation providers to better serve users in local areas. Enterprise organisations are also recognising the competitive advantages of bringing essential data and storage closer to users. Many recognise colocation data centres in regional locations as being a more viable solution than building their own – to address specific latency issues in manufacturing or financial services, for example.

The missing link

Such requirements calls for fit-for-purpose edge critical infrastructure which is leading to the emergence of a new breed of edge colocation data centre. These are the missing links between centralised clouds and users, computers, machines and devices at the network edge. They are highly connected, including links to local internet exchanges and, crucially, located close to major UK conurbations to be within close proximity of highly populated areas. Effectively edge colocation facilities are the pillars which extend the cloud further, right down to the local level. By performing much of the data processing, control and management of local applications in edge colo data centres, latency can be greatly reduced and application responsiveness optimised.

However, in the rush to get closer still to their users and customers, it is important not to overlook a potential edge data centre’s overall credentials. Network latency and performance are obviously key, but so too are factors such as uptime service record, physical and cyber security, DR and business continuity contingencies. Carbon credentials and energy efficiency (PUE) are further considerations along with forwards power availability for keeping pace with future requirements.

There are also logistical issues to consider, not least installing new servers or moving existing ones from elsewhere. This will need to be done quickly and with minimal downtime and so will most likely require specialist support. Therefore, an operator that provides door-to-door migration services could be a major benefit as will having skilled engineers on-site for configuring and interconnecting complex edge cloud environments. And the ability to carry out pre-production testing in the data centre will be a bonus to ensure everything works prior to launching.

In the new edge computing paradigm colocation data centres must be repurposed to meet new demanding requirements for lower latency and greater agility. They must be able to rapidly provision and scale compute and storage resources exactly where they’re needed – but without risk of compromising IT security and resilience. With so much at stake, prospective users should look extra closely to ensure their chosen edge data centres can tick all the boxes.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? The Data Centre Congress, 4th March 2021 is a free virtual event exploring the world of data centres. Learn more here and book your free ticket: https://datacentrecongress.com/

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