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When it comes to colocation, how do you stand out from the crowd?

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With the colocation space becoming ever more saturated, David Fiore, senior software product manager at Opengear, discusses how colo providers can differentiate themselves in an already crowded marketplace, and explores how to find a value-added model that works for you.

A recent study conducted by Grand View Research, Inc. finds that the size of the global data centre colocation market is expected to reach US$ 104.77 billion by 2027, expanding at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.9% over the period 2020-2027. 

Over the coming years, the success achieved by colocation service providers will be key to this ongoing growth. These providers are today increasingly looking to add value to their service offering to potential tenants, to differentiate themselves from their competitors and create an edge in this space. Delivering units and rack space at a competitive price will not be sufficient in itself. Providers will be looking to add new strings to their bow. 

One of the key enhancements they can deliver is their ability to efficiently monitor and manage the systems they are looking after on behalf of their tenants. In doing this, colocation providers will above all be looking for a single pane of control to enable them to remote access and provision, troubleshoot and re-configure. This can all be easily scaled over their customer – delivering even greater value.

Underneath this, they will need to be working with a fully functional network management capability. Providing customers with tools for out of band management (OOB), which allow them direct access into their network and to manage devices like switches, routers or firewall, without having to purchase and maintain the equipment will be a part of this.

Delivering an always-on independent management plane, OOB gives users reliable access to monitor and manage their IT infrastructure. That capability can be combined with NetOps automation tools which allow engineers to automate and orchestrate key functionality and maintain business continuity.

This approach is ideal for organisations renting space within a colocation facility. It also benefits facility providers who can use it to offer a remote hands service to their tenants, applying relevant access controls and permissions and then segmenting out capability to them from an out-of-band device.

Having the ability as an administrator to simply get onto a laptop and access the services that sit inside the colocation facility, without the need to do any complex networking, will also be a key benefit for colocation providers, and will help them deliver reassurance and value add for their tenants. Further opportunities will be opened up by the emerging capability to segment customer data and traffic and even permission levels across these tools. 

Yet, all this relies on having implemented a centralised and streamlined network monitoring and management infrastructure. Colocation service providers won’t want to have to bring up one portal to access their servers, one to manage their network equipment and yet another to access security authentication. They will want to have a single place where they can control all this functionality. 

Added to this, they are likely to want to be able to readily see all of their power or data consumption in a centrally accessible location rather than having to spend time and effort digging into processes in order to attain key metrics or understand key trends. All this benefits the service provider in making their operations more efficient and that by extension will bring complementary benefits to their tenants. Yet, all this capability will not necessarily be easy to achieve. 

Any provider will be faced with complex decisions about the solutions that they should buy. There are a diverse range of different networking products out there in the marketplace, each with their own consoles and configurations. When you pick a single provider there may be concessions to make in terms of areas which that provider does not cover, or where their solutions are more expensive than a best of breed solution elsewhere.

That’s a challenge for a colocation service provider. They will either have to pick a networking platform that doesn’t do everything and stick with it in the hope that it will do the majority of what they need, or they will have to use multiple platforms – something which comes with its own challenges in having multiple different management consoles and multiple different ways to facilitate changes. 

Scoping the benefits 

If the latter is the case, they will certainly benefit significantly from having an overarching solution that offers them the capability to manage all these networking devices from one single pane of control, which can link to networking devices and provide all the data they need in one place, rather than having multiple endpoints to go and get data and make changes.

They no longer have to remember, for example, where do I go to control my firewall, or where do I go to put updated policies into my intruder prevention system?

Delivering these kinds of capabilities will help colocation service providers stand out from the crowd but will also give a boost to the whole sector. 

Finding a way forward 

Today, as we have already seen, the colocation market is showing steady and robust growth. In some parts of the world larger providers are taking over and buying up smaller providers because they are confident they can build systems that allow them to deliver services across the board. In other regions, smaller colocation facilities have come to life to fill the void that the big ones don’t cover. Often these smaller players can offer greater granularity or flexibility than their larger peers, and are also better able to customise their offerings to fit the needs of tenants.

Both large and small service providers have the potential to flourish in the colocation market of the future. Yet, despite their many differences in approach, they do have one thing in common. Both will be reliant for their success on the quality of networking systems and solutions they are able to access and their ability to make use of a centralised management system to drive faster time to insight and operational efficiencies.

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