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The case for co-location in SA

Colocation (colo) facilities, where companies can rent space and power for servers and other computer hardware, are springing up in South Africa. Facilities like Teraco, Vantage, NTT and ADC have opened and expanded in recent years due to increasing demand from businesses suffering from persistent load shedding.

But what are the benefits?

The biggest draw of colo facilities worldwide is the specialized services they offer. These vendors have experienced facility managers with security, power and cooling skills—that few organizations will have in their own data centers. This division of labor reduces risk and solves many of the concerns organizations have about running their own data centers.

The second reason for Colo’s growth is connectivity. The better colo facilities have free peering points as well as private exchanges that serve as ramps to on-premises and hyperscale cloud providers. The prevalence of cheap, fast, and reliable connectivity in The data center is now making colocation an acceptable option.

In South Africa, of course, there is a third – and very important – reason: colo provides reliable power during power outages.

Businesses using the cloud also reap the same benefits, reducing operational risk and separating it from not having to rely on people to manage infrastructure. For example, VMware Cloud offers migration tools as an integral part of the solution.

And the pitfalls

Companies that use their own hardware in collaboration benefit from this reduced risk, flexible connectivity and reliability. But of course you pay for it. This means it’s not for everyone, but for those going the colo route the pricing is at least very predictable.

There are several examples in developed countries of unexpected overspending that is rampant after moving traditional IT operations-based infrastructure to the hyperscale cloud. This has led to a return to proprietary infrastructure or private clouds offered by on-premises cloud operators with predictable pricing models. But in South Africa we have the advantage of learning from such mistakes abroad.

Without going down the cost overrun route, we already know that the next step is to migrate to the cloud, using a combination of hyperscalers like AWS or Azure and private cloud solutions like VMware. And for those currently running their own data centers, a bootable colo solution. This means more predictable pricing, a cloud solution suited to each unique workload, as well as reduced risk and improved connectivity and reliability.

Find the right balance

The most important condition for the functionality of Colo and Cloud is of course fast, reliable and cheap internet – typically provided via fiber optic cable. Fiber has finally penetrated all South African metropolitan areas, making Colo and Cloud sustainable solutions. Realistically, most businesses will benefit from not just choosing between colo and cloud, but a combination of both — and using multiple cloud providers.

Unfortunately, overseas examples have made people quite skeptical about cloud hyperscalers. The web is littered with case studies of companies that couldn’t complete the migration to hyperscale cloud due to operational difficulties after migrating traditional workloads. Again, we learn from their mistakes: moving everything to a hyperscale cloud seems like a simple solution, but the reality is that not every cloud provider is right for every application.

Choosing a single platform to keep things simple can lead to performance or commercial issues. Using multiple vendors adds complexity to your final solution, but each set of workloads resides in an ideal place. Choosing the right environment for the right app is crucial. Because of this, this first step into a co-data center is easier to swallow than a full migration to the cloud and a great place to start, freeing up resources to plan for and execute more app migrations.

Security considerations should be all-encompassing with any type of hybrid or multi-cloud solution. The combination of colo and cloud in a well-connected data center should enable fast, secure and private extension between own hardware and private and public cloud.

There is no one solution for every company. Many companies have to be responsible for their own hardware for security and compliance reasons, making colo and cloud unviable for certain workloads. The key is to examine your organization’s workloads and find the ideal solution for each – be it colo, cloud, running your own data center, or a combination of all of the above at varying degrees.

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