By Alan Stewart-Brown, VP EMEA, Opengear
According to a recent research study, published by Facts & Factors, the global data centre colocation market was estimated at US$ 39 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach US$ 60 billion by 2026. The market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of around 10% from 2020 to 2027.
It is a positive picture but, in the years to come, the success of colocation service providers will be key to this ongoing growth. Today, we are seeing these providers increasingly looking to differentiate themselves from the competition by finding new ways to add value to their service offering to potential tenants. Delivering competitively-priced units and rack space is no longer sufficient. Providers will be looking to add other feathers to their cap.
One of the main ways in which they can distinguish themselves is through their ability to monitor and manage the systems they look after for their tenants more efficiently and effectively. 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.
Underneath this, they will need to work with a fully functional network management capability. A potentially key part of this will be providing customers with tools for out-of-band management (OOB), which give them direct access into their network and the ability to manage devices like switches, routers or firewalls, without needing to purchase and maintain the equipment.
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, in turn allowing engineers to automate and orchestrate key functionality and maintain business continuity. This way of operating is ideal for organisations renting space within a colocation facility. It also benefits the facility providers themselves who can utilise it to offer a ‘remote hands’ service to tenants, applying relevant access controls and permissions and then segmenting out capability to them from an out-of-band device.
Just being able, as an administrator, to get on to a laptop and access the services that sit inside the colocation facility, without needing to do complex networking, will also be a key benefit for colocation providers, and will help them provide reassurance for tenants. Further opportunities will be laid open by the emerging capability to segment customer traffic, data and permission levels across these tools.
Yet, it is worth remembering that all this depends 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 manage all this capability.
At the same time, they may well want to be able to readily see all of their power or data consumption in a centrally-accessible location rather than spending time and effort digging into processes to understand key trends or to attain key metrics. All this benefits the service provider in making their operations more efficient and that by extension will bring complementary benefits to tenants. Yet, all this capability will not necessarily be easy to achieve.
Any provider will be faced with complex decisions about the solutions they should buy. There are a diverse range of different networking products available today, each with their own configurations. When you pick a single provider there may be concessions to make in terms of areas 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 most of what they require or, alternatively, they will have to use multiple platforms: something which brings its own challenges, not least in terms of having multiple different management consoles and multiple different ways to facilitate changes.
If the latter is the case, they will benefit significantly from having an overarching solution that offers the capability to manage all these networking devices from a single pane of control, and 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 instance, where do I go to control my firewall, or to put updated policies into my intruder prevention system? Delivering these kinds of capabilities will assist colocation service providers in their bid to stand out from the crowd but will also benefit the whole sector.
Looking to the future
Today, the colocation market is demonstrating 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.
Both large and small service providers have the potential to survive in the colocation market of the future. Yet, both will nevertheless be reliant on the quality of networking systems and solutions they can access and their ability to make use of a centralised management system to drive operational efficiencies; faster time to insight and competitive edge.