Grégory Steulet: Orientation and guidelines for IT professionals towards the best Data Center sol.

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Management Summary

Relevancy research

Over the past few decades, companies have been facing many changes in the way of doing business. One profound change is of course the reliance on Information Technologies. Today almost every company uses applications in order to store information, to interact with customers or suppliers or simply to be more efficient. The servers and storage systems supporting these applications are stored in Data Centers.

Due to capacity limits in an ever growing IT market, many companies are currently faced with having to make decisions about their Data Center requirements; the critical question being, would it be better to build or extend their own Data Center or to buy the service from an outside provider? This decision has to be taken in the context of a fast-changing industry. 

Exponential data growth is a reality for most Data Centers and server virtualization tends to be the default platform for the majority of Data Centers.

With colocation, hosting, and cloud computing, IT services have become increasingly commoditized. At the same time the economic impact of Data Center downtime will continue to grow at an unprecedented rate.

Finally in the current cost driven economy, IT infrastructure and operations professionals are faced with the increasing pressure to account for and reduce costs wherever possible. They have to provide more availability, more security and more services but with approximately the same budget.

Aim and methodology

Currently, dbi services is looking to expand its business and add in new services to its SLA (Service Level Agreements) by offering data hosting services. The aim of this research is to define the main criteria that will allow the orientation of IT Infrastructure and Operation professionals towards the best Data Center solution and therefore enabling dbi services to define the best hosting solution according to the market and internal needs.

The standard project approach methodology has been used for this document:

  1. Introduction
  2. Terminology, concepts and standards definition
  3. Current situation evaluation
  4. Evaluation of needs using a customer survey
  5. Evaluation of Existing or possible solutions
  6. Solution development
  7. Possible market evolution
  8. Conclusion, Recommendation/s

Conceptual framework

The working hypothesis behind this study is that a limited set of criteria allows the orientation of customers to a Data Center solution based on specific project needs. In this respect there is no good or bad solution in terms of Data Center solution choice, there are only solutions that best fit specific needs according to a limited set of criteria and according to an existing context.

The customer or project context takes account of the existing infrastructure, the level of knowledge of the technical teams involved in the project, the existing compliance policy or even country laws.

In relation to Customer or Project needs, the aim is to identify the specific needs to be addressed in order to achieve the desired project result. These needs are categorized based on specific criteria such as: Proximity, costs, flexibility, security, availability and network capacity.

Based on these criteria it is possible to evaluate each Data Center solution in order to match customer needs with the best Data Center solution.

Results

The working hypothesis that a Data Center solution can be chosen according to a limited set of criteria taking into consideration customer or project context and customer or project needs seems to be confirmed. Indeed, although the tool developed in this thesis is not able to take into consideration customer or project context, the high number of customers who answered that this tool provided either a solution “Very well” (34% of IT managers surveyed) or “Quite well” (50% of IT managers surveyed) fitting their needs tends to demonstrate that this working hypothesis is correct.

Even if the online tool (cf. http://yourhostingchoice.ch/index.php/data-center-choice) developed in the context of this thesis does not replace a personal analysis, the Data Center Decision Support application can contribute to the choice of the best Data Center solution. Although this tool has not been used in the strategic IT architecture choice of dbi services, the company made use of this work in order to orient its Data Center strategy. dbi services took the decision to collaborate with a Data Center colocation provider for its internal infrastructure.

Finally the results obtained through the Data Center survey not only provided a good global overview of customer experience regarding Data Center providers but also helped to understand customer needs, Data Center usage and market trends.

Conclusions

Depending on the industry, an organization that has its own Data Center can be seen as a key differentiator and therefore as a sustainable advantage over competitors. However building a Data Center is synonymous with significant capital expenditure. Currently it seems to make little or no sense from a strict economical point of view for a company to build its own Data Center.

In most cases outsourcing the entire Data Center or a specific service maybe a more cost effective option but carries some risks and somehow implies a loss of control over the infrastructure since it force the movement of critical data away from the organizational headquarters. Before going for a solution it is essential to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks as well as costs and risks of each solution.

From the Data Center provider point of view, it is clear that the Data Center industry is more than ever before a worldwide competition. Swiss Data Center companies have to compete against other Data Centers everywhere around the world. In order to be able to compete in such a highly competitive industry, an appropriate strategy has to be established and the main challenge will be to find USPs to be able to avoid focusing only on cost leadership.

Finally, even if using green technology and practices for a Data Center involves an increase in capital expenditure it will also drastically decrease operational expenditure. Within the scope that the five Swiss nuclear power plants will be totally decommissioned at the end of their service life in 2034 and due to the potential electricity price increase, it becomes urgent for Swiss Data Center to improve their infrastructure energy efficiency.

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