The Outsourcing Continuum, Part III – Co-location Managed

This category of outsourcing adds “ping, power, & pipe” services to the in-house managed model. The service provider offers colocation by providing space, power and a link to the Internet for their customers’ servers. They do not perform maintenance or troubleshooting. The only provide a rack to house the servers and a repetitive test to make sure the servers are running. The customer will be notified if the server fails. Known as a “ping-power-pipe” arrangement, “ping” means sending a packet to the server to see if it responds, “power” is electricity, and “pipe” is the line to the Internet.

In this model, you own the equipment but the physical environment it sits in is owned and operated by the service provider. You don’t have staff of hardware engineers and you don’t have a computer room to manage or pay for. The advantage is you will be more likely to have a robust physical facility with multiple sources of communication and power. That will help ensure that your systems are available in the event of a disaster. The downside is that you won’t have quick, physical access to the machines.

You’re also paying for the physical plant so it will be more costly that having the machines on-site. However the odds are you won’t have the same level of physical security and reliability on-site so you have to weigh that risk against the cost of a better environment. You’ll still have the cost of owning and maintaining the equipment. You’ll also have to pay, as in the in-house model, for expertise to manage your systems.

What You Should Get

With co-location server you get the security of having your servers sitting in a hardened data center in the event of a disaster. In this model you are paying for several items:

  • A place to put your equipment (rack space);

  • Connectivity from your office to the data center;

  • Connectivity from the data center to the Internet; and

  • Reliable power and communications infrastructure.

Each of these items has numerous options that you’ll have to sort through to get the appropriate configuration.

RacksRack space is measured in 1.75 in high Rack Units (RU or U). The height of your equipment determines the amount of rack space you’ll need. A typical rack will hold 40U, so if you have 6 servers each 2U high, then you’ll probably need at least a third of a rack.

Connectivity – Connectivity to your network and to the Internet is what’s needed to make sure that you can communicate with your servers. These connections will come in a variety of bandwidths ranging from the equivalent of DSL speeds up to the highest speeds available. You will have to decide what amount of data you are going to move between your office and the servers to determine how much bandwidth you need to pay for. If you have heavy traffic to a server based application then you’ll want to have more data bandwidth available on that side of the equation. The same is true of the Internet connection: if you have a lot of data coming in from the Internet (such as an ecommerce application), then you’ll want more bandwidth to accommodate that.

If you’re just doing normal office Internet surfing you’ll probably need less Internet bandwidth. You should purchase the amount of bandwidth that you use on an average basis. There will be a surcharge for using more than that, but that can be mitigated by making sure that the surcharge is based on a 95% measurement of sustained usage. If you push a lot of data to your servers occasionally, that won’t cost anything extra.

Power – The power in the data center should be backed up by an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to ensure that in the event of a power outage, the equipment will continue to run long enough to enable a clean shutdown. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure that the data center has a generator available to provide power in the event of an extended power outage.

You should also check on the fuel resupply contract that the data center operator has for their generator(s). You’ll want a fuel resupply contract that ensures the generator will continue to operate over several days just in case the “ice storm of the century” takes out the power lines.

Communications – Communications between your office and the data center are crucial to a successful outsourcing project. You will want to make sure that the data center has multiple carriers supplying communications. The data center should have very large bandwidth data lines coming in from those carriers, again to make sure that you don’t have a bottleneck communicating with your servers.