There are several reasons why a company may outgrow even the largest colocated environment. Most importantly, internet companies need to ensure availability – systems must be available 24 hours a day, and even a brief service outage can be disastrous. The customer must be protected against SPOF (“Single Point Of Failure”, or “all the eggs in one basket”) situations. While each discrete data center may incorporate redundant backup systems, each data center is also vulnerable to availability threats, no matter how large or well-designed the facility is. Potential threats to data centers include political issues, competition, financial matters such as taxation and government incentives, availability of sufficient raw resources such as electrical power and network capacity – and of course, “acts of god” such as broken fiber-optic cables, extended power outages or employee misconduct.
Redundancy & Fail-Over Capacity
At this point, the business must scale in such a way as to provide redundancy and fail-over capacity in order to maximize availability. Redundancy allows the enterprise to continue operations even if a major disaster occurs in one of it’s data centers by “failing over”; redirecting traffic from a failed facility to an operational one. An additional benefit of a global internet presence is the ability to provide localized services – for example to provide Google’s search engine service in China. Technologies such as anycast routing ensure the fastest possible service for users, wherever they are located.
Each Data Center has it’s own Unique Requirements
Organizations who require this level of infrastructure include Google, Amazon, Microsoft or IBM. The enterprise often must research, design, construct and maintain it’s own data centers from scratch. Each data center has it’s own unique requirements – a “peering hotel” requires a highly accessible location within a major city, whereas a “server farm” used for a company’s internal operations may be located in urban areas. In this highly competitive industry, success is a matter of locating a suitable site (defunct factories and warehouses can be attractive options), ensuring sufficient power, bandwidth and human resources will remain available at a reasonable cost, and negotiating with local vendors and government agencies to foster the best possible business environment.
Nuts & Bolts Construction of Data Centers
In the current market, brisk trade occurs in “second-hand” data center properties. Specialized internet companies, in co-operation with property management and investment firms often handle the nuts-and-bolts construction of data centers which are then sold to larger, more established organizations. Or, a failing internet company sells it’s assets when it goes out of business. In these cases, the critical metric for investors is revenue/costs per square foot. The average Canadian data center resells for between $1,500,000 and $100,000,000 depending on the facility and it’s associated resources; revenues of $20 to $200 per square foot can be expected.
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