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Lex Coors, chief data centre technology and engineering officer at Interxion, highlights some key considerations when it comes to building a colocation data centre.

Digital transformation continues to be top of mind for organisations across all industries seeking to become more competitive. In fact, it’s predicted that worldwide spending will reach nearly $2 trillion in 2022, as organisations continue to pursue digital transformation strategies.

As transformation spend increases, enterprises today need flexibility, strong connectivity and direct cloud access to increase business agility and enable new business models. For colocation providers, this means they need to think strategically when it comes to expansions and new builds, to make sure they can meet the demands of enterprises’ evolving needs. 

Meeting customer demand

One of the biggest clichés when it comes to building projects – whether in restaurants, residencies or other constructions – is “If you build it, they will come.” Unfortunately for those who live by this mantra, it’s been proven wrong time and time again. 

Just because a management property decides to build a series of apartment complexes in what they’ve self-proclaimed the next up and coming neighbourhood, doesn’t mean it will be filled with residents, for example. Similarly; if you build a data centre, it doesn’t mean it will be flooded with customers upon opening.  

As such, this motto should not serve as a guiding principle for new builds – particularly when it comes to data centres. For the data centre industry, it’s important to think strategically and take a demand-driven approach to new builds and expansion projects.

A big part of this approach is understanding what and where the customer demand is. For example, with the increasing pace of cloud adoption, it’s likely that enterprise customers will want direct access to the cloud. 

This means that data centre providers need to forge partnerships and focus new builds in areas where hyperscale and specialist cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure, AWS, Oracle Cloud, Infrastructure and IBM Cloud Services, already (or are likely to) have a presence in, knowing that will attract enterprises that are rapidly building innovative solutions on the cloud. 

When considering new builds, data centre providers want to ensure they’re building cloud communities to deliver direct cloud access and secure interconnections for their colocated customers, without any added network complexity or provisioning time. 

Ultimately, the goal of new facilities needs to be helping enterprise customers build and expand their business from these new facilities. For colocation and data centre providers, a big part of achieving this goal means not over-building, to avoid running into the challenge of having to proactively fill empty racks. Instead, they should focus on growing and expanding facilities at a constant and steady rate to meet demand and give their customers the facilities they need to compete and grow their businesses – and doing so at a rate that ensures their own success. 

Location, location, location 

Being close to the end-user is key for enterprises. Their customers understand the value of a millisecond and don’t have the tolerance for time lags that don’t allow them to do things quickly. The best way to deliver enterprises with faster access to their customers is by building new colocation data centres close to those end-users, ensuring the low latency and high connectivity that underpins top-notch performance and keeps them coming back. 

It’s also important for colocation providers to think about how to best maximise on existing “hot spots” by targeting specific industries. For example, London is a thriving hub for financial services. The city offers several opportunities, including a massive number of consumers, corporations and robust infrastructure that make it the beating heart of Britain’s digital economy. 

Additionally, other locations are made attractive by serving as gateways to other markets. For example, a city such as Marseille offers a gateway to emerging markets in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, making the French city attractive for enterprises looking to expand into those new regions. 

Location is critical for new builds, and the most successful data centre facilities are typically those in key markets where the demand is already high and constantly growing. 

Going Green

Energy efficiency is a top priority for every business today – especially for new build projects across all sectors— so data centre providers need to ensure that they are building it into their facilities so that enterprises can meet their sustainability goals and requirements. 

Colocating in green data centres and seeking out new builds that are powered by renewable energy can help enterprises demonstrate their commitment to a reduced carbon footprint. This will require data centre providers to incorporate innovative energy-efficient techniques within their new builds. 

One example is with liquid cooling that will further decrease the need for refrigerant driven energy, using compressors in the warmer land climates across western Europe. Colocation providers can also take advantage of local geology, such as reservoirs, oceans and lakes, to create systems that naturally cool data centres. Moreover, new builds in milder regions can benefit from energy efficient designs that leverage the mild temperatures of wind power. By taking an energy conscious approach to data centre design, new builds and expansions will be set up for success when it comes to meeting enterprises’ green initiatives.  

Building for the future

As enterprises continue to embrace digital transformation, colocation providers need to think strategically about how they can help their enterprise customers evolve and grow. This means taking into consideration the value of meeting customer demand while not over building, leveraging location to meet customers (and their end-users) where they want to be, and taking innovative approaches to achieve greater energy efficiency. 

Colocation providers that keep enterprise needs at the core for their new builds and expansion projects will be the most successful in setting themselves apart from the competition and attracting customers to fill their facilities at a profitable rate.