Data center co-location is all the rage right now — and
virtualization of IT resources is playing a major role. What are some of the hottest
app areas for virtualization and co-lo, and what makes them pay off?

1: Multi-tenant systems of records

Small and medium-size businesses in industries like banking
have found ways to save on software licensing and data storage for their core
systems by banding together and going to a co-lo that not only hosts virtual
instances of their systems, but also runs them. Sometimes the banks band
together to form their own co-lo. In other cases, they subscribe as a group to
a co-lo. The co-lo operates their systems of record in a secure, multi-tenant
environment on a single host server, with each institution’s banking system operating
in a separate virtual partition on the host.

2: Application testing and staging

Large enterprises have not only delayed new hardware and software
purchases for their data centers, they have actually stopped building new data
centers. One way they have done this is by taking all their system resource
needs for application testing and staging and moving them to a co-lo. In the
co-lo environment, where the systems and applications are then virtualized,
these enterprises can securely create, test, and stage applications — and then
move them over to their own data center production when the applications are ready.

3: Co-lo expertise and tools

With the need to manage heterogeneous IT infrastructures,
mobile computing, and high performance computing (HPC), which is needed for Big
Data, tools and methodologies are hitting the market faster than IT staffs can
absorb them. Some sites are electing to try these new tools and methods out in
a virtual co-lo environment first, adding them to their own data centers only
after they have confirmed that the new methods and tools will actually help
them. As part of this “tire kicking” process, sites are relying on
co-los that have on-staff expertise in new technologies. In this way, the customer
sites not only gain experience in new tools and methods, but also in best

4: Sandbox experiments

This is a time of active end user experimentation with Big Data
in sandboxes that consist of a data warehouse and a set of pilot applications
that try out different algorithms against the data to see which value-added questions
can be answered for the business. This work is done in a test environment, so sandboxes
also become natural candidates for virtual deployment at a co-lo. The advantage
of using a co-lo for sandboxing is that it is easy to throw the sandbox away
when you’re finished with it. If the co-lo does the housekeeping, enterprise IT
has one fewer task on its already lengthy checklist.

5: Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)

Many companies have chosen to implement VDI in their own data
centers. But an equal number are choosing co-lo and virtualization at a third-party
data center for their VDI. One reason is that many companies don’t view VDI as a
mission-critical application, so they feel it is a likely candidate for outsourcing.
Another reason is that VDI can demand specialized skills in virtualizing for the
desktop that internal IT might not have. A co-lo vendor with VDI expertise can
fill this void.

6: Online training

As employee time-and-place flexibility needs grow, companies
are placing more of their employee orientation and training classes in a
cloud-based virtual environment. Some organizations are going even further: They
are choosing to implement these systems in a co-lo virtual environment. In some
cases, a co-lo can offer value-added instruction on top of what a client-company
has developed, especially in areas like IT, where so many classes (networks,
database, etc.) are already developed and commercially available. The advantage
for an enterprise using a co-lo for training that’s resident on virtual systems
is that it saves hard dollars that would otherwise be spent on internal data center
resources and IT staff time.

7: Video conferencing

Video conferencing requires specialized expertise and
equipment — and the ability to allocate sufficient bandwidth with video presentations.  Co-los with video expertise and equipment can
offer excellent value here. They can also store on-demand video presentations
for corporate clients in virtual storage and processing environments that save

8: Disaster recovery

The more disaster recovery can be virtualized, the easier it
is for failover. Consequently, enterprises are looking for virtual systems deployment
for failover at co-lo facilities to aid them in their disaster recovery.  The trend now is for multiple data centers,
which can be strategically situated around the world if you’re a multinational
corporation with systems that must be up all of the time. Virtual systems at
geographically dispersed co-lo facilities work well because they enable
enterprises to deliver 24/7 system uptime without having to build physical data
centers in every geographical location.

9: Resource spikes

From time to time, an enterprise may require more system resources
than it normally runs. A great example is the need for retailers to process more
orders during the holiday season. This can cause processing and storage spikes.
Since these spikes are temporary, IT wants to avoid purchasing storage and processing
just to handle them.  Instead, many companies
opt for on-demand processing from co-los during these resource-intensive times.
Co-lo resources are virtualized because deployment is faster, since virtualization
sidesteps the manual configuration of physical resources.

10: Virtualization strategy

As virtualization continues as a data center initiative,
more CIOs are looking at it from a total perspective and not just from a data
center-centric angle.  When data center
executives calculate how many of their resources are virtualized, they are beginning
to count the virtual resources they have outsourced to co-los. Many enterprises
have also invited co-los in to discuss resource virtualization strategy,
thereby making the co-lo a full strategic partner.