10 ways to combine virtualization and co-location

Enterprises are finding ways to gain efficiencies and save costs by combining the benefits of co-location and virtualization.

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 practices.

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 money.

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.

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