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Data Centre as a Service (DCaaS) vs. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

7th, October 2015

Where businesses either cannot cost effectively build their own data centre or can no longer expand the current data centre; which may be due to a limitation in power or cooling, lack of physical space, lack of capital, or other factors, the two most popular alternatives are Data Centre as a Service (DCaaS), also known as Rack Colocation and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

Both of these services offer unique models and present distinct tradeoffs that businesses should fully understand before considering a strategy. Contemporary business strategies often favour outsourcing as a means of shifting capital expenses to operational expenses.

Data Centre as a Service (DCaaS) also known as Rack Colocation services allow the client to essentially outsource the building, power, cooling, rack space and provision of internet connectivity for its I.T services to the rack colocation provider. The business accesses its computing resources remotely via a wide area network (WAN) link. Systems are maintained and managed remotely or by visiting the colocation site to undertake ongoing backups moves adds and changes etc.

The principal advantage of DCaaS is an increased level of ownership as the client deploys and owns the I.T hardware and software assets. Typically, the rack colocation provider is able to support flexible rack space providing full, half, quarter and individual “U” space to suit server count as well as power allocation to meet the client's individual I.T demands.

Rack colocation space will generally have full infrastructure management and environmental monitoring systems in place.  Often colocation providers will offer a range of options to allow clients to implement their own sensors and remote control features that allow the client to monitor and react to changes in the computing environment.

DCaaS / Rack Colocation is suited to those clients who wish to retain control of their I.T assets. Colocation services are also ideal for Systems Integrators who in turn offer managed IaaS services which may include cloud computing, disaster recovery, storage services etc.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the provision of all of the servers, storage and other networking hardware. Clients simply lease a portion of the provider's computing resources to run applications or workloads. In addition, an IaaS provider may offer a comprehensive menu of value-added services for the client, including services such as reporting, monitoring and so on. While a DCaaS client is primarily concerned with the provider's data centre infrastructure, an IaaS client is primarily focused on the computing resources that the IaaS provider is delivering.

When IaaS provider deploys and maintains all of the computing resources, clients have no need to buy, deploy or maintain the data centre or computing infrastructure, and resources can easily be adjusted by simply selecting from a menu of available options. The IaaS model can provide improved agility and flexibility for clients.

The IaaS approach works well when it is more important for a company to focus on running workloads rather than installing hardware, but there is a distinct loss of control over the computing environment that may not be suitable for many businesses.

The Challenges here are for the prospective client to ask the right questions, understand their needs and communicate effectively to the DCaaS or IaaS provider. Where DCaaS / Rack Colocation providers also wish to offer IaaS there can be a conflict of interest and they may try to maximise revenue rather than deliver a flexible rack service. You should also be aware that you will no longer have control of many aspects of the data centre operation irrespective of service for example equipment inlet temperatures will be out of your control.

There may also be a difference between DCaaS and Rack Colocation providers. A colocation provider may be leasing space from a larger facility. While this allows some colocation providers to cater to smaller SME businesses, the provider may not be able to guarantee the SLA they are offering because the actual SLA is limited by the agreement between the colocation tenant and the landlord. For example, it is impossible for a colocation provider to offer clients 99.999% or five nines of uptime when the facility owner is only guaranteeing four nines of uptime to the colocation tenant.

In addition just because a data centre facility looks modern, it must still provide the networking and other underlying infrastructure that meets your needs. Clients should ensure that data centre are well designed by experienced data centre professionals and not simply the result of a DIY exercise or via add hock organic growth.

Even when availability is clearly defined by a service-level agreement (SLA), the implications of unexpected downtime should be considered carefully. Both DCaaS and IaaS providers are also businesses that are not immune from equipment failures. In addition organisations endure staffing issues, merge with other companies and occasionally go out of business, leaving clients with the challenge of recovering or restoring affected applications.

Outsourcing Management Considerations and Choices - Understanding the subtle but important differences between IaaS and DCaaS is just the beginning. The key issue is deciding which IT outsourcing management strategy is best for your organisation. Generally, opting for DCaaS is more cost effective, easier and faster than undertaking your own data centre builds, especially when dealing with facilities in multiple locations. The customisation available with DCaaS deployments allows clients to define the requirements of each rack location. As an example, one DCaaS location may be tailored as a primary site another may be configured for disaster recovery purposes. However, a client will need some level of data centre expertise to make best use of a DCaaS or rack colocation) provider.

The benefits of DCaaS are completely absent from IaaS facilities, where you basically have no alternative except to use the servers, networking and other hardware supplied by the IaaS provider. This can actually be an advantage where IaaS providers host a range of equipment in multiple locations providing customer choice. There are other benefits to IaaS, including relatively low financial commitments as there is no equipment to purchase and long-term leases to commit too, you can simply start using the services and only pay for what you use.

Where a business chooses to focus on maintaining a small number of mission-critical applications in-house rather than staff up or invest capital in additional computing hardware, the business may also choose to rent resources from an IaaS provider to handle secondary or transient applications.

In summary clients that prefer to focus on workloads rather than data centre hardware can get tremendous value from IaaS providers. DCaaS or Rack Colocation is suited to businesses that wish to retain control of their I.T assets. Rack Colocation services are also ideal for Systems Integrators who in turn offer managed IaaS services which may include cloud computing, disaster recovery, storage etc, as there is no commercial conflict where DcaaS providers are concerned.

Nick Roberts Workspace Technology’s Business Development Manager commented “Workspace Technology wholly own and operate the Data Centre as a Service. We are in full control of our Rack Colocation facility and as an experienced design, build, and management company ensure our facility is delivering optimal performance at all times. This ideally positions Workspace Technology’s colocation data centre to support the needs of end users and Systems Integrators who require high quality colocation data centre infrastructure within the Birmingham, West Midlands and East Midlands region”.


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