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How does a wholesale data center differ from retail?

One offers more control, while the other offers more flexible space. If you're considering a colocation facility, how do you decide between wholesale and retail?

The definitions of wholesale and retail data center space are shifting.

In a wholesale data center, a company rents out a fully provisioned facility for its own dedicated use. Retail colocation lets a company rent space in a larger facility, where it can place its own IT equipment within racks and rows.

Compared to an owned data center, wholesale colocation saves the company from the issues of building and running a facility: maintenance, power provisioning, connectivity, uninterruptible power supplies and auxiliary generators, fire suppression and environmental operations.

The wholesale data center is really only intended for the bigger players; the general guide is that it works cost effectively at an IT equipment power requirement of 1MW or greater. This is not exactly your average business data center.

Retail colocation offers great flexibility in how the IT platform grows or shrinks over time, as facility costs and capacity are shared across many lessees. Retail colos are generally better for companies with small to medium IT requirements; however, as many retail data centers operate tens of acres of space in their facilities, it is possible to run a major data center directly through a retail agreement.

With retail colocation, you must accept that the space is shared; it is not a dedicated space as with wholesale. Demand suitable security systems within the facility, such as solid walled cages, employee vetting, registering and movement tracking of all visitors and so on. Even in a wholesale data center where security is not as much of a concern, you still want tracking and vetting of facility employees.

About the author:
Clive Longbottom is the co-founder and service director of IT research and analysis firm Quocirca, based in the U.K. Longbottom has more than 15 years of experience in the field. With a background in chemical engineering, he's worked on automation, control of hazardous substances, document management and knowledge management projects.

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If you are considering colocation, would you choose a wholesale or retail data center?
This discussion is very timely and is being had with data centers, MSPs, consultants, and brokers everyday. In my opinion, wholesale colocation is colo sold with net-metered power and base rent reflective of square footage (ie. 1k sq.ft. with 400kW allocated, pass-through energy costs). If you are paying by the cabinet and the power whip, then you are engaging in a "retail" deal. What is differentiating between vendors is at what power or sqft. threshold will the data center operator then offer "wholesale" contract structure... Some operators can offer "wholesale" structure at as low as a couple hundred sqft and a couple hundred kW...