benedetti68 - Fotolia


IT still needs the tried-and-true on-premises data center

Despite a rapidly changing IT industry driven mostly by cloud, the on-premises data center is here to stay, according to a survey by the Uptime Institute.

Public cloud and colocation may drive the industry's growth, but for many companies, their on-premises data center matters more than ever.

The rapid pace of cloud adoption hasn't eaten into the two-thirds of workloads that enterprises still run in house, according to the latest Uptime Institute survey. The on-premises data center is still important because a large number of applications aren't a good fit in the cloud, and it would be too expensive or technically infeasible for IT teams to rearchitect or rewrite them.

"A lot of folks have workloads that they need to keep in house for whatever reason -- whether it's compliance issues or security … they can't outsource stuff at this point; they don't feel safe enough to do that," said Kelly Quinn, an analyst at IDC, which also recently published a survey on data center trends. "They want that close to the vest; they want that really tight, under their control."

Thirty percent of respondents to the Uptime Institute's annual survey plan to build a new traditional data center in the next year to meet capacity demands. This reflects organizations' massive global build out of data centers, particularly in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, said Matt Stansberry, senior director of content at Uptime Institute.

While some organizations expand with data center facilities, others seek to better manage the on-premises capacity they already have. The survey also found that 60% of enterprise IT server footprints are flattening or shrinking due to ongoing server virtualization. With that consolidation, traditional IT teams are finding "data centers with some headroom," Stansberry said. Five years ago, data center administrators struggled to keep pace with demand, but now they must deal with excess and aging capacity.

At this point, a lot of the nonearly adopters are testing the waters of the colocation market.
Kelly Quinnanalyst, IDC

"Sites that might have been brought on 15 years ago are now doing things to extend the life of existing data centers," said Stansberry.

Some organizations conduct server refreshes to squeeze new life out of existing data centers, for example. Another way to extend data center life is to add an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system and computer room air conditioning units.

Colocation still attractive

As regions such as Africa and Asia focus on new data centers, more established data center regions such as the United States are seeing stagnation in new data center builds and more interest in colocation facilities. Over half of enterprise respondents to IDC's annual survey use colocation services. "At this point, a lot of the nonearly adopters are testing the waters of the colocation market," Quinn said.

Among the other half of respondents, there's still a lot of uncertainty around colocation adoption. IT leaders still ask a variety of questions, said Quinn: How do we engage colocation providers? Which workloads should we migrate? And how secure is this going to be?

Colocation providers must help customers answer these questions prior to the initial engagement, which can be a bit of a handholding process.

Downtime still matters

Whether you use a colocation provider or have an on-premises data center, downtime is still a consideration. Recent high-profile data center outages ranging from Amazon Web Services to airlines still occur with surprising frequency and underscore the significance of downtime for enterprise data centers. How concerned, and prepared, are data center admins for unplanned downtime?

The Uptime survey found that nearly 90% of organizations conduct root-cause analysis of an outage, and over 60% measure the cost of downtime. Many IT organizations are testing IT-based resiliency, relying on multiple geographically distributed data centers for application failover, but they're not ready to throw out their UPS systems just yet.

"When we talk about IT-based resiliency," said Stansberry, "it has a long way to go."

Next Steps

Discover data center trends of 2017

Cloud-style pricing comes to the on-premises data center

How to move servers to a colocation facility

Dig Deeper on Colocation, hosting and outsourcing management