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What will big data mean for your data centre?

In the next few years, every business in the UK will need to make some big decisions about how they approach their data. With the amount of information gathered and processed by businesses growing all the time, legacy data centres may struggle to cope under the strain.

The era of big data will therefore demand a new approach for the data centre, which will need to be faster and more flexible than in the past in order to handle the ever-growing volume and variety of information.

So what are the key issues IT managers will have to contend with when it comes to modernising their infrastructure and ensuring that it works as efficiently as possible?

The challenges facing the data centre

One of the main challenges facing the data centre will be how they cope with the increase in capacity big data will lead to. Therefore, a flexible solution that can scale up on demand to meet these needs will be an important consideration for many businesses. This is one of the key reasons why cloud-based infrastructure is becoming so popular, as this technology can typically offer much easier scalability than traditional alternatives.

The other big factor will be latency. If firms are looking to take in data from sources such as transactions or social data and use this to adapt their operations in real-time, this will demand instant results. Therefore, data centres need to be able to get the right data to the right applications as quickly as possible, as any delays could leave a business using inaccurate and outdated information to drive their decision-making.

Driving efficiency

These demands are already having an impact on IT professionals’ thinking when it comes to choosing a data centre. Tariff Consultancy’s 2015 Datacentre Europe Pricing report forecasts that the amount of space and power needed by Europe’s data centres will grow by 20 per cent by 2020.

This has the potential to be a major headache for businesses that are still trying to build their own data centres, which is why so many are turning away from dedicated solutions towards colocation and cloud solutions.

Anthony Day, an intellectual property and technology lawyer at legal firm DLA Piper, told Computer Weekly: “You get the odd big corporate – a big bank or pharmaceutical company – that will build their own, but that’s usually for niche regulatory or security reasons.

“We’re seeing a number of clients looking to move a lot of their IT infrastructure that was in physical data centres into the cloud to reduce operating costs and capital outlay in the future.”

As well as the cost benefits associated with this, moving to cloud-based solutions also gives businesses access to a greater amount of processing power than they would often be able to achieve on their own. This is something that will be particularly important in the era of big data.

As BIS Infotech notes, big data will have a major impact on how data centres handle traffic and processing, with batch and stream processing expected to be handled in real time. “To support all these transactions/processes that are happening in real time, a data centre must be equipped with enough processing power, storage I/Os and network bandwidth,” the publication stated.

The cost equation

In the past, this kind of processing power would have meant a large bill from a data centre provider, but as technology advanced, this type of capability is becoming more and more affordable for small and medium-sized firms a well as larger enterprises.

One factor that’s affecting this is a recognition that data centres no longer have to be sitting right on top of an exchange in order to provide the type of low-latency, real-time results today’s businesses demand. This means facilities can be relocated out of major urban centres to more suburban and rural locations where costs are cheaper.

For instance, Tariff’s research found that pricing for data centres in London was around 27 per cent higher last year than for those outside the capital, and companies can find there are great bargains to be had from providers offering discounts to entice customers out of the big cities.

Any concerns that these facilities would offer poorer performance compared with more central locations have been assuaged in recent years, as IT pros have had the chance to see what they are capable of.

Mr Day said: “What has helped customers is things like Google putting its data centre in Finland. When you’re sat at your desk doing a Google search, do you find the speed of that search is so slow because it’s being performed in Finland? For the vast majority of people the answer is no.”

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