Welcome to the machine

The datacentre has landed – and Middle East enterprises are rolling them out as fast as they can. These projects are probably one of the largest capital outlays a company will make for several decades – so becoming a critical business project, rather than a mere IT deployment. ACN reports on what regional decision-makers need to know.

  • E-Mail
By  Eliot Beer Published  July 2, 2007

Datacentres are probably the nearest thing large enterprises have to the newly-launched Apple iPhone - everyone's talking about them, a lot of people want them, and they're incredibly expensive. In addition, they're still very much a work in progress - vendors are announcing new technologies all the time, and standards are still coming out to cover every aspect of the modern datacentre.

Also like the iPhone, datacentres are far bigger in North America than they are in the Middle East. Simple economics have dictated this - the vast US market has meant more companies have needed the high resiliency and efficiency of a standards-driven datacentre than in the Middle East.

For regional organisations, being one step behind in datacentre deployment has now left them one step ahead. For companies with older datacentres, the cost to upgrade to the latest, greatest technologies is far higher than it would be to build a new datacentre from scratch, especially when the companies are obliged to justify their previous datacentre investment.

Middle Eastern organisations, then, have the current pick of datacentre technologies - and a much clearer idea of where datacentres will be going in the future.

While this technological shift has been going on, the regional economies of the Middle East have also been evolving - and expanding at sometimes alarming paces. This has placed regional organisations at a tipping point - many are now moving from being local firms, to regional or even global players.

"Regional growth is driving this demand for datacentres - a lot of local companies are growing, and going international, so their requirements have suddenly shot through the roof," says Mohamed Fouz, the new CEO of eHosting DataFort. "There are a lot of companies being launched - new telcos such as du have massive requirements, and a company like Dubai Ports World, which took over ports around the world, needs to have many datacentres.

"Players are also moving into the region - banks are moving in to the Middle East from Asia, from Europe. Some companies are even setting up their headquarters here - such as Halliburton," he adds.

Herbert Radlinger of Schnabel offers one prediction for datacentre growth for the UAE alone: "We estimate a minimum of 20 new datacentres within the next financial year, of between 200 and 500 square meters."

Show me the money

So private companies, government departments, state-owned enterprises and multinationals across the Middle East are now facing some serious demands for a datacentre, probably from increasingly vocal managers in the IT department. But the expense behind building - and running - a datacentre is considerable - what's the business case for building one?

"The business case for a datacentre is self-evident: your company either needs secure IT and communications facilities or it doesn't," bluntly states Barry Elliott, technical consultant at Connectix.

Elliott's straight-forward assess-ment of the requirement for data-centres is based on the now well-established reality that for the vast majority of organisations, their data is their business.

Fouz agrees: "I think organisations understand the criticality of their businesses - and the business depends on IT. They understand the need to keep their data assets in a safe place, and they're willing to spend money on the datacentre."

While stating that data is now critical to the business is all well and good, it still doesn't illustrate what a datacentre can actually deliver in terms of a return on its significant investment. This calculation is as individual as a company, but there are real savings to be made, according to most observers - and vendors.

Tenzing Chopathar, marketing manager for adaptive infrastructure at HP EMEA, says his company made a very significant saving by consolidating its dozens of datacentres to just a handful: "Within HP, we estimate we will save around US$1 billion over the next few years by consolidating our datacentres."

He doesn't give a figure for HP's total IT spend, but says the saving is "close to double digits" as a percentage of its overall IT budget.

Do you care enough?

A datacentre is one of the most critical projects - IT or otherwise - any enterprise can undertake. It is a long way from being a regular IT implementation - of a new application, or updating the network infrastructure.

As such, a datacentre project is one that demands attention from the highest level of the business - the board of directors, the CEO, and down. The direction and the requirements should come from the executive management team, to ensure the project is completely in synch with the long-term business requirements of the organisation.

"CEOs should care about data-centres, because their businesses depend on secure datacentres. They like to make wise investments with a long-term payback. They want their data to be confidential, available, reliable - all things to help their businesses survive," says Chopathar.

What is a datacentre?

While it may look like a long row of fridges behind metal grilles, the datacentre is a complex beast.

An evolution of the comms room or server room, a modern datacentre is a completely integrated facility for all core IT systems - from application servers, to routers, to telephony, to storage and archive systems.

By consolidating all the mission-critical systems in one location, datacentres make management and maintenance much easier. IT staff can work from one central location to tackle all core IT issues.

But by moving everything to a central location, the datacentre has also become a potential point of failure - catastrophic failure in the case of enterprises which are highly dependent on IT systems, such as banks or telcos.

This makes planning a critical aspect of building a datacentre - the enterprise needs to know it is as resilient as required to ensure the business's operations can stay up.

In practice, this often means investing in a second datacentre in a remote location, to act as a disaster recovery site. While a major investment, this ensures continuity of business - and still represents a saving in facilities compared to running several datacentres spread over a city or country.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code