Pay the price

We ask end users and experts about the value of datacentre consultancy.

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By  Brid-Aine Conway Published  November 18, 2007

Implementing a datacentre, whether it's a new-build or an upgrade, is a huge undertaking. And since it's a project that only comes around once every ten years or so, a company is unlikely to have datacentre experts on its staff. While it's never a good thing to have a project go wrong, with a datacentre implementation, it can be a disaster. The amount of time and money the company has invested, as well as the key functions the datacentre has to perform for the business, combine to make success a must for this project.

This is not the sort of project any IT decision-maker wants to cut corners on, but they have to establish the most cost-effective way to launch a successful project. If home-grown experts are unavailable and a company has decided against outsourcing its datacentre, then it would seem that the time had come for external help. Consultants fulfill this role, and they charge plenty for it. So if a company needs datacentre consultants, it had better be sure it gets the right ones from the start.

Marco Picozzi, regional consulting manager for Symantec MENA, says: "Consultants are not important, they're crucial, because the skills and experience of setting up a datacentre environment are not common in IT departments. As a matter of fact, these skills are only required in the early stages of these big programmes, and organisations should really focus on building operational competency skills rather than actually recruiting expertise which is only required for a shorter period of time."

Schnabel AG is a global consultancy firm that is involved in datacentre consultancy for the physical infrastructure of a datacentre and is one of the few consultancies in the Middle East that is not tied to a vendor. Its ME general manager, Herbert Radlinger, feels that companies often cannot even take the first steps in the decision-making process without some advice.

"Very often clients don't know what they really want or need so if they don't get advice before starting, they just end up getting something that delivers less power, or cooling, or space, or so on," he asserts.

Going for external advice in the form of a consultant seems to be something most experts feel a company cannot do without and a lot of end users agree with this view.

One of those end users is Bassem Aboukhater, regional IT director at Leo Burnett, the international advertising group. He feels that consultants are very important and that although companies could attempt to educate their own staff, investing resources into training and certifying staff for a project that's often a one-off is not really worth it.

Dileep Somani, general manager of IT at automotive company OTE Group, agrees. He adds that the design phase is a crucial time to have a consultant involved and companies need to have advice here, if not on into implementation.

"It's advisable to take external consultancy because you need the right expertise to have it designed in the best possible manner. If you don't have a good team in place it's always better to take the complete help of the consultant where he gives you the design, guides you through vendor selection and even helps you in implementation," Somani says.

But when it comes to the Middle East, there are not many consultants available who are not somehow connected to a vendor. Aboukhater feels a consultant should provide unbiased advice.

"If you want an unbiased opinion, they should give you information and educate you and if you say you want to go with this or that company, their job should be to open your eyes for pitfalls and things that you might get into without knowing," he says.

Again, Somani agrees: "If a consultant is linked to a vendor, he will always be biased. It's always good to have a proper consultancy firm which can provide an unbiased opinion for a good datacentre."

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