Data Hosting Capacity and Hosting Space: London's Co-Location Crisis - 09/05/07

Data hosting capacity is being pushed to its limits in London, with most UK companies wanting their hosting in the country's capital; hosting space is in short supply and will run out very soon. Experts warn that businesses must plan now to expand outside of London or face the consequences.

Companies supplying bandwidth, network services and collocation hosting to the businesses and residents of London have experienced a massive boom in custom in recent years, with Web 2.0 technology providing the next generation of online applications fuelling the need for permanent connectivity with broadband. The web has become an integral part of day to day business and daily life to the majority of UK residents.

High speed internet, providing secure and easy communication has innovated daily business and lifestyles. Yet this technological triumph is under threat in the nation's capital.

Due to London being home to the head offices of many companies and corporations, the capital is rapidly running out of co-location resources and facilities. Experts are warning that by 2009 there will be 0% vacancy rate for hosting space in London. In the mid-nineties data centres were built and designed to underpin communications networks for the online services which had formed, however online growth soared over the next ten years to such a size that the phenomenal increase in processing power is now stretched to its limits. From 1996 to 2006 servers in use went from 6m to 28m and the average power consumption had grown from 150 watts to 400watts.

Physical space for co-location hosting space is at a premium, from both the number of servers required, but also the powerful cooling systems needed for the servers. New currency is not about rack space, but founded on power supply and cooling requirements for the servers. IDC have estimated that by 2007 costs on data centre power and cooling will match the global spending on new servers.

This means that by 2009, the massive drain on the local grid will become unsupportable and London will be faced with the prospect of regular 'brownouts'. Power supply will become reduced, much like California did at the beginning of the decade. Additional factors, like the Olympics and CrossRail construction projects will add to the power and network infrastructure issues, giving London even less time before its power resources are over-stretched.

IT industry specialists and specifically carriers need to begin planning now to cope with these demands. Reports from the Broadband Stakeholder Group state that telecoms firms need to build networks much faster over the next two years, or risk profound social and economic setbacks. Demands for 100mbps bandwidth to the home as standard, add pressure to co-location facilities and the demands will only continue to increase.

Many services could be supported outside of London at much lower prices, although new datacentre space is quickly taken by large corporations and connectivity issues may arise if the data centre is too far away from the company base. Applications and services needing real time communication, for example, cannot be situated more than forty miles from the hosting site.

Manufacturers can assist the power supply issues by focussing on efficiency over power processing. Recently the major chip manufacturers like Dell, AMD, HP, Intel, IBM, Sun and Microsoft have formed a "Green Grid" coalition, predominantly aimed to cut power usage in data-centres.

"Multi-core" processor chips integrate several processors, instead of boosting up clock speed. Dual-core chips have become more common and are becoming rapidly followed up by quad-core chips that had been pioneered by AMD and Intel. Combined with technological advances in power supply and cooling technology and the industry can fit more servers in the same place, without any burden on power supply.

Companies can also choose the latest innovation in Virtual Network Operators (VNOs), which offer a beneficial alternative when space is an issue. Unlike the more traditional network operators, VNOs can provide in depth knowledge in the latest industry developments, and provide customers with the variety of options available. As they use the assets of multiple carriers, VNOs are free to offer advice on the most suitable networks. All this means that VNOs have the buying power to ensure the most competitive rates, which is of high importance when you consider the price growth in the last 18 months.

That many companies are acting now on this datacentre crisis provides a positive step for the future and the environment. The carbon footprint produced by datacentres and server farms is considerable and it is becoming imperative that an environmentally friendly power solution is provided soon. Companies must invest in developing low outage cooling and server solutions if London and other major business centres are to thrive using modern technology. If changes are not made now, then we risk power failure, business disruption on an unprecedented scale and destructive effects on the environment.

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