Business is booming in the colocation market. The demand for MTDCs is expected to increase over the next few years as more and more Enterprise IT is outsourced or obtained through cloud services or infrastructure as a service. However, there is a distinct shift in what customers expect from a colocation provider. It’s no longer about space and power, as these services have been commoditized. So, what is a MTDC that wants to grow its share of this $50 billion market to do?
An MTDC must differentiate itself with new business models centered around emerging connectivity services, and develop a well-defined product and service portfolio that showcases its connectivity options. The ability to do both will be a crucial success factor as the market continues to evolve in the coming years.
In the future, typical tasks from communication service providers will become increasingly relevant for high-quality data center services as they will require process automation with appropriate software support. Additionally, as data center providers’ connectivity products and services portfolio become more extensive due to customer demands and the need for completive differentiation, the portfolio’s underlying technologies and the need for change must be managed.
Infrastructure management teams must be equipped with the right tools to innovate and lead their company’s transformation from today’s network to the future infrastructure of intra- and intercolocation connectivity. When shopping for the right solution, the key feature to look for is a centralized database that documents all IT assets and connections across all the data center’s networks. This database should be dynamically updated as change occurs, so all IT users are accessing the same accurate, up-to-date data on which to base critical business decisions. This central data repository is the key to achieving complete visibility and transparency throughout the data center network infrastructure.
How to Support Growth Strategies
Only with this visibility can the infrastructure management team analyze, plan, implement, change, document and monitor all technology activity in the colocation center. Once a central data repository is in place, network managers can receive immediate insights into all the data connections in their networks and data center infrastructure, independent from the underlying hardware vendor technology, and confirm customers have the right network connections and uptime and that SLAs are being met.
Typical areas for software-supported optimization of colocation connectivity operations processes are:
- Installing and maintaining new capacities to increase bandwidth and reduce latency for connectivity services:
These use cases include capacity analysis of existing network infrastructures, knowledge and design of data communication service hierarchies on the transport network, and the implementation and routing of new connections through appropriate hardware
- Provisioning connectivity and cross-connects between ecosystem peers:
The planning and cabling of different partners or partners and a platform in the data center through cross-connects and meet-me-rooms is fundamental. Fast and automated routing and patching can help to speed-up service delivery tremendously and generate higher incomes through the amount of connects delivered to peers.
- Incident management:
Fast error search through insightful impact analysis leads to a quick problem resolution and helps to avoid penalties because SLA’s are not met. This is especially interesting when analyzing errors and their impact not only in active and monitored infrastructure environments but also in passive elements. Impact analysis and routing through the entire facility infrastructure within a central database of documented assets is essential for a quick problem resolution.
Fig. 1: Planning, Installing and Maintaining of new Network Capacities with FNT Command
Best Practices How to Perform Network Capacity Expansion
The following example illustrates in five easy steps how to plan and perform a network capacity expansion with a software solution like FNT Command.
Step 1: Analyze network capacities and traffic
Network traffic data and capacity analysis delivered from the monitoring system and FNT Command show the need for an extension of network capacities at a node in Berlin North to increase network bandwidth. The infrastructure operations team can identify this need easily based on the integrated dashboard analysis and warning thresholds.
Fig. 2: Network capacity analysis in FNT Command
Step 2: Analyze the affected connectivity services
After visually navigating in FNT Command’s schematic network representation to the node of the two connected data centers where the new card should to be installed, open the rack view to see all components installed in the rack.
A specific report for ‘Connected Services’ is used to understand which customers and services are affected when the node is switched off for the capacity expansion and maintenance measures. All services provided through this specific node are displayed, including all service hierarchies.
Fig. 3: Schematic network representation for 2 connected data centers
Step 3: Visual planning of the IMAC processes
The installation of a new card to expand the network capacities can now be planned by the responsible Network Infrastructure Manager visually within the rack view and based on the integrated asset library that comes with FNT Command. The asset library provides more than 50,000 predefined components and devices for IT, data centers and telecommunications. FNT Command also takes into account whether a card will be taken out of the warehouse or whether a purchase order must be triggered. After planning the installation of a new card, FNT Command will connect the card to the patch panel already installed below it via glass fiber cable. Patched cables can also be displayed directly in the rack view.
Fig. 4: Visual planning in rack view
Step 4: Create and automate execution of work orders
The planning mode records all changes performed in the planning view and generates the necessary work orders for the field technician on site. All steps for the planned work order are provided in a clear list displayed within FNT Command. All assets to be installed can be identified with all relevant technical details.
The entire planned work order and all technical data can now be passed to the on site field engineers for installation as a PDF file or a Microsoft Excel file. Likewise, the generated work steps can be automated using the workflow software FNT ProcessEngine or passed to a third-party workflow tool via the open interface architecture of FNT Command.
After the field engineers have installed and patched the card, the status is switched from ‘Planned’ to ‘Realized’ and transferred to the As-Is documentation view. This approach ensures always correct, comprehensive documentation of the network infrastructure.
Fig. 5: Work orders automatically generated based on the visual planning
Step 5: Assign customers to connectivity services for billing and incident management
Customers can now be assigned to their respective connectivity services within the central FNT Command database and can then be automatically informed if a connectivity failure or other incident occurs through the FNT Command system. This functionality informs affected services and customers when maintenance is planned, and also makes it possible to provide all relevant service and performance data for the customer billing process.
To learn more about FNT’s solutions for colocation connectivity, we have provided three short videos. Each video gives a brief overview on how colocation providers are using FNT’s comprehensive data center connectivity management solution to perform different tasks including capacity management, planning new connections, and impact analysis.