Data is arguably one of a company’s most important assets and any breach, loss or compromise of it can be catastrophic, so choosing the best solution for housing that data is undoubtedly one of the most crucial decisions that any CTO/CIO currently faces.
It comes down to carefully choosing – which eggs do you put into which baskets. The problem is that for decades the IT pendulum has swung between centralised and de-centralised systems, and even today continues to do so. Is it that a mix of centralised and de-centralised systems is needed?
The overriding question to be answered is how is it possible to make a future-proof decision on your own corporate approach? To help, we need to look closer at what is happening and what’s driving the cycle.
Firstly, there has always been a fairly simple economic argument for centralised computing which can be summarised as:
- With the capital cost of computing power declining, support costs tend to predominate.
- Centralised support costs less then de-centralised support.
- Therefore, centralised computing models will ultimately win financially.
Centralisation also makes it easier to create an effective disaster recovery strategy, minimise manpower ‘spread’, obtain volume discounts on technology purchases and lower maintenance and training costs through standardisation.
However, if this was true 100 per cent of the time, we would have all now embraced a centralised computing model. Yet, instead we’ve also seen a constant swing towards de-centralisation so, clearly, there are other factors at work.
So why de-centralise? Firstly, it’s generally accepted that raw centralised computing power costs more than de-centralised computing. In other words, it’s more expensive to hook 32 CPUs and 768GB of RAM onto the same backplane than it is to purchase 32 separate 1CPU machines each with 24GB of RAM. Also, it all has to be bought at the same time so difficult to spread costs.
Another issue with a centralised computing model is the cost to the business of maintaining access to a single, large computing ‘stack’. One obvious cost area is basic network access – how much is it going to cost to get all the band width needed (in both directions) at appropriately low latency, from anywhere in the world to a single site / geographic location?
Crucially, a significant cost is keeping any centralised computing resource up and available all the time. With ‘all eggs in one basket’ as it were, the entire business can be impacted by the same one outage, be it at a single data centre, cloud platform or across an entire geographic area.
One of the most recent examples of de-centralisation of technology is the ‘block chain’ – the engine on which Bitcoin and indeed other crypto-currencies is built. This is a new kind of distributed consensus system that allows transactions, or other data, to be securely stored and verified without any centralised authority at all; this is because they are effectively validated by the entire network.
Those transactions don’t have to be financial; that data doesn’t have to be money. The block chain engine can be used for a whole array of other applications, and it will be.
So, the centralised versus de-centralised cycle keeps turning because in any given computing ‘lifetime’ the costs of all of the above factors rise and fall. This in turn leads IT global decision-makers to optimise one factor over another, thus promoting shifts in computing strategy and the wheel then turns again.
There is little doubt that in the data centre world the pendulum is now swinging back towards de-centralisation.
- Driven largely by a need to be ‘closer’ to users.
- To mitigate geographical risks.
- To ensure compliance with global regulation.
- To ensure that data ‘residence’ requirements are met.
This momentum won’t stop. So when choosing a data centre partner you want one where you don’t have to choose a single basket to fill with all of your eggs. You want one who won’t mind (and won’t penalise you) if you want to move your eggs between baskets. Most importantly, you want one who has baskets around the globe to cater for changes in your business, and changes in IT approach.
There are sometimes other external forces (regulatory, legal, license stipulations etc) which seek to dictate the baskets you can use; often favouring a geographically centralised approach. To be truly global, and to give your customers the best service, it is often a mix of centralised and de-centralised systems which wins the day.
One of the world’s largest software providers to the eGaming market, headquartered in the Isle of Man, employs such a global model which is key to the success of their business.
“Microgaming developed the first true online casino in 1994. It has been breaking records, breaking new ground and breaking its back in pursuit of original gaming ever since. Developer of thousands of unique, genre-defining Casino, Mobile, Poker, Bingo and Land-based games, Microgaming hosts the largest Progressive Jackpot Network in the world. Its products include Live Dealer, Sportsbook, Business Solutions and Quickfire. Microgaming manages the hardware infrastructure that the gaming platforms run from on behalf of the casino operators. An integral part of that service is ensuring uptime, agility and superior performance in order to meet peak demand times and retain customer loyalty. Microgaming depends on their global hosting partnership with Continent 8 Technologies to deliver the required high levels of service.”
Head of IT – Microgaming
Continent 8 Technologies is the only Isle of Man data centre provider which can offer a true mix of centralised and globally de-centralised services. Winner of the “Company of the Year 2014” accolade at the Isle of Man Excellence Awards, Continent 8 is proud to call the Isle of Man its home.
It is equally as proud of its £5m investment in its world-class PCI compliant Isle of Man Data Centre. The company also operates data centres and connectivity network points of presence around the globe including London, Paris, Milan, Dublin, Malta, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Singapore, Montreal, Toronto, New York and New Jersey.
Continent 8 can also offer global MPLS services connecting your Isle of Man business across the company’s backbone to anywhere – with the ability to guarantee and end-to-end service levels, all backed by a 24x7x365 dual Network operations Centre.
Whether your business has chosen to centralise or decentralise your systems, or you just aren’t sure yet, one thing you can be certain of is that it won’t be that way forever; the cycle will come round again. The important thing is that you are making decisions now as part of a long-term strategy so you can actually do both.
Article appeared in IOMPLC – Issue 1, 2015