We talk Edge with Data Centre News

Published in the September edition of Data Centre News Magazine our MD, Steve Whatling, explains why the growing demand for edge data centres led by Internet of Things, Smart Cities, and Content Distribution presents a number of challenges that data centre operators will need to be prepared for.

The data centre landscape is fundamentally changing. As businesses and the public sector continue to invest in the possibilities of always-on connectivity, the creation of a fully-connected smart city is no longer a pipedream.  From Barcelona – where public transport, parking and street lights are internet-enabled – to Bristol, which has invested in projects to monitor traffic and the environment, real-world pilot projects are gaining momentum.

This will result in a realignment in the market towards edge data centres, or fog compute, in the coming years to support this growing need for greater connectivity and data availability.

This presents a huge opportunity for professional data centre operators but one that is not without its challenges.

Whilst the decentralised data centre model has been around in various guises for some time, it fell out of favour for a lot of businesses as they sought to exploit the efficiencies of operating fewer, larger data centres. The emergence of the IoT will undoubtedly lead to a resurgence in its popularity. Only edge networks can provide the high connectivity and low latency required by the IoT and meet customers growing expectation for instant content and services.

Whilst the data centre has often been seen as an afterthought or as the last piece of the puzzle, as we become more reliant on technology this approach needs to change.  Over the years we’ve seen data centre deployment projects that have often been fragmented, with focus on available land and power. Once the location has been chosen, power and connectivity providers would be contracted to deliver the required services, which could involve disruption as these are put in place.  Moving forward, the location and deployment of edge data centres needs to be part of an integrated planning process which informs the placement of the critical facilities in relation to infrastructure and adjoining usages.

One of the major factors that needs to be considered is around data centre security. Cyber-attacks are increasing in both scale and frequency, while problems originating from physical infrastructure have also been found to be behind significant outages in the recent years. According to the European Commission, cyber-crime is costing €265 billion a year and some experts have predicted that edge computing potentially represents a soft underbelly for cyber security. These concerns will rightly mean that clients will expect data centre operators to be investing heavily in security and disaster recovery processes. As well as cyber security, the physical security and maintenance of these localised data centres will also be paramount.

Read the full article on page 32 of Data Centre News Magazine

Keysource partners to provide new data centre risk management service

Critical environments and data centre specialist, Keysource, has partnered with Corporate Risk Associates (CRA) to meet growing demand for risk management services in the data centre sector.

This partnership will offer in-depth performance and risk management services, to allow them to build up a full risk profile of their data estates, taking in a range of factors including location, operational performance and resilience, risk and critical processes monitoring.

Keysource says that the in-depth analysis will also advise clients on selecting the most appropriate data centre model for their business, through an in-depth understanding of the risk involved in each option.

Mike West, chairman at Keysource, said:

“Despite cyber security and data resilience becoming board-level concerns, there is a dearth of specialist consultancy available in the market to help businesses grasp and manage risks in their data centre estates. This joint venture will fill that gap by combining Keysource’s vast experience in the design and operation of data centres with CRA’s risk management expertise.

“We will work with clients to ensure that they understand where risk lies in their IT infrastructure, select the best options for new investment and mitigate any potential threats. With cyber risk set to take on increasing significance for corporate due diligence, this partnership means we are well placed to capitalise on a growing market.”

Jasbir Sidhu, CEO of CRA, said

“We have 16 years’ experience of providing risk assessments to critical industries – including maintaining national infrastructures in the power, defence and transport sectors. Our approach, which sees us look at the facilities, hardware and human elements of day-to-day operation, will enable us to ensure that the joint venture’s clients have an incredibly robust understanding of the risk related to their data centres.”

Interested in finding out more or seeing how we can ensure visibility across your data centre estate? Call us on 0345 204 3333 and speak to Oliver Goodman.

Are you asking the right questions?

As the data centre landscape changes, it is becoming increasingly more important to make sure you are asking the right questions and including all stakeholders when considering your data centre options. As we see continue to see the disconnect between design and operation, our Associate Director, Steve Lorimer, highlights why we, as consultants, need to challenge our customers in understanding what they are trying to achieve, rather than taking briefs at face value. You can read the article below or see the full magazine here.

Traditionally, the design of new data centres has been at the forefront of clients’ minds when procuring new IT infrastructures. Meanwhile the less glamorous maintenance and operation element is put on the backburner until, in some cases, after the build is complete.

In recent years this has led to data centre systems that are excessively expensive and unable to perform in the long-term. The industry has been relatively slow in resolving this but now, more than ever, clients need greater insight to help them navigate the wealth of solutions on the market while minimising costs.

Last year we aimed to do this through the launch of our specialist consultancy division. We recognised the need to join our FM and design and build offering as a service, that can guide clients in considering both elements right from the outset. Since then, it’s proved to be the panacea clients didn’t know they needed.

IT is increasingly integral to companies’ wider business strategies as well as their dayto-day operation. Even now, high-profile examples of server downtime are acting as huge reputational issues affecting stock prices and customer perceptions. This is only set to continue as businesses grow their reliance on big data, automation and systems underpinned by highly available systems.

Often end-users have a preconceived idea of what they want for their data centre system. From a design perspective this can be any number of in-house, co-located, cloud systems or hybrid solutions. Often they are blinded to new technology on the market and the latest cutting edge systems. Stripping the process back to the fundamental question, ‘what do you want to achieve?’ is more vital than ever.

Clients have never been faced with a range of options as broad as they are today. Navigating this with them can show clients that initial plans, and the combination of new technology they want to include, may be too expensive, or, in the worst cases, not meet their objectives when maintenance and design are factored in.

Too often the industry simply takes the brief from clients without challenging it. We now work with clients before they put design and build tenders out to the market – working alongside internal teams to develop a system that meets their needs, is future-proof and is cost efficient in the long term.

As one example, one of the biggest operational costs clients face in running their own in-house data centre is cooling and failure of this can result in significant downtime. Design teams will often aim to ensure that cooling systems are optimised across rack space but, when it comes to operation – FM teams need to be in the loop to work out whether different permutations of cooling systems will be easy to access and maintain.

As the industry attempts to meet best practice guidance set out by the BS EN 50600 standard, collaboration will become even more important. With both design and maintenance considerations in the guidelines, simply having one party at the table is unable to produce a cutting edge data centre any longer. Particularly if clients are tempted to overinvest in new technology without considering their current and expected capacity needs and the long term maintenance costs of these systems.

A partnering approach is essential to meet today’s data centre challenges

Our Associate Director, Jon Healy, sat down with DCS Europe to discuss market observations, our new services and the success of the business over the last year. You can read excerpts from the conversation below or see the full article in the summer edition of DCS Europe.

1.  For those that don’t know please can you describe Keysource and your role in summary?

Keysource is an international provider of solutions for business critical environments, including data centres. We have 35 years’ experience partnering with our customers to provide solutions and services that enable their technology requirements.

Our work spans the full lifecycle of the critical environment providing an ability to leverage a wide range of capability within the business.

As an Associate Director, and a member of the senior management team, my team and I are responsible for existing and new customer engagements, understanding the best way we can help customers and how our capabilities are best utilised.

Our passion is in understanding our customers’ businesses and how they use technology in order to deliver their objectives and drive benefits, often taking some innovative thinking to get there.

2. 35 years? Congratulations! Let’s not go back that far but what have Keysource been up to recently?

As technology changes so do the demands of the market and our customers’ requirements. We’ve continued to adopt a fresh strategy year-on-year to be able to continue meeting this.

The most significant change to the business in the last 18 months has been the development of our consultancy and professional services offering.

This approach allows us to work with our customers to better understand their data centre needs, including how they use and deliver these services, whether this be internally, externally or both.

In our view, having an understanding of how data centres fit within wider business objectives is now vital. And as customers’ adoption of virtualisation, cloud and other platforms continues, our role is becoming increasingly critical.

We’re very much of the view that given the normally significant investment and the long term nature of these solutions, they need to meet the customer’s needs both now and in the future. Working back from the application layer and infrastructure selection, where possible, enables a more informed and strategic process when it comes to both specifying the build of a data centre and assessing its future operation requirements.

Building on our critical facilities management offering, our additional service lines that support IT and network services have organically grown through long-term customer partnerships. We’ve seen these provide benefits akin to a managed service while also giving customers operational benefits including better efficiency and higher availability.

We also joined the Styles&Wood Group towards the end of last year. This has allowed us to offer a much wider range of property services to our customers while also providing critical environment expertise to new and existing customers from across the Group.

4. You’ve touched on the new consultancy led approach and Keysource have a well-known D&B service so, in a nutshell, what is Keysource’s offering?

We have structured our business to support our customers throughout the critical environment lifecycle.

Our consultants and professional services teams support strategy development, auditing, discovery exercises, and assessment of operational environments. We also advise clients during design-stages with a range of pre-construction services including business cases, permission and approvals, design development and tender creation.

Keysource’s project teams deliver critical projects from small works to major data centre builds with a range of flexible services. These include project management, turnkey construction, operational upgrades, and transformation as well as a full range of end-of-life services.

To complement this Keysource provide a full range of critical environment operational services through our facilities management specialism. From security, maintenance planning and management, to reactive on-site support, monitoring and optimisation. These are often tailored services to meet specific needs of the customer or operation.

5. Do you have an example of where these new front end services have provided real benefits for your customers?

For a recent contract, we were appointed right at the beginning of a client project. This meant we were involved in, and had an appreciation of, the broader business objectives and establishing the strategic need for the data centre.

Often these business objectives have a cost, time and risk implication. By discussing these openly with the customer and working with their in-house team to develop the brief and key deliverables, we were able to advise on a range of potential models with the client and ultimately arrive at the best approach to meet their needs.

Our consultants provide a wide range of services from market advice, strategy development, assessment services, transformation planning and design development.

The great thing about having a platform which brings together Keysources’ specialist consultants with client IT and facility teams is that decisions are so much more informed. As a result, the collective output quality is extremely high and clients can typically achieve better delivery while minimising cost and risk.

 10. You spoke at the beginning about the rapid changes in technology changing our approach to data centres. More generally, how do you see the approach to data centre design/build/operations developing over the coming years?

Development in the sector is as interesting as ever and there are a few different themes that will influence a change in how data centres are approached in the coming years.

Firstly, the ever growing cloud offering, facilitated by hyperscale data centre players, are evolving to better tailor their services and the way they are delivered, with need for data centre availability not necessarily always being a priority. Instead we expect to see more customers focus on flexibility to better accommodate an ever evolving IT-infrastructure layer and the ability to drive commercial efficiencies while maintaining service levels.

Questions around how the sector can provide the infrastructure for the Internet of Things (IoT), and the emergence of industries such as smart buildings, self-driving transport and consumer automation are also going to play a huge role in driving change. We expect growth in ‘Edge’ data centres and therefore identifying a need for regional presence will become prominent over the next 12 – 18 months. Professional data centre operators are already considering their strategies with this in mind and we expect this to continue.

Meanwhile legislation and regulations will continue to influence the market and the likes of the General Data Protection regulation (GDPR), information security and Brexit will continue to be factors in the decision making process.

There is also an ongoing focus on resilience at the application layer, and the way this is enabled can now take many different forms. As a result, the hybrid-approach that many have already adopted is set to continue as businesses look to respond to challenges in both the data centre market and their own industries.

One thing is for sure with no silver bullet in sight for customers. Navigating the endless options and aligning these with wider business strategies will be crucial in the success of any project requiring data centre services.

11. And how do you see Keysource developing to help address these trends?

Keysource is always looking ahead to understand how we can better support our customers with foreseen trends and the challenges that emerge alongside.

Strategy and approach are key to what physical assets and service are procured in order to deliver on customers’ requirements. And, support from trusted partners will continue to be needed.

One thing is for certain, our need to continue to innovate is key in order to provide the different ways of thinking and agility to a situation or problem.

Keysource retains Investors in People certification!

Following on from our blog last month on how we are trying to bridge the growing skills gap in the technical and engineering industry, we are proud to announce that we have successfully retained our Investors in People certification.

Valid for three years, this certification recognises our continuing commitment to staff development, training and wellbeing. As part of the process the company received special praise for the motivation of its people, its strong communication across all levels and its support for staff development.

The Investors in People Standard provides a practical framework for improving business performance and competitiveness through good practice in people management. We were first awarded the accreditation in 2009, joining 22,000 like-minded companies in the UK.

Stephen Whatling, Managing Director at Keysource, said:

“Our people are our most important asset and are key to our objective to be the ‘Critical Services Provider of Choice’. Over the last 12 months there have been some major changes at Keysource, the most significant of which was our acquisition by Styles&Wood Group Plc. It was really important for us to be able to continue communicating and developing our teams throughout this period, which has been reflected by the great feedback we received during this assessment. As part of the Styles&Wood Group we have even greater access to initiatives to support our people, including training programmes and flexible benefits packages.”

Robin Simpson of Investors in People South of England said:

“Maintaining accreditation against the Investors in People Standard is challenging for any organisation and is testimony to the continuing commitment of Keysource to its employees. This is especially noteworthy following a period of transition. The Company’s support for staff development and the open communication with its workforce are particular highlights, and bode well for continuing success in the future.”

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