One of the potential shared services currently being investigated is shared data centres. There are numerous drivers for shared (or at least outsourced) data centres. Space is an issue for a number of institutions – as the number of IT driven services increases so do the space requirements of the data centre, even if there is a level of virtualisation of services. Power is also an issue; in many metropolitan areas power consumption is such that there is no guarantee of an uninterrupted service. There are environmental issues – most data centres are old and fairly inefficient and there is also a desire to utilise more sustainable power sources.
There have been three feasibility studies carried out to date. Two had broadly similar agendas in that they were looking at building or investing in external data centres which are then shared, either by individual institutions renting space within the facility or by shared ownership and occupancy. The third model looked at using existing capacity within facilities within a region and distributing services across the region.
I met with JANET (UK) yesterday who have been tasked with developing an overall strategy for shared data centres for the sector. The feasibility studies have all reported back and I understand have been reasonably positive. The next step is to establish the appetite within the sector and the capability of suppliers to deliver solutions. Once this has been established, it should be possible to establish what is feasible and a draft strategy should then follow. So far discussions have been held with the IT side; there has been no attempt to engage with Finance or Estates Directors. Clearly there will need to be engagement with both communities if shared data centres are to become a reality. But there are better economies of scale if there is good take up. So there is a question of timing – if you start to talk with these communities too early then you risk only engaging with those that already understand the issue. Having talked around the issue, the conclusion was that it is better to establish the strategy backed up with some case studies to present what can really be achieved rather than talking around the theory. Assuming the business case exists, engaging the finance and estates communities at this stage should ensure that shared data centres emerge.