What do YOU prefer: a ‘self-service’ cloud provider or rather a ‘services-included’ cloud provider?

It took some time to convince businesses to migrate to the cloud – and there is still a certain percentage that hasn’t done so. They didn’t quite trust their applications and data would be secure. But now that many companies – large and small – see the advantages of the cloud, we get the opposite problem: there is too much trust.

People subscribe to cloud services paying peanuts, yet not expecting monkeys

A couple of years ago now, we had a clear case showing the difference. A large data center was struck by lightning. As a consequence, the clients of the data centre saw the light. The data centre lost some client data. They pointed out to their clients that it was their own fault. It’s the clients’ responsibility to take the necessary precautions to secure their data, not the cloud provider’s role to handle this, so they said. So these clients started realising that a self-service cloud does not entirely mean services are included. Quite on the contrary. The media reported that the clients’ calls weren’t answered. Whether literally no one was there or rather that they hadn’t planned to provide any service at all and therefore wouldn’t answer the calls: the clients were left in the cold.

People really want to be cheated, don’t they?

Do you really think that paying for cloud space with a credit card and without any personal contact would get you the same service as when buying from a real person who has listened to your needs? I don’t think so.

When you purchase from a cloud provider you can actually call someone and discuss your specific needs. These cloud providers generally have custom features. And the fact that you can speak to someone, really means that you can get support, as opposed to the situation where there’s no one you can call so no one to listen to your needs and able to support you. There are plenty of service-included cloud providers around: Joos Hybrid, Nucleus, Proact, Sentia, Tobania, just to name the ones we house.

There are no miracles, sorry…

People’s salaries represent a certain cost. If you want to be able to talk to someone, get custom features and/or support, that involves a person and a salary, so you pay the price. If you buy cloud space cheaply, that just means no human time is included. Did you agree to a standard offering? Watch it when you want to change your order. That also implies service.

At LCL, we house a lot of companies, government organisations and systems integrators requiring cloud services. We hear a lot of stories about cloud offerings being non-transparent, non-scalable, and financially unpredictable once you step outside what you initially signed for. If you buy into a standard, cheap offer, and you want to scale up or down, you’re dependant on your supplier. And as there’s no one who knows you, there’s no one to discuss your Frankly? Probably no one really cares beyond the monthly turnover. Meaning: unless you fit into the standard flow and all goes well, it’s plug-and-pray time. With some bad luck, you’re screwed.

A data centre is an ecosystem

When you choose a real data centre, especially one with a customer intimacy-strategy such as LCL, you enter an ecosystem. You have access to all the cloud providers you can wish for, the anonymous ‘self-service’ ones as well as the ‘service-included’ ones. We’re there to advise and accompany you. We want to understand your needs and make sure you get the solution that’s right for you. Because that’s the only way to build valuable long-term partnerships. And as we know our clients, we care for them to stay!

Laurens

Do you really want to give up your freedom?

It continues to amaze me that people choose to house their servers in data centers owned by telecom operators.

Carrier-neutral data centers allow a great deal more freedom of movement.

Network-neutral data centers offer meet-me rooms, where you can have redundant connections to a number of different operators.

 

Every type of connection is possible. And if, say, one network provider suffers a malfunction, you can fall back on your connection to another network provider that is unaffected.

As an independent (i.e. carrier-neutral, cloud-neutral and system integrator-neutral) data center, LCL is connected to more than 30 carriers, using MPLS, IP VPN, internet backbone (IP Transit), dark fiber, BNIX, Voice over IP or video connectivity services.

A fiber cut recently occurred in Zaventem when a contractor accidentally drilled through some glass fiber cables. A number of network operators experienced problems as a result. Customers that had double connections at our data centers, however, remained up and running.

Furthermore, competition between telecom providers has pushed prices down. A carrier that owns a data center may, however, make it difficult to switch provider when a competitor cuts prices. This is referred to as vendor lock-in.

Competition encourages providers to set themselves apart as carriers and offer the best levels of service and availability. With a network-neutral data carrier, you can benefit from this because you can switch network provider at any time without having to move your servers. You are also the first to benefit from new offers from carriers.

Moreover, a carrier neutral data center allows you to connect directly to the cloud provider of your choice, whether public or private. This means you can choose between different cloud providers right from the start and can switch flexibly between different cloud environments.

Why would you deliberately decide to limit your freedom at a time when freedom is so important? Perhaps the time has come to rethink your data center strategy. A data center migration is a once-only investment that is certain to pay off in the long term.

 

Laurens van Reijen, Managing Director at LCL

Let’s join forces for data center outsourcing

Over the past years, I have made attempts, with the Dutch Datacenter Association, to set up a Belgian Datacenter Association in one form or another, in order to promote the interests of data centers in our country.

This organization will put us on the international map owing to the unique position we hold in the heart of Europe, with London and Paris just 5 milliseconds away and Amsterdam even closer. You can probably relate to the idea.

Belgians not only have a brick in their stomach, they clearly also have a data center or server room in their stomach.

In terms of data center outsourcing, our country must be ranked like bottom of the list. People do not feel comfortable if their server is not in their basement, as it were.

 

When I hear CIOs talk about how their management views the potential outsourcing of their data center, I sometimes feel as if I am back in the Middle Ages.

But in those days there were fortresses, of course, and people did not need electricity. Today, the needs of businesses are somewhat more sophisticated, and internal data centers or server rooms are slightly more vulnerable than a fortress armory.

Given this, jointly promoting external data centers would be a very useful exercise.

Unfortunately, most Belgian data center businesses only pay lip service to collaboration. They limit themselves to their own daily challenges, rather than investing time in joining forces, let alone looking beyond national borders.

Of course, I am Dutch. I have seen genuine efforts in this area in the Netherlands, and they are bearing fruit. But in Belgium, LCL’s is a lone voice in the wilderness.

 

Laurens van Reijen, Managing Director LCL

Data security doesn’t really seem to be a priority…

1-enquete-disaster-recoveryA survey of Belgian, quoted companies, commissioned by LCL, shows that only 3% of the targeted companies ever test their power backup systems by actually turning off the electricity. Meaning that they will only learn whether or not the power backup systems work when there is a power cut. That’s like buying skis and not trying them on before you actually hit the snow. Or going hiking with brand new boots, straight from your favourite online shop. The only guaranteed result is sore feet.

We’ve all read and heard what deficient power backup systems can lead to. Remember the power cut at Eurocontrol? The business world couldn’t believe the company shut down just like that, by lack of well functioning backup systems.

We knew that many companies are only theoretically prepared for the worst-case power scenarios. But we never expected it to be that many. 97% of the companies plug their power backup and pray; that’s like: as good as everybody. In France, they expect to have an electricity shortage of 5 GW next week. Knowing that we generally import electricity from France, next week could represent a live test for the companies concerned…

Another astonishing fact is that 53% of the surveyed companies doesn’t have a second data center. Meaning, that in case of any disaster, not just a power cut, they have a big problem. More over: only a minority of companies interviewed said they were planning to set up a second data center.

This shows that data security is not seen as essential within IT governance, not even with quoted companies. How many Board members are aware that data security is taken so lightly in their company? More and more, ICT is on the Board’s agenda, and rightly so. All we need to do now, is educate Board members so that they can evaluate the security systems in their company/ies, and make sure that they really are as safe as they should be.

Laurens van Reijen, Managing Director LCL

Comatose servers: things will get worse before they get better

shutterstock_71528611Thirty percent of servers around the world are doing nothing at all. They are switched on, ready for service, and actively draw power and consume resources such as cooling, yet no-one would notice if someone decided to turn them off.
Articles are published on the energy use of data centers with clockwork regularity. It’s said that, at a global level, data centers consume as much energy as a large country such as the United Kingdom. Their carbon footprint is claimed to be roughly the same as that of the aviation industry. On a more positive note, there are signs that the energy consumption of data centers is stabilizing, although a great deal of work still needs to be done.

Forgotten servers
It goes without saying that one of the simplest ways to waste less energy is to turn off what are known as ‘zombie’ servers. You may wonder why this hasn’t happened yet. The main reason is probably that at most companies the electricity bill isn’t paid by the head of IT. In fact, the IT staff has no idea how high the bill is. This means they have no incentive to check which servers are actually being used.

Does the cloud create more zombies?
The fact that 30 percent of servers are comatose is old news. Consultancy firm Anthesis Group and Jonathan Koomey, a researcher at Stanford University, published a study on this subject in 2015 and a number of other past studies reached the same conclusion. I’m afraid that little improvement is expected in the next few years. Companies are moving more and more applications to the cloud, but this doesn’t always lead to a reduction in the number of servers at those companies. It will come as no surprise, then, that the number of servers is growing considerably worldwide. The number of comatose servers therefore tracks the rising popularity of the cloud.
This is somewhat ironic, as one would expect the cloud to bring about a more efficient use of server space. This will undoubtedly be the case in the long run, but we need to pull the plugs on the old servers first.
But the problem comes down to more than just the tendency of IT departments to expand their collection of servers. What about the ever-growing mountain of unused data stored by most companies? Most organizations have spent a great deal of time and money collecting this information and therefore hang onto it for dear life. Data doesn’t come with an expiration date, and so no-one actually gets rid of obsolete data. Instead, it fills up servers that in turn consume power and resources.

Data centers are part of the solution
One part of the solution would be for more companies to make the transition to a professional data center. It’s surprising that so many companies still run their own server rooms, which aren’t always managed with the same level of expertise as professional data centers. Even if we disregard the questionable security of their corporate data, companies that run their own server rooms also make very inefficient use of server space, cooling and the like.
Owing to the scale of professional data centers, we can invest more in efficient climate control, leading to lower energy consumption. LCL’s ISO 14001 certification is confirmation of our ongoing efforts to reduce the environmental footprint of our data centers. If all of the servers currently kept in in-house server rooms were moved to independent data centers, the global ecological footprint of the sector would be greatly reduced.

Moreover, the IT managers of LCL’s customers know full well how much electricity their servers consume each month. They can see this clearly and transparently in the invoices they receive, which are paid for out of the ICT budget. Customers of professional data centers know that it’s in their interests to seek out comatose servers and keep power consumption under control.
When it comes to excessive energy consumption, the finger of blame is often pointed at data centers. The facts, however, show that well managed data centers contribute to a more efficient and rational use of energy in the data storage sector.

Laurens van Reijen, Managing Director LCL

Liggen onze overheden wakker van de veiligheid van hun data?

Brussel
Brussel
Het bankwezen in België heeft de boodschap begrepen. De Nationale Bank van België (NBB) heeft eind 2015 een circulaire rondgestuurd naar alle Belgische financiële instellingen met richtlijnen voor hun operationele bedrijfscontinuïteit en databeveiliging. Wie wil er nu niet dat zijn zuurverdiende centen veilig zijn? Banken hebben een kritieke rol in het financieel systeem en een groot maatschappelijk belang. Het spreekt dus voor zich dat zij voorzorgsmaatregelen nemen tegen operationele schade, verstoringen van het elektriciteitsnet of diefstal. De circulaire stelt dat een financiële instelling steeds moet beschikken over twee datacenters, minimaal Tier III, die niet binnen dezelfde stedelijke agglomeratie liggen en minimaal 15 km uit elkaar. Minder dan 15 km mag, maar dan mits voldoende onderbouwde risicoanalyse voor te leggen aan de NBB. Bijkomende voorzorgsmaatregelen en/of uitwijk- en hersteloplossingen worden voorzien op een afstand van tenminste 100 km. Minder dan 100 km mag, maar dan ook mits voldoende onderbouwde risicoanalyse.

Hoe zit het nu met de overheidsdata? De federale overheid gebruikt veelal 4 datacentra die centraal in Brussel zitten vlakbij de kleine ring en een datacenter in Anderlecht. De afstand tussen de gebouwen gaan van een paar kilometer tot de verste afstand van 5 à 6 km. Dit valt zeker niet onder de bovenbeschreven normen van de Nationale Bank.

Gooi een bom op Brussel en niet alleen alle belangrijke overheidsinstellingen zijn van de kaart geveegd, ook hun gevoelige data. De meeste overheden bevinden zich in het hart van onze hoofdstad, zowel met de eigen server rooms als de externe datacenters. Een blikseminslag of een langdurige verstoring van het elektriciteitsnetwerk is al voldoende om een overheidsinstelling lam te leggen, en daarbij alle kritische gegevens. Conclusie: de datacenters en back-up datacenters van onze overheden zijn niet opgewassen tegen een panne op hetzelfde stadsstroomnetwerk. Zij worden dus bij een stadsbrede stroompanne allebei getroffen. Brussel is bovendien een hoge risicozone. Dat wil zeggen dat de kans er op een natuurlijke ramp of een terroristische aanval veel groter is dan in pakweg Aalst of Antwerpen.

Kunnen onze overheden zich deze risico’s veroorloven? Zij beschikken over gevoelige data over u en ik, belastingaangiftes, onze sociale zekerheid, data over de financiële gezondheid van ons land, data over gesprekken tussen politieke partijen, naties. Kortom: informatie die altijd consulteerbaar moet zijn. Moeten deze data niet extra beschermd worden? Door ontdubbeling in een back-up datacenter buiten onze hoofdstad bijvoorbeeld?

De NBB geeft het goede voorbeeld.

Hoe komt het dat onze overheden ogenschijnlijk niet wakker liggen van interne of externe veiligheidsrisico’s? Vindt u ook niet dat de richtlijnen/regels voor betalingsinstellingen, verzekeraars en kredietverstrekkers ook zouden moeten gelden voor overheden? Binnen de overheid heerst een tendens die zegt dat zij zelf de datacenters moet beheren. Is het niet efficiënter om dit aan externen over te laten met goede SLA’s?

Laurens van Reijen, Managing Director LCL

Cost comparison inhouse versus outsourced

A Engineer E 003 591
LCL Belgium

Is outsourcing the new norm in the land of data centers?

As the world becomes more and more global, organizations are constantly working to improve their performance while their budgets keep being cut. What should they invest in, and where should they make cuts, to ensure they can still grow? Following recent scandals involving the NSA, data security and privacy are now higher on the agenda than ever before. Should organizations invest in their own server rooms or data centers, or are they better off using an external data center?

Generally speaking, organizations that handle matters in-house have to contend with higher setup costs and make greater investments, but they expect to have lower operating costs in subsequent years. Given the ever-growing threats to security and privacy, organizations need to take every precaution to protect their data, and so there should be no economizing when it comes to data centers. But with money being tight, funding difficult to obtain, and the economy in poor shape, the setup costs present a challenge for many organizations. And that’s not all.

Our extensive research into the cost of in-house and external data centers and server rooms shows that for larger organizations the operating costs of an in-house data center are as high as those of an external data center. For smaller organizations, with only 7-8 racks, operating costs are somewhat lower if they have an in-house data center than if they have an external partner. Given that the investment they make lasts for about 10 years, this means there is a large question mark. It is also important to remember that, in addition to a quality server room or data center, there also needs to be a disaster fall-back solution, in other words a second server room or data center, in order to be really safe.

We presented our research to some larger companies, which confirmed the numbers. They felt the numbers might even have underestimated the true situation: the operating expenses of an in-house data center are probably higher than those associated with an external partner, rather than being comparable, given the lack of economies of scale. Moreover, one IT manager of a listed company admitted that in these difficult economic times he had trouble convincing his CEO of the need for certain investments in their in-house data center. He felt that data protection at their organization was not up to scratch. A quality external data center has data protection and privacy as its core business, and so I can imagine that outsourcing reduces stress levels for some IT managers, because they know for sure that their data is secure and will remain so, no matter what new threats appear on the horizon. Plus there is, as always, the issue of politics, when it comes to insourcing or outsourcing.

This is all food for thought. I wish all IT managers peaceful days and restful nights. Do you want to double-check our numbers for yourself? If so, contact me at laurens.van.reijen@lcl.be.

Laurens van Reijen, CEO of LCL data centers