How data center providers are responding to Covid-19

How data center providers are responding to Covid-19

As many organizations were forced to shift their operations or completely shut down due to Covid-19, data centers are forced to find solutions to maintain their operations running 24/7. Data centers are the backbone of the internet and people rely on them more than ever before, they cannot make any compromises.

We have been surprised how most providers have reacted quickly and effectively to the situation considering how much logistics are involved in operating critical infrastructure. Making sure that the SLA promised to all clients is respected while limiting human contact and public safety recommendations is no easy task

To have an inside view of what has been going on in the field, we organized a (remote) interview with James Beer, SVP of Operations for eStruxture Data Centers, a Montreal-based data center colocation provider.


MC: What data center specific measures have you taken in reaction to the pandemic? Are those procedures the same in all your pan-Canadian data centers?

JB:

As we know, data centers are deemed an essential service and our data centers have remained operational and accessible 24×7. As soon as the global guidance around social distancing was in effect we immediately rolled out our business continuity plans across all our sites.

Here are the main measures that we rolled out:

  • Enhanced site cleaning and sanitization
  • We enforced social distancing measures for employees and customers alike
  • We implemented rotational shift schedules in order to minimize the number of our on-site staff while still ensuring coverage for 24/7 support and security
  • We advised customers to avoid coming on-site and incentivized them to use our remote hands services by deeply discounting our service rate.
  • We requested for advanced customer notification before coming on-site
  • Where possible, physical separation of operations and construction and trades
  • We also implemented some physical security changes [note: cannot disclose these details]

MC: We see a lot of diverging info about the increase in internet traffic. As you are on the front lines of the internet, has your network seen an important increase in demand? Have customers been ordering more connectivity services recently (namely cross-connects)?

JB:

While we have indeed seen an increase in traffic demand, our provisioned capacity allows a lot of traffic scale-up. Cross-connect demand is not atypical for us and we tend to see a lot of cross-connects on a regular basis, thus we are accustomed to the volumes. Also, carriers have continued to install customers regularly, which is a positive sign. We are confident that the coronavirus will not break the internet! Our tier 1 carrier partners architect and build their networks to support big traffic growth.

MC: How can customers adapt their infrastructure to the growing IT demand while following government instructions to reduce travel? How can data center providers solve this challenge?

JB:
This is where disaster recovery and business continuity plans come in handy! We know many companies have robust remote work policies and procedures in place but they may not always be designed to accommodate their entire workforce, as is the case now, with the current pandemic. Data center operators like us can help their customers weather this situation by being an extension of their IT team and offering managed services, easy to deploy bandwidth services as well as remote hands and eyes services.

MC: All types of transportation have been greatly reduced. Were fueling contracts for backup generators affected? Have any force-majeure clauses been put into action to adjust SLAs?

JB:

So far we are not seeing any impact on service contracts. Our suppliers are well prepared and accustomed to working in difficult situations (such as ice storms, emergency conditions, etc.). They have been deemed as essential services and we are supporting them to ensure that they can support us.

MC: Organizations that self-host their IT have been living a true nightmare recently. Do you expect an increase in demand from businesses migrating their infrastructure from on-prem to colocation data centers when the situation will become better? Is this finally the wake up call that IT managers needed to do IT right? (ie: Colo + Cloud)

JB:

The pandemic showed us that while an organization’s infrastructure remains intact but is physically inaccessible due to social distancing policies it can quickly become a liability. Thus, we think that gradually, more organizations will want physical infrastructure to be run by dedicated providers such as us because we can do this safely and at scale. Indeed, at eStruxture we are seeing increased data center migration work to move to our sites. We are working with our customers to help them move their equipment and offering them discounted rates in order to relieve some of the financial burden during these times. Some of this activity has been slowed down by the pandemic but it’s happening.

We believe that the hybrid colocation + cloud deployment model offers the best in flexibility, ability to scale quickly and cost advantage. The Hybrid IT model has been at the core of digital transformation for a while now and will also help organizations endure and thrive during this unexpected shift in business dynamics.

But let’s not forget the silver lining: the pandemic has led us to redesign the way we live our every day lives, to adapt to a “new normal”. Similarly, it presents an opportunity to redesign our critical infrastructure by focusing not only on efficiency but also on resiliency, redundancy, scalability. The time to accelerate an organization’s digital transformation is definitely now.

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