Oh No CoLo, Go Go Godzilla (Apologies to Blue Oyster Cult)

October 27, 2010

A traditional Co-location has certain advantages and for some customers it makes a great deal of sense. At least it does at first blush. Take a look:

  • Colo is cheaper than doing it yourself as physical infrastructure costs are shared across a number of customers.
  • The hardware is yours, not the co-location company’s. This means you can scale in the manner you please versus what suits the business model of the co-location company. The potential downside is that this assumes you were smart enough to pre-buy the space to grow into…
  • The software is yours, too. You are not limited to the management suite provided by the co-location company. Use what you wish.
  • Colo centers are usually more robust than a typical business environment. They deploy more physical security in an environment that is designed to properly manage power (multiple generators on-site for example) and the risks associated with fire and other natural disasters.
  • Upgrade paths are determined by you versus the hosting provider.

But what about the cost side of the equation? What does that look like? It goes without saying that it is (usually) cheaper to use a provider like SoftLayer to host your gear, but by how much? We have built a relatively simple model to get at some of these answers.

Assumptions:

  • A mix of 75 small servers (Xeon 5503, 2 GB RAM, 250 GB SATA) and 75 large servers (Xeon 5520, 3 GB RAM, 250 GB SATA)
  • Colo pricing was based on $100 per U per month, or $2,500 per 40U rack per month cost. Colo capex assumed the same base configuration but at current market prices.
  • We assumed a $199 price point for SoftLayer’s small servers and $359 for large servers
  • Bandwidth consumption of 2500 GB per server per month (this is about 50% of what we see in house). A price of $50 per Mbps was used.
  • A refresh schedule of 50% at 36 months, 25% at 48 months and 25% at 60 months

So what do the numbers tell us? Well, I think it paints a pretty compelling picture for SoftLayer. The 60 month Total Cash Outlay (TCO) for Colocation is 131% of the SoftLayer cost.

Total Cash Outlay

  Collocation Softlayer
Initial Capital Expenditure (Cash Outlay) $341,700 $0
Monthly Recurring Charges $64,778 $60,450
60 Month TCO $4,740,917 $3,627,000

In addition to the total cash outlay, we can add in a bunch of additional “hassle costs” – the hassle of driving to the DC in the middle of the night for an emergency, the hassle of doing your own software patching, setting up your own monitoring, waiting on hardware delivery (and you are not going to be first in line given your volumes are likely to be low compared to SoftLayer), the hassle of booking assets to the balance sheet, depreciation entries, salvage accounting entries, actual equipment disposal, downtime while you perform upgrades – ugh, the list is almost endless.

The argument for a SoftLayer solution is pretty strong based on the numbers alone. And I think that they ought to be persuasive enough for most to rethink a colocation decision. That said colocation decisions are not made from a cost perspective alone.

For example:

  • Issues around data integrity and security often drive companies to adopt a corporate philosophy that dictates co-location (or an on premise solution) over an outsourced solution. There is a deemed corporate need to have data / applications running over their own iron. Indeed, for many, colocation represents a significant and progressive decision.
  • Many companies have infrastructure in place and a decision will not be made to veer from the current solution until a technology refresh is in order. Never mind that fact that a transition to an outsourced solution (and this is the case when lots of things are outsourced, not just infrastructure) can generate significant internal anxiety.

Many outsourcing adoption models seem to show a similar trend. To a degree much of this becomes a market evolution consideration.

  1. Adoption is very slow to start. Companies do not understand the new model and as a result do not trust vendor promises of cost savings and service delivery. To be fair to customers, service delivery for many solutions is poor at the beginning and cost savings often disappear as a result.
  2. The vendor population responds to initial concerns regarding service delivery and perceptions around cost savings. Innovation drives significant improvements from a product and service delivery perspective. The solution now seems more viable and adoption picks up.
  3. For some services (payroll is a good example), the cost savings of outsourcing the solution are realized across the marketplace with excellent service delivery and support being commonplace. We are close to mass market adoption, but some companies will opt to keep things in house regardless.

So where are we on the evolutionary curve? That is a difficult question to answer as there are numerous things to consider dependent upon where you want to look.

For most SMBs, outsourcing functions like HR/Payroll or their IT infrastructure is a no brainer – capital is not as readily available and existing staff is likely overburdened making sure everything else works. At the end of the day, the desire is to focus on running their business, not the technology that enables it. The decision is relatively easy to make.

As we go further up the food chain, the decision matrix gets infinitely more complex driven by an increase in geographic reach (local – national – international), an increase in the complexity of requirements, an increase in the number (and complexity) of systems being used and typically large IT organization that can be a terrific driving (or drowning?) force in the organization. The end result is that decisions to outsource anything are not easy to reach. Outsourcing occurs in pockets and SoftLayer certainly sees some of this where enterprise customers use us for a few things versus everything.

At the end of the day, the hosting market will continue to be multifaceted. All businesses are not alike and different needs (real or otherwise) will drive different business decisions. While I believe colocation will remain a viable solution, I believe that it will be less important in the future. The advantages presented by companies like SoftLayer only get more powerful over time, and we are going to be ready.

-Mike

Comments

November 9th, 2010 at 11:57pm

Mike, $50/Mbps is not a real number these days, less yet for some considerable value. Even expensive transit like Internap is way cheaper at this volume (you calculated 2.5TB each of the 150 servers, total 375TB, that is around a bit more than 1Gbps of sustained usage).

June 17th, 2011 at 8:26am

Another thing is - you solely make the price on SoftLayer services smaller by basing upon base price. After my calculations - colocation is cheaper for my needs. But then again - it's likely more expensive when considering on demand and so on.

May 31st, 2012 at 9:39am

$50/Mbit and $2,500/rack are insane numbers. Those aren't averages by any means, you can get a full rack on average with 40 amps for roughly $1200/month and bandwidth, depending on how much you commit.... but let's say at 100Mbit, you can get it around $5-10/Mbit.

With those numbers, colocation is much cheaper than going directly with Softlayer. The only benefit with going with a provider such as Softlayer is that you don't have to worry about spare parts / hardware replacements and that's what you pay a premium for. If you are local and have spare parts near by, it's always cheaper to colo.

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Comments

November 9th, 2010 at 11:57pm

Mike, $50/Mbps is not a real number these days, less yet for some considerable value. Even expensive transit like Internap is way cheaper at this volume (you calculated 2.5TB each of the 150 servers, total 375TB, that is around a bit more than 1Gbps of sustained usage).

June 17th, 2011 at 8:26am

Another thing is - you solely make the price on SoftLayer services smaller by basing upon base price. After my calculations - colocation is cheaper for my needs. But then again - it's likely more expensive when considering on demand and so on.

May 31st, 2012 at 9:39am

$50/Mbit and $2,500/rack are insane numbers. Those aren't averages by any means, you can get a full rack on average with 40 amps for roughly $1200/month and bandwidth, depending on how much you commit.... but let's say at 100Mbit, you can get it around $5-10/Mbit.

With those numbers, colocation is much cheaper than going directly with Softlayer. The only benefit with going with a provider such as Softlayer is that you don't have to worry about spare parts / hardware replacements and that's what you pay a premium for. If you are local and have spare parts near by, it's always cheaper to colo.

Leave a Reply

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