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Is the Colocation Definition Changing?

The definition of colocation in Is the Colocation Definition Changing?the managed technology services industry has traditionally meant something like:

Internet service providers (ISPs) or cloud computing providers that furnish the floor space, electrical power and high-speed links to the Internet for a customer’s Web servers.

Wholesale data center services have usually differed from colocation regarding several factors.

Power Requirements

Colocation services have delivered more capacity and redundancy with electricity.

Over the past few years, wholesale data center providers have needed to increase power delivery.

For business-critical applications and heavy traffic workloads, wholesale customers need lots of electricity.

Service and Support Offerings

Wholesale data center services tend to be delivered in high volume, from a large cluster of physical servers or dense virtual servers. The customers that contract for these services tend to have many skilled IT personnel on staff, and don’t need the level of support retail colocation customers have.

Where skilled technical staff is hard to find, retail colocation services make more sense, and the lines of and definitions for wholesale data center and retail colocation get blurred. Some service providers have adjusted their SLA’s and service offerings and classified them as “wholo” data center services.

Contract Terms and Colocation Definition

Due to the physical scale and utility demands of wholesale services, a longer contract is usually required.

It also will require more capital investment outlay before systems and floor space is installed and configured.

As colocation providers consolidate expand and improve their service levels, customers are entering into longer contract terms with these providers to take advantage of contractual savings opportunities.

Elasticity of Demand

In the wholesale data center space, providers like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services offer usage-based pricing. Colocation customers also have peaks and valleys in their bandwidth and computing capacity utilization. Educated customers are demanding the same sorts of pricing models for colocation as their wholesale counterparts.


Software-defined data centers, virtualization software, and other data center infrastructure management (DCIM) software is changing the game for colocation customers. This offers better visibility into:

  • Bandwidth usage
  • Hardware performance
  • Power consumption

Retail colocation providers are offering more tools for their customers to monitor their systems and applications.

Cloud and Application Service Providers

You would think colocation and cloud providers would compete head-to-head.

However, cloud providers are scaling up their services with storage, security, upload and download capacity. For large application players like SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and Infor, wholesales data center providers make sense for delivering their applications to end users.

Niche cloud application providers cloud application providers that have traditionally partnered with retail colocation service providers are also pushing for services and contract terms previously only offered through wholesale data centers.

Cloud apps need to live somewhere, and for smaller SaaS providers, colocation services pale compared to those from wholesale vendors like Google, IBM, and Rackspace.

Big Data and the Internet of Things

For companies that collect, store and create a lot of data, storage capacity is vital.

The idea of migrating to another provider when you have many terabytes or petabytes of data is usually not very appealing.

Industry experts are suggesting companies that need real-time analytics from significant data stores should keep these systems in-house, or partner with a provider who can manage:

  • The application layer
  • The database layer
  • The analytics engine

Companies which collect readings from “things” like wearables, or gauges on machines and equipment meters require lots of bandwidth, redundancy, and uninterruptable power.

Like cloud services, big data and the IoT are opportunities which colocation service providers can either step up to with wholo services or lose out on lucrative contracts.


The colocation industry and the definition of colocation is evolving to meet changing technology, increased demand, and customer contract requirements.

Some analysts think wholesale/colocation services are blurring together, while others have suggested the differences are getting clearer.

What do you say? Are colocation services changing to the extent that they will be just another line item on a wholesale service provider’s price list? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!


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Topics: Data Center Colocation

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