It is a common refrain that the only thing businesses should be afraid of is standing still. This has been a guiding principle of ours at Telehouse since we built the very first European colocation facility in 1989. At the time construction started, desktops were just being introduced to the workplace, precipitating a huge upheaval in the way we worked. Twenty-five years on we continue to adapt to technological change, though the focus today is on harnessing the benefits of emerging technologies and in particular; Cloud computing. But how successful has Cloud adoption been across the UK? How does the role of the traditional data centre operator have to change in line with the exponential growth in the volume of data being handled? At the end of the day, Cloud represents more than just IaaS, PaaS and SaaS, it represents the gateway to the majority of current and future emerging technologies such as Big Data analytics or the Internet of Things.

How the land lies

As we look at the strategic environment IT departments face, it is no surprise that achieving success in the Cloud receives so much attention. From maximising budget efficiency to creating a scalable IT infrastructure that underpins future developments like M2M or BYOD, Cloud computing simply cannot be ignored. 59 percent of decision makers included in our recent survey confirmed they would be implementing Cloud in the next twelve months. In fact, read almost any research and you’ll see a similar Cloud growth story. Yet, from our experience, it is seldom to find a piece that is able to give a true holistic view of where the key challenges are for the IT department. What we’re missing is a ground-up approach to the analysis.

The starting point is clear from recent research we have conducted here at Telehouse. Forty-one percent of businesses surveyed are not planning on moving to the Cloud in the next 12 months and, tellingly, 58 percent of those not currently operating in the Cloud cite lack of knowledge or readiness as the deciding factor.

The challenge that has been laid down for our customers is therefore evident; it is to understand the boundaries between physical and virtual infrastructures and how a balance can be met in order to deliver the full potential of the Cloud. Migration, security, connectivity or legacy concerns usually stem from a lack of knowledge of the implications Cloud can have on an ICT infrastructure.

It is critical to recognise that Cloud computing starts far before deploying virtual machines. The challenges faced in hosting a customer’s SQL environment seven years ago are still as important in understanding where and how we need to develop. Harnessing knowledge like this is key to success. The fact is that gaining the right insight needed to effectively manage a Cloud environment lies in understanding a broader view of an IT strategy and there is no such thing as a one size fits all platform (no matter how simple Cloud washing may convey it.)

Equally, businesses need the connectivity that enables them to take full advantage of the New Internet. Extensive connectivity is necessary to keep up with emerging Cloud technologies and delivering local and global reach for the UK’s most progressive businesses.

Understanding the market

Given the trouble businesses are having assessing and understanding the full impact of the Cloud, it is vital that we clarify the marketplace and what is on offer. As things stand, in a world of always-on connectivity where data volumes are increasing exponentially, the market for data management, transmission and storage has become commoditised. It has become no less critical however.

There is room for the web-scale operators that compete primarily on price but it would be mistake to believe that these providers alone can cater for your Cloud needs. The data centre is the critical element of your Cloud strategy and provides the capability to securely migrate critical applications and connectivity needed to maximise the potential of emerging technologies.

Through a symbiotic relationship with these web-scale operators, our newest data centre, North Two is built around allowing businesses to harness the commercial benefits they can offer for non-critical applications, on top of the security guarantees and connectivity that Telehouse offers through Europe’s largest internet eco-system.

The new role of the data centre operator

Data centre operators must deliver a high-quality, consultative approach to guide organisations through the development of their Cloud strategy. Through our work with Telecloud, we have seen that constant consultation is the one way that businesses can realise the full potential of the Cloud. The reality is that the answer to overcoming challenges associated with Cloud success can lie in software, latency or even disk speed and it is the ability to extract and act upon in depth information that is critical in each and every project.

Only around ¼ of the conversations our pre-sales team hold with our customers relate to payment scalability and usage volume, with more customers keen to understand how Cloud can fit into an overall infrastructure strategy.

Cloud has great potential but if businesses don’t understand how to apply it properly, it’s full benefits will not come close to being realised and we run the risk of restricting ourselves when seeking new technologies in all areas of the ICT spectrum. In this current climate, data centre operators must take the lead and educate UK business as to the role that next generation data centres are playing in Cloud strategy. Without this, there will be a great opportunity missed.