Data center managed services, integrated with cloud solutions, are increasingly vital for companies looking to efficiently outsource their IT infrastructure. These services extend beyond the traditional data center infrastructure of space, power, and cooling, offering organizations added value, which enables them to concentrate more on achieving their strategic business objectives.

Data center managed services involve external providers handling the comprehensive management of an organization’s data center infrastructure, including physical and virtual components. These services allow organizations to outsource IT operations and maintenance across various environments.

From exploring the various types of data center managed services available, to understanding the advantages they offer, Dgtl Infra’s comprehensive guide delves into every aspect. This includes a comparison between traditional managed data centers and fully managed facilities, clearly defining the differences. We also examine the distinctions between managed services and cloud-based alternatives, providing insights into the evolving landscape of data center management.

What are Data Center Managed Services?

Data center managed services involve third-party providers offering comprehensive management and support for a data center’s physical and virtual infrastructure, including servers, storage systems, networking equipment, virtual machines (VMs), and security systems. Typically offered by a managed service provider (MSP), these services ensure continuous 24/7 monitoring and maintenance of the data center, executed on-site by highly-skilled engineers and technicians.

Professional Uses a Tablet to Analyze Information in Large Server Rooms

Data center managed services enable organizations to outsource their day-to-day IT operations. This includes server and storage management, as well as the handling of facilities operations, which involves managing power supplies and cooling systems. Using these services offers an alternative to traditional on-premises data center and IT strategies. These services are versatile, capable of monitoring and managing data center environments located at a customer’s site, in a colocation data center, or within public or hybrid cloud setups.

Organizations often turn to data center managed services when they have an existing facility that already meets their business and IT needs in terms of redundancy, capacity, and security. In cases where an organization prefers not to maintain the staff necessary to run the data center, they contract with an external service provider to manage both the facility and its hardware.

Role of Data Center Managed Services

The primary objective of data center managed services is to reduce the workload of an organization’s IT staff or to eliminate these personnel altogether. By doing so, organizations can focus more on strategic business objectives and managing the applications that run on these systems, rather than maintaining the data center’s infrastructure.

Data center managed services aim to ensure the optimal performance and reliability of the data center facilities and IT equipment. To clarify and solidify the relationship between the managed service provider (MSP) and the customer, service level agreements (SLAs) are usually established. These agreements detail the expected level of service and outline each party’s responsibilities.

Organizations commonly start using data center managed services when faced with challenges such as unplanned service outages, a patchwork of monitoring solutions, and difficulties in rapidly hiring and training staff to meet the evolving demands of their data centers.

Types of Data Center Managed Services

Data center managed services comprise a wide range of offerings that help organizations manage and maintain their data center infrastructure. These managed services are the on-site technical support functions performed by a third-party provider on behalf of its customers.

Engineer Works on Laptop in Brightly Lit Server Farm Rooms

Here are common examples of data center managed services:

  1. Server Management: This service comprises the setup, maintenance, and monitoring of servers. Key activities include server configuration, server rebooting, software updates, patch management for operating systems and applications, and performance monitoring. It also covers managed hosting, where dedicated servers and hardware are leased to a customer, with the service provider responsible for maintenance, security, and uptime. On-site assistance, such as “remote hands” or “smart hands”, are part of this service
  2. Storage Management: This involves managing data storage systems, including SAN (Storage Area Network), NAS (Network-Attached Storage), and cloud storage services. The focus is on secure, scalable, and efficient data storage that is easily accessible. Additionally, database services provide customization, performance tuning, operation, administration, and monitoring for various database platforms, such as MySQL and SQL database systems
  3. Network Management: This service includes the administration and maintenance of the data center’s network infrastructure like switches, routers, firewalls, and load balancers. It ensures optimal performance and security, involving monitoring network performance through a Network Operations Center (NOC), designing and maintaining private network systems for customers, implementing security protocols, and optimizing data transfer and accessibility
  4. Cloud Management: This service implements, manages, and optimizes cloud-based resources and services, with a focus on efficiency, security, and cost-effectiveness in cloud computing environments. This includes providing direct private connections to major public cloud platforms, including Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure, and offering managed private cloud servers and storage services to assist in hybrid cloud integration and operation
  5. Disaster Recovery and Backup: This service offers strategies for data backup and system restoration in the event of a disaster or disruption, aiming to minimize downtime and data loss. Disaster recovery involves managing major incidents and ensuring business continuity, helping organizations recover from these events
  6. Security and Compliance Services: These services range from identity and access control to intrusion detection, firewall management, virus/malware protection, and security audits to protect the data center from cyber threats. It also ensures compliance with standards and regulations like GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI-DSS
  7. Infrastructure Management: This managed service platform operates physical data center facilities like power systems, cooling systems, and security systems, ensuring an optimal environment for server operation
  8. Virtualization Management: This involves managing virtualized server environments, including the deployment, maintenance, and optimization of virtual machines (VMs) for efficient resource utilization
  9. Performance Monitoring and Optimization: This includes continuous monitoring and management of data center infrastructure to ensure optimal performance. It involves utilization reporting, resource management, change management, and capacity planning, and adheres to standards like ISO/IEC 20000-1, ISO/IEC 27001, and ISO 22301

Benefits of Managed Data Center Services

Managed data center services offer a range of benefits to organizations, particularly in terms of cost efficiency, increased reliability and uptime, expertise and support, enhanced security and compliance, and scalability and flexibility.

Management Control Room that has Multiple Computer Screens for Monitoring

Here are five main benefits of managed data center services:

  1. Cost Efficiency: Outsourcing to a managed data center can be more cost-effective than maintaining an on-premises data center. It eliminates the capital expenditures associated with building and maintaining physical infrastructure. Additionally, the operational costs can be more predictable and manageable, as many services are offered on a monthly subscription basis
  2. Increased Reliability and Uptime: Managed data center services are designed to ensure high availability and reliability. They feature redundant systems for power, cooling, and connectivity, which minimizes the risk of downtime. This reliability is crucial for businesses such as financial services firms, healthcare providers, media and technology companies, and retail corporations, which rely on constant data access and uptime for their operations
  3. Expertise and Support: Managed data center providers typically have a team of engineers and technicians who are well-versed in the latest technologies and best practices. This expertise means that businesses can benefit from the latest technologies and efficient data center management without needing to invest in training or hiring specialized staff. Additionally, these services come with 24/7 support, ensuring that any issues are promptly addressed
  4. Enhanced Security and Compliance: Managed data centers typically provide advanced security measures, including both physical and cyber protections, to safeguard sensitive data. They adhere to strict compliance standards, ensuring that customer data is managed in accordance with legal and regulatory requirements like GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI-DSS. This aspect is crucial for businesses handling sensitive information and those under stringent regulatory scrutiny
  5. Scalability and Flexibility: Managed data centers offer the flexibility to scale resources up or down based on the organization’s changing needs. This scalability ensures that businesses can quickly adapt to growth or changes in user demands without the need for significant upfront investments in additional infrastructure

Managed Data Center Service Companies

Managed data center service companies play a critical role in providing data center resources, including hardware, software, security, private cloud, and maintenance services. They are distinct from another data center outsourcing model, namely colocation.

While colocation data center providers, who supply space, power, and cooling, can provide managed services as well, many choose to outsource these services to specialized third-party providers, rather than employing and training their own staff for these specific tasks.

Managed data center service companies are complementary partners to colocation providers, relying on the latter’s infrastructure of space, power, and cooling to offer IT solutions to their customers. They distinguish themselves by actively engaging with customer data, accessing and managing servers, and handling network operations. They go beyond merely providing physical infrastructure, which is the primary role of colocation providers, by offering comprehensive data-related services.

Two Technicians Collaborating Together on Data Center Managed Services

Managed Services vs Colocation in a Data Center

The table below compares two common data center service models: managed services and retail colocation, highlighting their differences.

Managed ServicesColocation
DefinitionProvider manages and maintains IT hardware, software, and laborCustomer rents floor space in a third-party data center
OwnershipProvider owns equipment, which they sell ‘as-a-service’ to the customerCustomer owns equipment, including servers and storage systems
ManagementFully managed by the service provider, including hardware, software, and networkingCustomer is responsible for managing their own equipment. Service provider manages the data center infrastructure
ControlLess direct control over the hardware and software as it is managed by the service providerHigh degree of control by the customer over the hardware and software
CustomizationLimited customization options as the provider manages the environmentHigh customization potential as customers can set up their equipment as needed
ExpertiseLess customer expertise requiredRequires in-house customer expertise
ConnectivityLess dense network of carriersLarge ecosystem of network service providers
ContractMonth-to-month to 1 year1 year to 3 years
ProvidersRackspace, DellEquinix, Digital Realty

Note: Equinix, the world’s largest colocation provider, offers managed services but only in certain jurisdictions outside of the United States, such as in the UK and Canada, where it manages the data center infrastructure of its customers.

Examples of Managed Data Center Service Companies

  1. Rackspace Technology: Provider of managed services for data centers, offering end-to-end multi-cloud technology services, cloud environment design, build, and operation across various platforms and stacks
  2. Dell Technologies: Provides managed services for data centers through its Infrastructure Solutions Group (ISG), offering modernized IT infrastructure solutions optimized for multi-cloud environments, artificial intelligence, and machine learning
  3. Kyndryl: Provider of technology services and the world’s largest IT infrastructure services provider, offering a range of advisory, implementation, and managed services to support and modernize enterprise IT environments
  4. Flexential: Data center provider offering managed infrastructure services, enabling IT departments to focus on innovation and strategic growth by handling ongoing maintenance and operations of their facilities
  5. TierPoint: Data center provider offering managed IT services, including data center management, with a focus on the following solutions: managed hosting, data management, monitoring services, help desk services, and operating system (OS) management

Cloud Managed Data Center Services

Cloud managed data center services are a suite of services offered by third-party providers that manage and maintain data center resources, such as servers, storage, and networking, via cloud technology. These services allow organizations to offload the complexity and effort of managing their own data center infrastructure, providing benefits like scalability, cost-efficiency, and enhanced security.

Cloud Managed Data Center Services by a Professionally Trained Team

Typically, cloud managed data center services include remote monitoring, automated management tools, and technical support, enabling businesses to focus on their core operations while leveraging the advantages of a modern, cloud-based data center model. Major providers of cloud managed data center services include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), Oracle Cloud, and Alibaba Cloud.

READ MORE: Cloud vs Data Center – A Comprehensive Guide

Data Center Managed Services vs Cloud-Based Services

Data center managed services involve outsourcing the management and maintenance of physical data centers, including hardware, networking, and storage systems, typically within a specific geographic location. Cloud-based services, on the other hand, provide virtualized computing resources over the internet, offering scalability, flexibility, and often a pay-as-you-go pricing model, without the need for physical infrastructure management by the customer.

While traditional data center services are centered on the physical upkeep and operation of servers and equipment, cloud services abstract this layer, allowing users to focus on the deployment and management of their applications and data.

What is a Managed Data Center?

A managed data center is a facility where various IT services, including servers, storage systems, and networking equipment, are centrally housed and maintained. These data centers are managed by third-party companies that specialize in handling the infrastructure, security, and ongoing maintenance. This arrangement allows businesses to focus on their core operations while relying on expert engineers and technicians for efficient, reliable, and secure data center operations.

Two Engineers Analyze Hardware and Software in Managed Data Center Environment

Managed Data Centers vs Fully Managed Data Centers

The primary differences between a partially managed data center and a fully managed data center model lie in the level of customer control and the scope of services provided.

In a partially managed data center, customers generally maintain control over their software, data, and the operation of their IT systems. Conversely, in a fully managed data center, the service provider not only maintains the physical infrastructure but also takes charge of the customer’s IT operations. This includes managing software, data, and often extends to security and compliance tasks. Thus, fully managed data center operations offer a more comprehensive, end-to-end management solution.

Mary Zhang covers Data Centers for Dgtl Infra, including Equinix (NASDAQ: EQIX), Digital Realty (NYSE: DLR), CyrusOne, CoreSite Realty, QTS Realty, Switch Inc, Iron Mountain (NYSE: IRM), Cyxtera (NASDAQ: CYXT), and many more. Within Data Centers, Mary focuses on the sub-sectors of hyperscale, enterprise / colocation, cloud service providers, and edge computing. Mary has over 5 years of experience in research and writing for Data Centers.

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