SLOVAKIA sometimes lags slightly behind the rest of Europe when it comes to implementing the latest technological trends – and the usage of data centres is no different. But the development of IT technologies, a steep increase in the amounts of data being handled, the arrival of cloud computing and, paradoxically, also the economic crisis are all pushing companies to behave more economically and spurring the growth of data centres in Slovakia. The firms providing data centres report that while Slovak clients remain somewhat conservative they have become more open to using such services over the past two years.
The primary challenge data centres in Slovakia face is to show IT and business clients the advantages and benefits that data centres can bring.
“The business model of data centres is based on the simple economic principle of saving on quantity,” Peter Uhrik, from DCBA, which runs the Datacube data centre, told The Slovak Spectator. “This in reality means that if a client needs to have IT technologies in an appropriate environment which guarantees conditions for non-stop operation, it is actually much cheaper to operate these technologies in a commercial data centre than to operate them in company’s own space.”
Another challenge data centres in Slovakia face is to change the mindset of IT directors in terms of where their facilities are physically located and the control over their facilities installed in a data centre. Yet another consideration is how to make data centres as energy-efficient as possible.
In general, data centres in Slovakia report increasing interest in their services from Slovak as well as foreign clients, even though the local market is less developed than that in western Europe.
“Over the last two years we have been registering a shift in the thinking of clients and an increasing number of clients ponder locating their technologies within commercial data centres,” said Uhrik. “It may be paradoxical that it was exactly the crisis period which forced many companies to think more about the effectiveness of their investments. Now they prefer a commercial data centre and can use the freed investment funds for development of their core business.”
Orange Slovensko, which operates Orange TechPark in Bratislava, sees the lack of data centres in western Europe as being behind the construction of data centres in Slovakia. According to Alexandra Piskunová, spokesperson for Orange Slovensko, the number of clients from Slovakia but also from abroad is increasing, with the latter accounting for about one third of the total. Orange says it is registering growing interest from companies in industry and the banking sector, for example.
Slovak Telekom, which operates five data centres, of which the newest and largest is the Telekom DataCenter in Bratislava, also registers increasing interest among clients, along with increasing dependence by companies on their IT functions.
“We register interest from abroad, especially from [clients] in the Czech Republic, which own or are launching branches in Slovakia,” Ján Adamec, executive director for ICT and the corporate sector at Slovak Telekom, told The Slovak Spectator.
From the viewpoint of neighbouring countries, Uhrik perceives developments in Slovakia as being slightly postponed, but very similar. In the Czech Republic the market for data centres was created some years earlier and thus awareness about their services is much higher. In countries like Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and England this is already an established ‘industry’. This has given the operators of data centres in Slovakia a chance to see how these markets develop, and prepare for a similar development, said Uhrik.
Mobile operator Telefónica Slovakia, which provides services under the O2 brand, can provide its clients with services from a data centre located in the Czech Republic, Martina Jamrichová, company spokesperson told The Slovak Spectator.
Vnet, which recently added a new so-called ‘green’ data centre called Digitalis in Bratislava to bring its total number of data centres to four, is registering moderate growth in the segment of data centres in spite of the general economic stagnation in the region. Martin Drahoš, business unit manager at Vnet sees the opportunity to save costs via usage of data centres as the main reason for the growing interest in them. He explains differences in the market for data-centre service with neighbouring countries by reference to the size and performance of the region’s various economies, and notes that the global economic stagnation is also reflected in the level of interest for these services.
CNC, which operates the Perpetuus data centre in Bratislava, confirms the lower interest among Slovak clients compared to those abroad.
“Investors made investments, built quality data centres, but the fact is that during the [current] period of fading crisis clients only very unwillingly make decisions,” Michal Majerčík from CNC told The Slovak Spectator. “They are afraid of making decisions touching upon the development of their infrastructure and operation. And they communicate only very cautiously about the real opportunities and potential which data centres in reality offer them.”
According to Majerčík, interest is weaker compared to neighbouring developed economies “but this may only be a question of time [after which] companies will be pushed by the logical and necessary reduction of their operating costs and have to optimise their own infrastructure and make it more effective”.
Clients of data centres in Slovakia are IT companies offering services to other clients, larger companies needing to locate their own critical IT infrastructure in a data centre like financial institutions, network industries, and clients from the state sector, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises which are starting to realise that it is cheaper and more secure to place their IT in a commercial data centre than to keep it ‘in house’, according to data-centre operators.
Many data centres currently provide services in a portion of their premises and are prepared to add new halls to those already in operation.
Drahoš of Vnet expects that if the economy picks up, companies will be able to invest more in innovation and automation via IT, which will lead to greater demand for the services of data centres.
“In Slovakia there is also a new generation of businessmen who are devoted to online services, development of applications, online marketing and so on,” said Drahoš. “These segments keep growing and they also need the services of data centres for their operation.”
Adamec of Slovak Telekom added that as a consequence of the growth of the IT infrastructure of companies and their greater dependence on IT systems, the need to place them in an external data centre is increasing.
“We see this with some clients, who one or two years ago actually did not want to hear about such a possibility at all – and now we are negotiating with them about placing their infrastructure into our data centre,” said Adamec.
GTS Slovakia, which operates the GTS Slovakia Data Centre in Bratislava, expects more clients from companies who want to virtualise their servers.
“Afterwards they will move such optimised infrastructure into data centres, which will secure them a very high availability of service,” Martin Ďurov, product manager at GTS Slovakia, told The Slovak Spectator. “In this way companies will achieve optimal and effective solutions and simultaneously save costs for their own server rooms.”
Data centre operators expect an increase in interest, while Uhrik, for example, sees the public sector as being an area of potential.
“An even more interesting field is the European market,” said Uhrik. “For large global players which need to build one data centre in Europe, which… will cover Europe from London to Moscow, Slovakia has an excellent position in the middle. It is on the crossroads of large transport optic routes within Europe and has sufficient IT workers to ensure better wage costs than, for example, London or Frankfurt.”
To certify or not to certify
A nmber of data centres in Slovakia say they meet the requirements of Trier 3, a certificate granted by Uptime Institute, which requires that they have multiple independent distribution paths serving their IT equipment, that all IT equipment are dual-powered and fully compatible with the topology of a site’s architecture, and that they have expected availability of 99.982 percent. But only the data centre operated by Orange Slovensko actually holds the certificate. While some data centres hold other certificates, some regard holding a certificate by Uptime Institute as more of a marketing tool, and others are thinking about investing in certification.
“We are also pondering certification to the Trier 3 level,” said Uhrik of DCBA . “We are sure that we meet this level… Nevertheless, many demanding clients carry out their own analyses when choosing a data centre regardless of the Trier certification.”
Vnet considers uninterrupted operation to be the highest requirement for a data centre and thus does not consider the certificates issued by certification authorities to represent added value for clients. Drahoš also points out that certificates usually represent a set of recommendations and provide a range of solutions, that there is a relatively large space for subjective evaluation, and that these are not an absolute guarantee of availability.
Slovak Telekom is also pondering the scope and the type of certification required by its clients.
“The decision-making process when choosing a partner to house the IT technologies that the client uses is very individual and a certificate may or may not play a significant role,” said Adamec, adding that Slovak Telekom’s experience is that most clients stress the know-how of the provider, and in particular their experience, stability and ability to provide a complex info-communication solution.
Majerčík of CNC also questions the value of certification of data centres, pointing out that the existing requirements are not comprehensive.
“For now we regard it as a marketing tool,” said Majerčík, adding that clients are primarily interested in the scope of services, the operational effectiveness of the data centre and the price.
22. Apr 2013 at 0:00 | Jana Liptáková