This article gives you a sneak peek into our internal strategic decision-making process and explains why we decided to do things the hard way and create our own infrastructure. That includes including building our own data centers and developing our own hardware.
Looking around, we can see that companies specializing in providing cloud-based services choose different approaches. Some rent the infrastructure as a service (e.g. Heroku in AWS), others opted for creating their own infrastructures – such as OVH and others. Some companies have changed their approach over the years – RackSpace is leaving their own infrastructure and moving to Amazon, Dropbox, on the other hand, left Amazon in favor of creating their own solution.
For these companies, the decision is mainly based on cost analysis. Simply put, some companies are large enough to benefit from developing their own infrastructure solutions. On the other hand, companies can choose to outsource the “commodity part” and focus on the development of their own services with added value, which is perfectly valid reasoning.
We faced a similar dilemma and after long deliberation and planning, we decided to build our own infrastructure. In many ways, this approach includes more risks and is definitely more demanding in respect of investments. Also, given the current size of our company, the operating costs might seem unreasonably high. For the Central European market, we are using the services of vshosting~ and, starting next year, Zerops, with a data center based in the Czech Republic. Besides the data center, we use our own means to create our own solution of the entire backbone network infrastructure including strategic parts of optical paths.
What brought us to this decision?
A: Risk factor
The first impetus for leaving rented third party infrastructure is based on the risk factor. We take pride in the quality of our services and believe that the highest quality can be achieved only by being able to manage the operation risks, ideally down to the high voltage power supply.
As a client, you never know whether the provider of data center or cloud-based services is doing everything to eliminate all possible operation risks. You do not know whether they carry out inspections of all equipment of the data center as they should and you have no real way to see if they do. When maintaining the infrastructure yourselves, you can afford to invest in an “unnecessary” redundancy of those items that pose an increased operational risk and threaten your business.
In our data center, we have invested in the N+2 redundancy of the cooling system. Although the risk of an outage of two cooling units within several hours is really small, it has happened to us before. The same reasons apply for the operation of our own backbone network; we are still forced to rely on other operators we are connected to on the Internet as that is the fundamental principle of the Internet, but we can limit the risks by connecting using multiple networks within a dynamic routing.
As mentioned above, for a company of our size to build its own infrastructure is very expensive with respect to the investment as well as operating costs. But as the company grows it will make more sense, particularly as we are able to plan the infrastructure and look for optimal solutions.
That is why we came up with the idea of building a second data center, the ServerPark DC2. This one will be constructed on the basis of DC power supply, the combination of direct and indirect free-cooling with adiabatic cooling (cooling by evaporation of water mist on the heat exchanger), and utilizing the concept of our own servers. That means that we can increase the capacity of the data center (up to tens of thousands of server units) with significant savings on the operation due to reduced power consumption. In numerical terms, the cost savings can amount to 40-45% in comparison with using third party infrastructure.
Locations outside Central Europe
As we are planning to expand our business to other countries, e.g. to the United Kingdom, we are going to develop solutions for local infrastructure. Our ambitions do not include the construction of a data center outside of the Czech Republic (yet), therefore, we need to use third-party data centers in the Central European countries. However, we are going to take care of the remaining parts of the infrastructure ourselves.
The above-mentioned disadvantages (inability to control the data center operation) apply in this case. On the other hand, in the case of Zerops, we will compensate for the disadvantages by running operations in several independent locations. Moreover, Zerops is technically prepared for operating on a completely flat infrastructure on unified hardware, which further facilitates things.
What are the disadvantages of using our own infrastructure?
The operation of our own infrastructure is very demanding in terms of personnel and knowledge requirements. It is very easy to make a mistake and cause some technical issues simply due to insufficient experience, which is something that does not happen with the rented infrastructure of an experienced provider.
Besides the development of our own services with added value, we are also creating our own solutions of the “lower” infrastructure (data center, network) which increases the costs and causes additional stress. But we know why we are doing it. We want to be a premium provider.