Feature

Data Center Crossroads: Is Outsourcing the Next Step?

Outsourcing's High Ground

Providing business continuity in the aftermath of a disaster is another deciding factor for some companies when they reach their data center crossroads.

For $1.4-billion MPS Group in Jacksonville, Fla., it was fear of flooding in its downtown Jacksonville data center that sparked the initial move to outsource part of the data center infrastructure in December 2003. MPS provides environmental and pollution control services to the automotive, chemical, steel and utilities industries.

"We also had a changing of the guard with a new CIO [Richard White] who had experience in colocation," says Allen Rittscher, vice president of application development for MPS. The company's aging facility had 300 servers, with maintenance costs climbing and no dedicated staff to oversee the environment, he adds. That facility now serves as a test environment.

Yet rather than going with an outsourcing vendor or managed hosting provider, MPS chose CSX Corp., a Fortune 500 transportation company that makes its tier-one data center -- built to withstand a Category 4 hurricane -- available for colocation. The fact that CSX has powerful industry influence in the railroad business was also a big draw for MPS.

"Since CSX is in transportation, they have strict guidelines they need to follow," says Cary Jankowski, director of MPS' system administration group. "Their data center is on the highest point above sea level in Jacksonville. It has lightening suppression and enough diesel fuel to run over 30 days at full capacity. CSX's relationship with fuel vendors, being a transportation company, is also very strong."

That additional business imperative -- to keep the railroad running -- makes CSX a stronger disaster recovery ally for MPS, Rittscher adds.

MPS rents 680 square feet from CSX, but without managed services included. "CSX was pushing us early on to take advantage of their expertise, but after talking to us they realized we have that management expertise in-house," he explains. "We just needed their facility."

Stefanie McCann, former editor at large for CIO Decisions, contributed to this article.

Maryfran Johnson, is the founding editor in chief of CIO Decisions. To comment on this story, email editor@ciodecisions.com.

This was first published in April 2006

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