Virgin employs its fibre network for co-location services

The ISP has entered the co-location market via a deal with datacentre operator ICM, promising robust connectivity and uptime via a national fibre network

Virgin has struck a deal with datacentre provider ICM to allow it to offer co-location services with guarantees of connectivity and uptime.

The Virgin Media Business co-location service, announced on Thursday, is underpinned by 11 ICM datacentres that are linked to Virgin's national high-speed fibre network. The company said that the network can reach 85 percent of businesses in the UK.

With the 11 datacentres located all around the UK, the co-location service can provide ease of access for businesses that want to undertake equipment fitting and maintenance, according to Virgin.

"Customers want confidence in moving things off-site prior to virtualising their IT estate," Andrew Gibson, a senior product manager in Virgin Media Business's applications and services team, told ZDNet UK. "Having a datacentre 'just down the road' gives them confidence in that scenario."

The company offers a service-level agreement (SLA) that guarantees 99.95-percent uptime and connectivity for the co-location services.

Though Virgin has sold co-location before, it was on an "ad-hoc" basis, Gibson said. In addition to co-location, the company plans to offer secondary services that take advantage of its fibre network, such as VPNs, high-speed 1Gbps connections and the option of having uncapped data on the connection service.

UK co-location services

There are already a number of companies operating network-enabled co-location services in the UK. Orange provides them through its Flexible 4 Business collaboration with Cisco, EMC and VMware, while Colt Telecom's co-location uses its own dedicated fibre network and wholly owned datacentres. Verizon Business Services also plans to launch services in the UK in mid-2011.

ICM has five major datacentre hubs in Hampshire, Aston, Wapping, Birstall (near Leeds) and Hamilton (on the outskirts of Glasgow). Each of these five hubs has been independently certified to the Uptime Tier 3 standard, which means they are resilient sites with multiple backup sources of power and a network topology designed to avoid halts in service.

"We see those as our premier centres, with the others being standardised that offer a similar service through a standardised SLA," Gibson said.

By comparison, Orange has two datacentres in the UK, Colt has three and Verizon plans to launch with one major facility, though it has said it may expand later.

Additionally, Virgin's co-location service will be supported by 40 regional sales offices across the UK, so customers will have access to local contacts in the case of equipment failures.

Gibson did not know whether the launch of the service will create additional jobs in either Virgin or ICM, but said that he imagined it would, as the service will need to be supported.

Pricing will be done on a sliding scale, with the five hub facilities all able to offer services such as round-the-clock server swap-out and maintenance for an additional fee, Gibson said.

ICM has around 100,000 square feet of datacentre capacity across the UK and is expanding that by 30,000 square feet at the time of writing, with more space to move into if needed, Gibson said.

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