Light, Laser

Data Centers Reborn as Digital Hubs

Sara Baack Chief Product Officer

Digital readiness report cards for 2020 are coming in, and COVID-19 has notably impacted enterprise IT plans across the board. When I wrote about the morphing of the traditional data center two years ago, there was widespread understanding that infrastructure strategies were being reconsidered. Data centers as a central organizing principle were being displaced as the anchor tenant in the constructs contemplated by I&O leaders. Those fundamental ideas persist, yet their urgency has multiplied. For those companies who were caught unprepared for the test of 2020, there is plenty of opportunity just ahead to join the growing ranks of digital leaders.

In Gartner’s recent report, “Your Data Center May Not Be Dead, But It Is Morphing”, David Cappuccio and Henrique Cecci explore the keys to infrastructure planning for our new realities. The central premise is that workload placement in service to better performance for stakeholders is forcing I&O leaders to reimagine their infrastructure outside of the physical confines of the walls of the data center. Physical data centers working in conjunction with cloud and edge represent a hybrid infrastructure framework that is fast becoming obligatory for digital leaders.

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Location, location, location

Enterprises already on the path to fully transform their infrastructure are not only surviving in these challenging times—they are thriving. These digital leaders have implemented infrastructure strategies centering around agility, flexibility and scale.

“With the recent increase in business-driven IT initiatives, often outside of the traditional IT budget, there has been a rapid growth in implementations of IoT solutions, edge compute environments and nontraditional IT. There has also been an increased focus on customer experience with outward-facing applications and on the direct impact of poor customer experience on corporate reputation. This outward focus is causing many organizations to rethink placement of certain workloads based on network latency, customer population clusters and geopolitical limitations.”i

Continuing to support applications and services within a captive enterprise data center is a self-constraining practice and limits a business’s need to be adaptable. 2020 flipped a switch for thousands of companies, creating an overnight surge in digital consumption and necessitating near-instant shifts in the delivery paths of applications and data. The foresight of many digital leaders to have workloads placed closer to consumption demand proved to be a strategic advantage. The flexibility to migrate workloads based on business rules across a global footprint is fast becoming a baseline for I&O decision-makers needing to be in all the right places for their business. The key to achieving this flexibility is the embracing of physical and virtual infrastructure working together, and adoption of a hybrid IT mindset—in vendor, in placement and in substrate.

The Global Interconnection Index (GXI) Volume 4, a market study published by Equinix, offers further evidence of exploding data needing to intersect, necessitating a reimagining of the infrastructure needed to seize on all that is possible.

Ecosystem Enablement

In addition to the rapid shifts in demand from physical to virtual infrastructure, the landscape of who connects to whom is evolving as more businesses reach digital maturity.

As new possibilities for business transformation are emerging faster than ever, there is an escalating need to connect and integrate environments through interconnection platforms. We agree with Gartner’s assertion that ecosystems are a foundation of agile and scalable infrastructure. Equinix has long excelled at enabling customers to more easily interconnect with each other and to other Equinix-provided services on demand through Equinix Fabric™. SDN-powered and API-/console-driven, Equinix Fabric has continued to expand, powering instant access to ecosystem counterparties across major clouds, networks, supply chain partners and the like. Digital leaders rely on Platform Equinix® to deliver mission-critical application use cases with unlimited scale, high performance and lower total cost, securely and at software speed.

Simple Is Complex

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention, and 2020 has provided one proof point after another in that sense. In the earliest weeks of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders, our teams leveraged relationships and collaboration and pre-built scalable infrastructure to address the unprecedented shifts in customer demand. The need for urgent response in the face of pandemic-induced digital demand surges further illuminated the importance of talent versatility.

According to Gartner, “When the business view of a service relies on infrastructure provided by multiple vendors, making the right decisions requires broad thinking, often beyond a single technology silo.” [i] More and more, IT employees are broadening their vertical expertise in technology to include business understanding, thereby joining the growing ranks of IT “versatilists.” Employees in these roles are being asked to understand implications outside of tech silos, see around corners and mitigate obstacles with their ability to drive holistic infrastructure solutions.

A robust hybrid infrastructure intended to support a myriad of service delivery models is unavoidably complex, fragile and susceptible to problems. Limited IT resources can make it difficult to ensure the infrastructures are capable of supporting increasing demands and changing business goals. The most successful IT organizations are actively investing in the development of their people as well as their infrastructure, so that the landscape of digitally dexterous IT talent emerges alongside these new architectural paradigms.

Seizing the digital advantage needed to stay ahead in today’s world demands that digital leaders employ a hybrid-focused architecture, created through direct interconnection to ecosystems and managed by IT leadership with domain versatility. It’s never too late to join the ranks of digital leaders already solidifying the infrastructure strategies for their companies. Supercharging the digital transformation journey in the face of unforeseen challenges lurking on the horizon starts with the data at the center of an interconnection-first blueprint. The recommendations presented in the Gartner research are critical pieces on the journey to an infrastructure platform that brings together all the right places, all the right partners and all the right possibilities.

[i] David J. Cappuccio and Henrique Cecci,  “Your Data Center May Not Be Dead, but It’s Morphing,” Gartner, September 17, 2020.

The original article was published here.

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