The Next Digital Seismic Shift

Mark Anderson

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At Equinix, we enjoy a privileged position of sitting right at the epicenter of many of the seismic changes taking place in our digital society. We are living at a time where there is a truly global system of interconnected computer networks, sensors, actuators and devices, all using the Internet protocol.

According to Bosch, a German multinational engineering and electronics company, by next year, not only will 75 percent of the world’s population have access to the Internet, but so will some six billion devices. IDC predicts that by 2020, humankind will have 40 zettabytes of digitally stored data. This massive increase in data is a result of what Gartner termed the “Nexus of Forces,” which refers to the convergence and mutual reinforcement of four interdependent trends: social, mobile, cloud and information. The forces combine to empower individuals as they interact with each other and their information through well-designed ubiquitous technology.

When I discuss these trends with businesses, I typically get one of two reactions: A look of panic from a CIO who does not know how his/her organization can react, or one of insight from a CIO whose forward looking business proactively sees the opportunities afforded by its digital strategies.

These seismic shifts, and the different CIO responses to them, remind me of geology lessons from my youth, namely the movement of tectonic plates. Bear with me here.

The outer layers of the Earth are divided into the lithosphere and asthenosphere.

Mechanically, the lithosphere is cooler and more rigid, while the asthenosphere is hotter and flows more easily.

CIOs who fall in the asthenosphere camp understand the value that comes from “agile IT” ̶ a fast-paced, quick-release environment. Those CIOs know they should be constantly ready for change, resourceful and highly adaptable to the ever-evolving IT landscape. Implementations that are part of agile IT don’t have to be perfect, just quick. This group are the early adopters of cloud.

But those the lithosphere camp, are cooler and more rigid. These CIOs take a traditional IT approach, which means careful planning, testing and deploying with the intent of doing it right the first time, along with preparing remediation up front. “Solid and steady” ̶ a large proportion of the IT departments I talk to fall into this category.

There is nothing wrong with solid and steady. These have been virtues of well-run IT departments for years and have produced very reliable legacy systems that have hugely optimized many a business process. However, we are now at a stage where just optimizing the same business processes is not enough to create business differentiation.

I believe most IT organizations still think their role is to help spin the wheel faster and automate that which can be automated. This was appropriate 10 years ago, but now most businesses need IT to be their partners in seizing new business opportunities.

So, what’s the seismic shift that’s going on now?

At the recent Gartner Symposium ITExpo in Barcelona, I first heard the phrase “bimodal IT.” Bimodal IT is the concept where two distinct IT methodologies exist in the same company, sometimes in two separate teams. The agile IT team handles the growing needs of the business, while traditional IT continues doing the day-to-day work of ensuring the business technology functions appropriately and securely.

Agile IT rolls out today’s updates, changes and quickly evolving technologies, while traditional IT continues to develop long-term plans and goals, manage technology budgets and take a disciplined approach to deployments.

What’s interesting about this approach is that it requires most IT organizations to rethink their IT and network architectures to truly make them work. We need to bridge the solid reliable legacy of the core with the fluidity of new differentiating work.

Hybrid cloud architectures speak to the very heart of the challenges in making bimodal IT work. They have the potential to build fluid frameworks around the legacy core that can take advantage of bi-directional flows of information and focused on-demand access to IT services.

With the advent of software defined networking and virtualized, private connectivity to public clouds from the enterprise, we are seeing brand new smart approaches that bridge the best of the fluid, multicloud world and the rock solid, legacy core.

Working with our customers on deploying the Equinix Cloud Exchange platform, which enables the capabilities I mentioned above, gives me the privilege to be a part of that bridge between the seismic powers that make up bimodal IT.

 

Mark Anderson
Mark Anderson Senior Director of Global Solutions Enablement - EMEA