At first glance London’s famous Underground railway, “The Tube,” and the Internet appear to have nothing in common. But look a little deeper and you’ll find some striking similarities.
When they were launched, each represented a quantum leap in transport technology, with one moving people and the other information. And neither was ever designed to handle the tremendous volume of traffic they carry today, which is a constant problem for commuters and businesses alike.
Running out of steam
When The Tube’s original 6 km line opened in 1863, it carried 9.5 million passengers during its first 12 months. Today, its 400 km network carries an unimagined 1.26 billion passengers annually, although the railway is hard pressed to maintain services and keep up with growing demand.
Compare that with the Internet. What began decades ago as an experimental network to enable US government agencies and academic institutions to communicate electronically – ARPANET – has evolved into a global platform.
According to a new report by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), nearly half of the global population of 7.2 billion will be using the Internet by the end of this year. However, that will be dwarfed by the IoT – the Internet of Things – which, according to Cisco, will see an estimated 50 billion devices connecting to the Internet by 2020. And, like The Tube, engaged in a constant race to upgrade its infrastructure to keep pace with increasing demand.
Contrast the London experience with the underground railways that operate in Asia, like Hong Kong’s MTR and Singapore’s MRT. Designed from the outset with capacity to accommodate the inevitable growth, they effortlessly and reliably whisk millions of passengers across some of Asia’s busiest cities in air-conditioned comfort.
However, the global nature of the Internet means that users anywhere are victim to the same performance, reliability and security issues that the rest of the world faces. So, what can businesses do?
The obvious answer is to modernize the Internet. Or, to be more precise, create secure high-performance locations that offer all the advantages of a brand new development, combined with seamless links to the public internetwork and cloud service providers.
In fact, it’s already happening. These hub locations are called Equinix IBX Data Centers, and they are popping up all over the place, with two more openings in Asia this quarter alone.
Interconnection is key
Today, the secret of digital success isn’t the Internet per se, it’s interconnection. Equinix IBX Data Centers offer businesses a convenient place to connect with other enterprises.
With world-class physical facilities combined with unparalleled connectivity to virtually every local, regional or global telecommunications carrier, the result is the emergence of the world’s first practical cloud ecosystem – the Equinix Cloud Exchange. It enables businesses to interconnect and easily access all of the services of other enterprises that are also located in the new Equinix powered hubs. Benefits such as ready access to payment gateways, upstream information providers and the tier-one Infrastructure/Storage/Platform as a Service providers that allow companies to achieve both differentiation and an incredibly fast time-to-market.
Such interconnected business models have evolved so much that today an organization can often create new revenue sources, and increase customer satisfaction by interchanging information with third parties for better prediction of consumer needs and releasing more functional products.
Think about how car manufacturers are sharing information with insurance companies to provide personalized insurance premiums. Car firms have essentially become cloud providers in their own right to the insurance companies.
While these examples are powerful, the performance envelope is wide enough that they could conceivably be conducted via the traditional Internet. But others, such as the disruptive and paradigm-shifting car-hailing app Uber, or local firms like Didi Kuaidi, need far more flexibility and higher speeds.
A car hailing app’s ability to track driver whereabouts requires frequent information interchange between mobile devices and servers, such as mapping data, location and status related metadata. A centralized system simply doesn’t provide the quality-of-user-experience attainable with a distributed architecture, which is local to the user population.
Payment can be via credit card, or even emerging electronic payment systems such as Google Wallet, Apple Pay and Alipay. So locating within the digital hub ensures fast and reliable access to any and all of them.
What’s more, when business picks up, IaaS platforms also located at the centre of things can offer burst capacity to accommodate peak booking times or support promotions.
Putting the pieces together
In the real-world, today most enterprises need the ability to deal with a number of cloud providers. Even a relatively compact company like Equinix uses more than 50 cloud providers for our own internal IT function. Moving into a safe and highly connected Internet hub – such as an Equinix IBX- offers inherent security benefits, while at the same time accelerating performance and ensuring maximum flexibility.
Equinix IBX Data Centers – with the Cloud Exchange, colocation, extreme telco density and an extensive and growing global footprint, are becoming the glue that holds digital enterprises together.