Aon, GE and TIAA: 3 Key Takeaways on IT Transformation for Digital Business

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The world is dramatically changing for enterprises. By 2020, Gartner says there will be 20.8 billion connected devices, up from 6.4 billion in 2016.1 And IDC predicts that between 2014 and 2020 the amount of data in the world will have grown 10-fold to 44 zettabytes.

In the face of this unrelenting digital disruption, business and IT leaders are working hard to transform their IT infrastructures to support evolving business strategies and ever more demanding customers. At the August 16th Gartner Catalyst Conference in San Diego, on a panel moderated by Equinix COO Charles Meyers, Equinix customers Aon, General Electric (GE) and TIAA provided attendees with their top takeaways on how companies can successfully transform their IT infrastructures to succeed as digital businesses.

The panelists detailed how leveraging an “interconnection-first” strategy, based on an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™), helped them achieve transformative digital business benefits and put three important takeaways into action:

1. Shorten the Distance to Your Users to Improve Their Experience

When global growth and expansion are posing challenges to the high quality of experience your IT consumers expect, establish a global interconnection infrastructure that reduces the number of “network hops” between your worldwide locations. This will enable you to provide a faster, “consumer-like” quality of experience (QoE) when delivering IT services to your colleagues, which in turn, allows you to serve your clients more effectively.

Munu Gandhi, Vice President of Network Services at Aon, wants to give his global colleagues, coming from an “amalgamation of hundreds of acquisitions,” a superior user experience while directly accessing any of Aon’s IT services. As a leading global provider of risk management, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, and human resources solutions and outsourcing services, Aon was challenged to reduce costs while providing fast connections to its IT resources, which serve 500 offices in 120 countries. All of those companies’ unique capabilities and services needed to be integrated into a single, interconnected Aon.

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By deploying an IOA strategy, Aon is developing a high-speed, low-latency interconnection infrastructure that reduces the number of network hops between its global locations and the networked resources that they consume. As a result, the IT organization is driving the delivery of 5x to 100x more network bandwidth to its Network Performance Hubs, data centers and edge offices, resulting in a much higher quality IT experience for its employees. Aon is also able to leverage more cost-effective, low-latency connections to its IT resources, including those delivered in cloud environments.

“To drive value today and in the future, we are creating network platforms that bring our colleagues and networked resources within Aon together in a high-performing, simplified, agile and cost-effective manner. This in turn enables our colleagues to support and serve our clients better,” Gandhi said.

2. Bring Your On-Premises IT and Clouds Closer Together for Better Performance

Globally fragmented enterprise applications and highly distributed corporate networks can make it difficult for digital businesses to deliver the performance they need to compete. Remove the barriers that keep your business from achieving optimal performance by bringing your traditional on-premises IT (systems, applications, data, networks, etc.) and clouds closer together via proximate, direct and secure interconnection.

Daniel Headrick, executive director of enterprise architecture at GE, discussed how the 140 year-old industrial manufacturer used this approach to drive better business performance. GE leveraged an IOA, activating its “cloud-first” strategy via an interconnected cloud solution that increased the performance between its on-premises and hybrid cloud infrastructures.

How did this look in action? GE’s Predix platform is the first cloud-based Platform-as-a-Service for capturing and analyzing industrial data. By bringing customer and product data, applications and analytics closer to hybrid cloud resources, GE has been able to deliver increased operational efficiency to its customers.

Said Headrick, “As applications fragment and networks distribute, applications need to become more integrated with the network. We use Equinix to host application routing gateways; API-gateways; and data integration services and layers as part of our IOA design.”

3. Harness Hybrid Clouds for Flexibility, Choice, Cost-Savings and Business Continuity

Many businesses are leveraging hybrid clouds to enable a number of capabilities that they simply do not have the resources or desire to deploy and maintain themselves. For example, building an internal development and testing infrastructure to create new applications and services for their customers. Or ensuring business continuity in the event of a natural disaster by replicating IT infrastructures in two separate locations. By directly interconnecting private and public cloud services, and replicating that hybrid cloud environment in different regions, you can build a more flexible, cost-effective and resilient application development environment.

Bob Hintze, senior director of institutional retirement technology support and services for TIAA, saw the value of the hybrid cloud approach for TIAA’s internal application development environment. It provided the company’s developers with the flexibility and choice to directly connect to AWS and Microsoft Azure cloud services within the same Equinix data center, without investing in costly internal infrastructure implementations. In addition to increased flexibility and choice, the economic benefit to TIAA includes avoiding start-up and running costs for the cloud environments and the ability to tailor cloud services consumption levels and administrative costs.

Hintze also saw the opportunity to replicate TIAA’s hybrid cloud development environment on two different coasts, within Equinix data centers in Virginia and California. This created a high availability environment, which leverages Equinix’s 99.99999% uptime record, so that TIAA developers could have continuous access to the hybrid cloud services they were using to develop new customer applications.

“We needed the flexibility, choice and high availability that only a distributed, hybrid cloud environment could provide. Equinix interconnection and colocation capabilities allowed us to achieve what we wanted, and at a cost far less than us providing those capabilities ourselves,” said Hintze.

Taking an interconnection-first approach to navigating IT transformation hurdles has enabled these organizations to break through some of the toughest barriers to becoming a digital business.

Download the “IOA Playbook – Architecting the Digital Edge” to learn how an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ can help you transform your IT infrastructure to compete and win in the global digital economy.

1 Gartner Press Release, Gartner Says 6.4 Billion Connected “Things” Will Be in Use in 2016, Up 30 Percent From 2015, November 2015.