London Tech Week – clouds, IOT and the digital edge

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Last week we came together with other global leaders to mark London Tech Week. As part of the festivities Equinix hosted a one-day event entitled Innovation Through Interconnection (ITI) for the second year in a row. We were fortunate to have some of the brightest minds in our industry with key customers and partners speaking about their digital transformation journey and how interconnection has accelerated their business performance.

As David Rowan of Wired suggested in his opening keynote of the day, the pace will only get faster and companies must always stay ahead, not moving on from the ‘day one’ mentality. This means that only the fast movers in the business landscape will stay ahead of the competition.

Edging towards digital

Alongside our global CEO Steve Smith in my dual role as host and speaker at the event, I was party to some very interesting discussions and got to hear from the likes of Alibaba, Coca-Cola and John Lewis on their thoughts about the move to the digital edge and what businesses must do to ensure they remain competitive in this increasingly digital world. The constant flux mentality is pushing digital strategies and one of the clear takeaways from the day is it is now all about connected things (and the cloud).

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This is where interconnection comes in. Converging trends in cloud, digital collaboration, mobility and the IoT mean that today the digital edge can be anywhere at any time. Bringing data, content and collaboration apps out to the digital edge decreases latency, improving the user experience and increasing productivity. Businesses must re-architect their IT for the digital edge because that’s where their customers, partners, employees and data are.)

Rethinking business

Professor Roger Camrass from the University of Surrey’s Centre for the Digital Economy (CoDE), who talked about how businesses such as Ford are fundamentally rethinking their offering thanks to the IoT and increased interconnection. Instead of simply selling cars, Ford has moved towards selling an “iPad on wheels” where a key component of Ford cars is the ability to connect with service providers and other devices. Now, customers can “download” new capabilities for their cars such as parking assistants, system improvements and eventually even driver automation. However, the promise of automated driving will not work at scale if it is not enabled by interconnection because the massive amount of data processing required must be closer to the end user to enable the vehicle to make real-time decisions based on a constant stream of information.

It is worth bearing in mind that increased connectivity can also result in cybersecurity threats. During NCC Group’s presentation, Tim Rawlins spoke of cyber security systems in trains, planes and cars, and described how the weaknesses in these security measures are often due to them being added as an afterthought, or as Marion Leslie of Thomson Reuters put it – a sticking plaster.

Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure

Planning for the powering of our digital world was a key topic throughout London Tech Week and we heard about the need for digital infrastructure to be considered a basic and critical utility. Landlords say people are more likely to complain about lack of connectivity than water!

I was honoured to sit on a panel with techUK CEO Julian David and Openreach’s Managing Director Steve Haines, chaired by Izabella Kaminska from the Financial Times, discussing the UK’s digital infrastructure and what needs to be done to make sure the UK remains a key tech hub and competitor on the global stage. We agreed that business and Government need to work together to ensure the UK’s digital infrastructure can support the rapid increase in internet traffic, providing coverage with sufficient capacity to ensure data can be processed at the speed required to meet the demands of modern life. People expect to be able to have instant access to a wide range of digital services and improved connectivity increases innovation and productivity across the economy. To achieve this level of connectivity, the tech sector must work with the government to set a framework for investment in widespread and up-to-date infrastructure in addition to working with the rest of Europe to ensure consistent legislation across borders.

That leads me to Alibaba – a company constantly growing and looking at the next border to cross. The largest retail commerce company in the world and a pioneer in big data and AI tech, Alibaba and its cloud computing arm, AliCloud, is already China’s largest cloud provider. At ITI we announced a collaboration with Alibaba Cloud which allows us to provide enterprises with direct, scalable access to Alibaba Cloud via the Equinix Cloud Exchange. Access to Alibaba Cloud is critical for multinational customers looking to expand their cloud-based applications in to China in a secure and high-performing manner. But the cloud has also enabled Alibaba to reach a new market – Europe. As our CEO put it – the cloud is the X factor driving the changes we are seeing today – so it is no surprise we are seeing cloud service providers like Alibaba expand at such a rapid pace.

And on that note, I’ll leave you with a quote from Tim Rawlins, Director and Senior Advisor at NCC Group: “Don’t let your digital debt build up, it’s time to move to the cloud”.

For more information on discussions had throughout the day, please do get in touch or check out the presentations on our website.

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