Federal Government Digital Transformation

Don Wiggins

At Equinix, we’ve always appreciated a unique vantage point in witnessing the industry’s digital transformation on a global scale. Perhaps more than ever before, a premium has been placed on the ability to leverage technology to capitalize and compete in what has clearly become a global digital economy, a term first coined in Don Tapscott’s 1995 best-seller, “The Digital Economy: Promise and Peril in the Age of Network Intelligence.” This was a first glimpse into how the internet would change the way we did business and, in particular, how the evolution of technology would impact human interaction. Ubiquitous public clouds, an extensible enabler to this end, has become a natural progression of the digital transformation that continues to proliferate today.

Participation in the digital economy implies a number of paradigm shifts, but one in particular stipulates that organizations must, in simple terms, rapidly and continuously develop and deploy applications and data (the new currency of the digital economy) that enable a fluid and fruitful exchange with partners and/or consumers. To that end, digital collaboration has proven integral to both private and public sector entities. For example, a federated database for local, state and federal law enforcement enables “collaborative communities of interest” to more effectively thwart decidedly non-traditional threats to public safety – the case for real-time digital exchange has never been more apparent.

Ideally, these platform-agnostic applications must be dynamic and responsive in nature with the shortest possible path of accessibility to those consuming them. This real-time exchange with dynamic supply chains, for example, enabling an Amazon customer to purchase an item that might involve many middle-tier brokers that, ultimately, speed a given product from shelf inventory to doorstep delivery within days or even hours in some cases. Evident in many facets of our daily lives, the graphic below provides a snapshot of the broader impact of digital transformation taking place today…

And while digital transformation has clearly become a reality in some measure for most, the illustration below is helpful in understanding both the catalysts and inhibitors for its continued proliferation…

The public sector shift to digital transformation

Accommodating the requirements of our Federal Government customers here at Equinix has always been a priority but, until recently, growth opportunities were a bit limited. Extending information technology activities beyond their respective fence lines into a commercial colocation environment was considered a risky, illogical departure from traditional norms. Compulsory federal cloud first and data center optimization initiatives have changed that conversation.

The public sector, much like the private sector, has quickly realized that digital engagement with their counterparts and consumers is largely unavoidable and that doing so effectively requires a departure from the past. For example, sophisticated applications coupled with exponential data collection and accumulation are driving expansive real-time analytics requirements for decision support structures that, in turn, enable a range of things from basic public services to our national security apparatus. To do so at speed and scale requires physical adjacency to cloud(s), network(s) and mission partners. A stove-piped isolation approach is no longer sustainable. Organizational collaboration along with federated information systems to collectively support the mission, as pointed out earlier, is the new imperative.

To be clear, this is very much an apples-to-oranges proposition that Equinix finds itself ideally suited to accommodate. While many in the industry continue to view the data center solely in terms of an isolated, robustly outfitted secure building with power and air conditioning to host physical infrastructure, Equinix views the role of the data center as much more. In the Equinix vernacular, an International Business Exchange™ facility or “IBX®” is, as the name implies, a global, neutral platform where digital ecosystems can do their bidding on a global scale. Recognizing that exceptional application performance is the byproduct of a regionally-distributed architecture assuring geo-strategic alignment of applications, data and “eyeballs,” our focus has always been on providing proximal adjacency of customers and the many thousands of service providers who enable them (clouds, networks, managed service providers, etc.). Equinix has effectively become the physical “meet me” point for the enterprise, cloud and network services across the globe. Also known as the edge of cloud and network, customers come to Equinix to establish a proximal, purpose-built “edge presence” where they can more effectively consume these services at scale.

Why is this important to our public sector customers? Much like their private sector counterparts, they’ve recognized the need to engage in the digital transformation process. Excessive Capex and costly legacy applications have become an untenable liability for most, while also stagnating innovation. Cost containment efficiencies and operational agility gained with the adoption of a more Opex-centric consumption model, all while leveraging next generation network and cloud capabilities, puts our public sector agencies on far better footing to deliver public services that often times have life safety consequences.

We firmly believe that the Federal Government’s success relies heavily on recognizing the need for both WAN and cloud transformation – legacy counterparts will simply fail to effectively integrate with next generation technology. Establishing adjacency to networks and clouds will also enable our public sector customers to more capably respond to the dynamics of a rapidly changing world. Whether it’s our U.S. Postal Service optimizing delivery services via tighter integration with partners like UPS, FedEx and others or collaboration of the many components that make up our national security team to respond to myriad threats in real time, regionally-distributed, proximal adjacency to providers and partners will enable an optimized digital exchange necessary to maintain long term viability. Equinix is uniquely and globally positioned to provide the underlying interconnection to facilitate public sector’s ongoing digital transformation journey.

To learn more, read our white paper “Enabling the Interconnected Government.”


Don Wiggins
Don Wiggins Senior Global Solutions Architect at Equinix