How should Colocation fit into your Data Center Strategy?

Steve Madden

Every day we talk to enterprises across a variety of industries who are working hard to build best practices for doing business in an everchanging digital world. Our place at the intersection of all of these industries and trends gives us a unique perspective into how digital is impacting the way we all do business today, and what’s coming next.

In this blog series, we’ll take a look at the pressing questions enterprises are asking about colocation and interconnection as they navigate their digital transformation. We’ll also explore how our customers are using an interconnection-first approach to find the answers.

The top five customer questions we’ll answer in this series are as follows:

  1. How should colocation fit into your data center strategy?
  2. How can colocation hubs optimize network performance?
  3. How do colocation and interconnection enable hybrid cloud?
  4. How can interconnection help solve multi cloud access?
  5. How can digital integration be simplified?

In this first post, we’ll work to answer question #1: How should colocation fit into your data center strategy? Let’s start by looking at how digital transformation is forcing IT leaders to rethink their data center infrastructure configurations, and how that new perspective shifts enterprise colocation priorities.

The digital landscape changes everything

The Global Interconnection Index, published by Equinix, describes four macro trends that are driving changes in the way businesses need to approach their IT architectures and interconnection in a digital world:

  1. More digital technology use dictates real-time interactions.
  2. Greater urbanization requires proximity between digital services and users.
  3. Growing requirements for cybersecurity and data sovereignty means bypassing the public internet and deploying security and data locally.
  4. Increasing global digital trade requires greater integration among business processes and interconnection between customers, partners and employees.

The impact of these forces on today’s businesses manifest as constraints in a centralized model (cloud or traditional data center) that can’t scale to meet the distributed needs or the pace of digital transformation. Enterprises must create an internal infrastructure that can act in concert with external resources and business ecosystems to produce a holistic IT solution that can reach everywhere, interconnect everyone and integrate everything.

What this means for colocation

In this shifting landscape, Gartner advises that you consider colocation and interconnection when you want to do business in multiple metros and regions and/or connect to multiple networks and clouds. The implication? You need to choose a colocation and interconnection provider that can give you the geographic coverage and business ecosystems that are right for your business priorities. In the Gartner report, “Colocation-based Interconnection Will Serve as the ‘Glue’ for Advanced Digital Business Applications,” [1] Gartner Research Vice President Bob Gill writes, “We propose that topology, technology and design all favor building a digital business solution using colocation-based, programmable networking, which we will call ‘data center interconnect fabric,’ allowing dynamic interconnection between enterprise peers, cloud providers, communications providers and a growing marketplace of service providers.”

We recommend starting on this path by establishing a local control point and, to use a military analogy, create a “forward operating base” (FOB) to gain control at a local level and begin taking steps toward greater digital transformation. From this secured control point you can orchestrate tactical operations in proximity to where your business is actually occurring. When it comes to transforming your IT infrastructure for digital transformation, establishing forward operating bases and shifting systems and controls closer to where the action is means flipping your architecture from centralized data center operations to distributed digital edge control points in strategic geographic locations. This will allow your enterprise to place and integrate control adjacent to the greatest density of users, locations, clouds and data by leveraging proximate colocation data centers and high-speed, low-latency interconnection.

Eventually, these distributed digital edge control points will become the predominate hubs from which your business will operate, with the main data center becoming just another digital edge control point. At that point, you’ll be able to respond to your customers’ needs quicker and deliver your solutions to a greater number of markets faster.

Centralized, constrained and inefficient Distributed, scaled and effective

How and where you should establish digital edge control points

Knowing what you want to achieve with your digital edge control points is the first step in developing a successful digital transformation strategy. Think of your distributed edge locations as forward operating bases to expand into local markets. For example, you may want to get closer to the greatest density of supply chain partners and customers in a new region to accelerate your time-to-market. Or, you may want to place data beside hybrid clouds in a specific country to fortify your data security and sovereignty to meet compliance regulations.

Once you’ve determined the type of digital edge control points you require, you then need to decide where in the world you need them to be. The Global Interconnection Index can help you map out your global expansion strategy based on where the greatest requirements are for Interconnection Bandwidth capacity within a specific vertical industry. For example, if you are a U.S.-based financial services firm, it would benefit you to know that the banking and insurance sector is expected to have the highest Interconnection Bandwidth capacity in Latin America by 2020.

We see customers expanding their market presence worldwide in our 200 global Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers in 52 metros and establishing digital edge control points where they want to have the greatest impact. And given that this process is not always intuitive, we help them determine the optimal locations by leveraging the resources and tools available on Platform Equinix. For example, we can connect providers and customers at the digital edge.

Solving integration and control at the digital edge

Enabling our customers to integrate and control their IT infrastructures at the digital edge provides greater scalability and protection of their digital infrastructures. Virtual connections between enterprises, networks and clouds directly, securely and dynamically interconnect distributed infrastructure and digital ecosystems on Platform Equinix® via global, software-defined interconnection. For example, you can integrate hybrid/multicloud infrastructures by accessing cloud service providers on Platform Equinix, even if they don’t physically reside in your geographic location.

Integration among colocation data centers can only be as good as its inherent reliability, management and security controls. We offer options for maintaining 99.9999% uptime reliability and an integrated DCIM application, which provides on-demand visibility to reinforce your IBX data center operations with real-time alerts and notifications. Data security across multiple clouds is a growing issue with our customers. We help customers form an end-to-end encryption strategy across multiple clouds and partners by fortifying cloud security controls at the edge with global SaaS-based, secure key management and cryptography services to simplify data protection across hybrid and multicloud architectures.

By establishing distributed digital edge control points within colocation data centers as part of your data center strategy, you can accelerate and scale your digital transformation, integrate and control business processes, and better fortify and protect your digital assets. Many of our customers are successfully navigating digital on Platform Equinix by leveraging an IOA strategy and the strategic control point approach to create an agile and scalable distributed IT infrastructure for the long term. We encourage you to check out the IOA Knowledge Base to learn about the foundational components needed to build your digital platform and create your digital edge strategy.

Learn more about Platform Equinix in the Platform Equinix Vision paper.

[1] Gartner Colocation-Based Interconnection Will Serve as the ‘Glue’ for Advanced Digital Business Applications, Bob Gill, 10 August 2017.