Where Equinix is Focusing its Digital Transformation

Our digital leadership starts with being “cloud smart”

Greg Ogle

Digital transformation has been the engine of Equinix’s accelerated growth and the growth of our nearly 10,000 customers for over 20 years. Just in the past 10 years alone, we have seen a more than 318%+ increase in physical and virtual interconnections and a 125%+ expansion in data centers. As our customers have taken on the new business models, innovations and expectations that define digital leadership today, we have rapidly expanded our application portfolio, technology footprint and employee base to power their evolving needs.

The more we have expanded, the more forward-looking organizations have gravitated to Equinix to bring together and interconnect their digital infrastructure. As we look toward the future and reflect on how to best serve digital leaders, we have set a course to manage our own growth and next-level digital transformation to best support them.

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Leading with a cloud smart strategy

Our cloud ecosystem, now more than 2,900 cloud and IT service providers, is expanding rapidly to service both retail and hyperscale cloud platforms. Today, we especially see cloud adoption increasing among our customer base as they face the ongoing challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Our internal cloud smart strategy is at the heart of our next digital transformation at Equinix. And like many of our customers, with so much legacy hardware and applications to manage and support, we face significant challenges. In particular, we are encountering increased cloud demand while also managing legacy platforms that require more focus on availability, user experience, agility, scalability and security.

As we sat down to create our own digital transformation strategy, we knew we needed to address some critical questions that mirror the ones our customers grapple with every day:

  1. Will our current complex business processes scale?
  2. Can we scale our customers engagement mechanisms?
  3. Will we have actionable insights for better business decision making?
  4. Do we have the right systems, tools and technologies for the future?
  5. Can we support increased transaction volume without adding people?
  6. Do we have the talent and skillsets needed for the future?
  7. What is the new normal post COVID-19?

The answers to these questions drove us to develop a cloud smart strategy to steer our next digital transformation at Equinix. We achieved our first transformation in 2014, when we delivered a unified, globally consistent quote-to-cash platform that accelerated the integration and automated management of end-to-end business processes. This initial transformation has successfully supported and helped propel the growth of the company for the past seven years. As we look ahead to how we can best support our customers and partners in the future, we are focused on using technology to enable new and better ways of doing business and creating exceptional outcomes.

The 3 digital pillars of our smart cloud strategy

Our cloud smart strategy is designed to position Equinix to leverage a combination of technology components to efficiently and cost-effectively deploy our applications and services. The goal is to have the flexibility we need to adapt and align our approach based on a variety of factors (i.e., application criticality, SLAs, cost, etc.). With this as a backdrop, we identified a series of key business drivers and desired outcomes:

 

Business Drivers

Desired Outcomes

Reliability

99.99% availability

Personalized experience

Optimize local user experience

Time to market

Immediate build and burst

Design to fail and scale

Cloud agnostic and portable

Security by design

Security as code

 

To achieve these outcomes, we built our cloud smart strategy on three key pillars:

  1. Technology: The architecture and components to connect our employees to our applications and services.
  2. People and Tools: The organizational impact and management tools required to operate in the cloud.
  3. Security: The policies, controls, tools and processes to secure the cloud.

Leveraging our global platform and dense, interconnected network and cloud ecosystems, we created a new digital transformation deployment model as illustrated in the diagram below. The components of this new model, “Digital Infrastructure,” “Digital Edge” and “Digital Exchange,” provide the technology foundation for delivering our applications and services globally:

  • Digital Infrastructure – Regional Hybrid Cores (“Cloud-First”, “Service Fabric”) ̶  These are located in our Silicon Valley, London and Singapore metros.
  • Digital Edge – Local Experience and Interaction (“Edge-first”, “Mobile-first”) ̶  All our global International Business Exchange® (IBX®) and office locations outside the regional Digital Infrastructure cores.
  • Digital Exchange – Ecosystem Exchange (“Platform-First”) ̶  Our connections into the ECX Fabric and various connected services (anywhere available and needed).

These technology layers are all connected via our globally consistent, redundant, high-performing network over ECX Fabric. Our global quote-to-cash platform enables integration and automated management of end-to-end business selling processes. This requires a directly connected, cloud-adjacent, hybrid multicloud architecture to support all applications in the stack.

As a result of moving to a more hyperconverged, global digital infrastructure, we gained the following advantages:

  • Multi-carrier redundancy to all 220+ Digital Edge (IBX and office) locations
  • Optimized WAN connections via our core hybrid Digital Infrastructure regions in EMEA and APAC, with direct paths to our primary Silicon Valley region in the Americas
  • Low-latency (3-4 milliseconds) connectivity and high reliability (99.99+), with a fast network failover time of ~1 sec
  • Standardized components and configurations for greater consistency

We continue to optimize for efficiency and provide the best performance possible for our legacy applications while we move selected applications to anything as a service (“XaaS”) platforms over time. Since we deployed our cloud smart strategy, we’ve been able to reduce:

  • the number of databases from 287 to 138
  • memory and CPU capacity by 30%
  • operating system and database patching time by 90%
  • application tuning time by 70%

At the same time, we improved customer relationship management (CRM) application performance by 40% on business-critical workloads, and 1300% for refreshes. In the end, we realized all these business benefits for 50% of the cost of our legacy infrastructure.

My suggestion for all companies would be to take a close look at hyperconverged technologies such as private and public clouds if you have workloads that could benefit from moving to them. Looking back, we should have done it sooner!

Deploying a new strategy meant developing new skills and tools

Our cloud transformation required significant upskill investments as operating clouds is inherently different than operating on-premises.

To address this need, we established a Cloud Center of Excellence (CCoE) to manage our various flavors of hybrid-cloud deployments. Standardized roles, responsibilities and governance were defined to manage all unique flavors of hybrid cloud deployments, and existing employees were aligned to these roles as CCoE team members, similar to how many architecture boards are constructed. We also invested in tools and training to support and enable the operational processes required to manage and secure our cloud smart digital infrastructure. These investments in skills and tools are enabling us to continue to optimize how we operate in cloud.

Security is key to digital transformation success

A smart cloud strategy needs smart security. In conjunction with our infrastructure and application deployments, our information security team identified five key areas of focus for our investments across the enterprise:

  • Enable governance, risk and compliance by deploying automated and continuous compliance focused on common controls
  • Advance product and IBX security by putting product security controls in place throughout the development lifecycle with 24×7 continuous security monitoring
  • Enhance threat and vulnerability management by expanding the visibility of vulnerabilities across source code, code development, network assets and operations technology
  • Leverage security intelligence machine learning via security tooling, continuously instrumented to automate, protect, detect and respond “zero trust” leveraging security intelligence)
  • Accelerate global incident response and threat hunting by proactively hunting for attack indicators and readying a formal response team to remediate any material breach

These strategic focus areas guide how we deploy and manage our hybrid multicloud infrastructure assets. We are committed to continuing to work closely with our InfoSec team as part of the CCoE structure (and beyond as needed) to manage and enforce all relevant security controls.

Building a strong digital foundation

Our cloud smart strategy has not only optimized our networking, interconnection and adjacent cloud access, it has created the strong digital foundation we need to future-proof our business. Regardless of what applications/services we might choose to deploy moving forward, we can be confident that we will have the enhanced agility and flexibility we need to deliver an excellent experience to the teams who rely on our services.

We hope the lessons we have learned along the way as we have taken our own digital infrastructure to the next level can help other industry leaders fast track their own digital journeys to get beyond transformation to true business advantage.

Learn more by reading our Digital Leaders eBook on the Platform Equinix page.

You may also want to read:

IDC – Future of Digital Infrastructure—Ever Faster Delivery of Reliable Digital Services and Experiences