Do “Bad Times” Have a Scientific Value?

A look back at what 2020 has taught us and what we can take into 2021

Jon Lin
Do “Bad Times” Have a Scientific Value?

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.”

If given the choice, many of us may have chosen to “miss” 2020.

Of course, we didn’t have that choice. We dealt with the blows as best we could and tried to learn a thing or two along the way.

Anyone that knows me knows I’m a big believer in continuous improvement – the constant effort to make oneself incrementally better each day. But 2020 wasn’t very “incrementally friendly.” It pounded down on the world with such fury that we had to radically and rapidly improve just to survive.

When pharmaceutical companies had to develop a new vaccine in nine months, they changed how vaccines were made. When local businesses were forced to shut down, they changed their business models. When nearly every enterprise shifted to a remote workforce over night, they scaled their digital infrastructure…fast.

Only time will tell if the learnings of 2020 will lead to positive, long-term changes. But whatever the outcome, most can agree this past year has taught us a lot.

Equinix Learnings

When I think about what we at Equinix learned most, three things come to mind.

First, we found new ways to work together. Not only from a logistical and technical perspective, but from a human perspective. In a Zoom conference right after the pandemic hit, someone said “we can be physically distant without being socially distant.” That framing really set the tone for how we interacted with our customers, partners, and each other throughout the year.

That also meant making an extra effort to be present, supply energy, and continually check in on each other. After all, it’s not just the pandemic we’ve been fighting. We’ve also faced ideological divisions, social unrest, wildfires, and hurricanes.

Which takes me to my second learning – we found new ways to support each other.

There’s been so much creativity at Equinix and at companies all over the world to find ways to help each other socially, emotionally, and financially. At Equinix, we’ve fostered difficult but important conversations around diversity and inclusion, continued to grow our internal support networks, and dramatically increased engagement with the world around us. In fact, we raised more money than ever before during our month-long, community support and philanthropic initiative Impact Month. All virtual.

But perhaps the biggest learning of 2020 was realizing how important digital is to our collective future.  When the pandemic hit, we saw just how much people relied on Equinix. Businesses. Schools. Critical infrastructure companies across all sectors like energy, healthcare, and government were depending on us, every minute of every day.

It was a sobering but proud time. In that moment, we knew we were the digital infrastructure that powered the planet.

No Slowdown for Digital

As businesses scaled their infrastructure to meet the demands of 2020, they accelerated their shift to digital in parallel. In other words, the pandemic has only increased the pace of Digital Transformation. The Global Interconnection Index (GXI) Volume 4, an annual market study published by Equinix, shows private interconnection bandwidth capacity is expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45% by 2023.

Businesses have also become aware that workforce expectations may have changed forever. According to IDC, the number of remote workers went from 14% at the start of the pandemic to 45% post-pandemic. And not all these employees are expected to return to the office. “By 2023, 75% of G2000 companies will commit to providing technical parity to a workforce that is hybrid by design rather than by circumstances,” says IDC.[1]

Staying Ahead of the Curve

Despite the challenges, Equinix remained razor focused on helping customers stay ahead of what’s next. This year, we enhanced our platform with product developments such as Equinix Fabric™ and Equinix Metal, launched and expanded into new markets including Canada, India, and Mexico, and made significant progress on our sustainability goal of 100% clean and renewable energy usage across our global portfolio. With these developments, we can address Digital Transformation in 2021 and beyond with a much broader lens than ever before.

As we head into next year, I’m feeling a sense of optimism. The resiliency I’ve witnessed from so many throughout 2020 has energized me. Progress with the vaccine and early signs of an economic recovery are also encouraging. But most importantly, I appreciate that the challenges this year have made me more thoughtful and aware of the things I once took for granted.

So do “bad times” really have a scientific value? Only if we each find a way to turn them into positive, long-term change.

To our customers, partners, and employees across the Americas and all over the world, thank you for your support and encouragement throughout the year. Have a happy and safe holiday season and a fabulous New Year.

Here’s to 2021.


[1] IDC, Worldwide 2020 IT Predictions, Doc #US46942020, October 2020.


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Jon Lin Executive Vice President and General Manager, Data Center Services
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