Virtualization and Sustainability: Trends Driving EMEA IT Leaders

Global Tech Trends takes a deep-dive into future digital infrastructure strategies

Matthew George
Virtualization and Sustainability: Trends Driving EMEA IT Leaders

In 2020, industry leaders demonstrated the ability to adapt to the new normal of constant change as they responded to the abrupt disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no shortage of reports covering how companies fast tracked their digital transformation initiatives to thrive and/or survive. The pandemic drove many to revisit their IT strategies and invest in technology to make their organizations more agile.

To gain an understanding of trends that are driving businesses forward, Equinix reached out to 2,600 IT decision-makers working for enterprises across industries that varied in size and type across 26 countries in the Americas, Asia-Pacific and EMEA regions. 1,500 of those IT decision-makers are based in 15 EMEA countries, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which we grouped into two subregions, FLAP and Growth and Emerging Markets (GEM), for the purposes of reporting on these survey results. FLAP represents the four major metro regions centered around Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris, and Equinix’s GEM subregion includes Bulgaria, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and UAE.

Exploring the impact of COVID-19 on future digital infrastructure plans was a key focus of this third edition of our annual Global Tech Trends Survey (GTTS). We also wanted to gain insight on how 5G and sustainability are changing the IT infrastructure landscape as well as interconnection use and benefits.

Equinix 2020-21 Global Tech Trends Survey

Exploring global digital leaders' views on the trends, challenges and opportunities shaping businesses around the world.

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Several EMEA-specific findings were covered in a previous blog, Global Tech Trends Survey Shows Digitization Accelerating Worldwide, along with global insights and conclusions specific to the Americas and Asia-Pacific regions. Here we’ll take a closer look at trends in virtualization that are informing how enterprises are accelerating their regional and/or global expansion plans and sustainability trends that reflect rising expectations of a company’s commitment to sustainability on both sides of the supply chain – buyers and sellers.

Virtualization reduces reliance on physical infrastructure

Digitizing infrastructure, improving network optimization and moving infrastructure to the digital edge are top priorities for EMEA organizations, especially those in GEM countries. 82% of EMEA IT decision-makers reported a focus on digitizing their IT infrastructure. The virtualization of network, compute and storage capabilities supports these initiatives by establishing a digital infrastructure that extends well beyond locating physical infrastructure in a third-party data center. Instead of moving equipment from place to place, they spin up what they need when and where they need it, reducing reliance on traditional colocation and optimizing spend in a more OPEX centric cost model.

When businesses want to move into new territories quickly, they can — with the agility of a digital infrastructure. We’re seeing a greater appetite for companies to distribute their architecture and consider using a mix of physical and virtual connections. 65% of EMEA businesses expanding into new markets use virtual connections rather than investing in physical infrastructure. In Finland, that number is 69%, and 79% of IT-decision makers in the Netherlands are using virtual connections to support the expansion of their companies into new regions, countries or metros.

Other top priorities reflected in the survey results include complying with data protection regulation, improving cybersecurity and improving the user experience for customers and employees. Virtualization helps companies address those priorities and gives them even more ways to access the right places, partners and possibilities they need to create business advantage.

Inserting sustainability into vendor selection requirements

Over the past few years, sustainability initiatives have continued to rise in importance for companies worldwide. This year’s EU Green Week focused on how the world can tackle the ongoing threats posed by climate change and pollution. The European Commission’s “Zero Pollution for Air, Water and Soil” action plan aimed at building a “Healthy Planet for All” is aligned with the EU’s target for achieving climate neutrality by 2050.

Of the EMEA-based IT decision-makers who responded to the Global Technology Trends Survey, 51% said sustainability is a major driver for their organization with 54% reporting that a long-term sustainability plan is in place. In comparison, the focus on sustainability in IT in the UK is trending even higher with 64% of IT decision-makers reporting long-term sustainability plans in place at their companies.

This focus on sustainability has expanded to influence how businesses make purchase decisions and choose vendors. Overall, 46% of those surveyed said that the greenness of their supply chain influences purchasing decisions, with GEM countries reporting a slightly higher level of importance and the UK at 53%. Additionally, 49% of IT decision-makers reported that prospects for their products and services require potential vendors to demonstrate the sustainability of their IT infrastructure. In the UK, customer demand for a company’s ability to demonstrate sustainability of their IT infrastructure increased YOY from 36% to 58%, compared to a smaller increase from 41% to 49% for the EMEA region.

Equinix Demonstrates Commitment to Sustainability in EMEA

Equinix is committed to sustainability and addressing the urgency of global climate change within our operations, value chain and the broader industry. In January 2021, Equinix joined data center operators and trade associations in committing to goals of the European Green Deal to achieve ambitious greenhouse gas reductions across the sector. The Climate Neutral Data Centre Operator Pact and Self-Regulatory Initiative was formalized and signed by Equinix as well as 31 (as of March 2021) other operators and 20 trade associations. The EU plans to use regulation to deliver on its goal to make Europe climate-neutral by 2050 and placed data centers at the forefront of this strategy.

Virtualization and sustainability are just two of the priorities reported by IT decision-makers across EMEA. For more guidance on what’s fueling digital transformation strategies, read the Equinix Global Tech Trends Survey.

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