The role of digital infrastructure has changed irreversibly in the last two years, from underlying enabler to business-critical differentiator. We’ve learned all too well that the ability to pivot an organization’s operations can be critical to business survival and is 100% dependent on digital infrastructure.
Today’s digital leaders are focused on delivering a simple and agile environment that is partner-rich and commerce-ready enabling them to consistently use self-service physical and digital infrastructure that is software-friendly, whether that software is developed internally or purchased off the shelf. Nearly 6 in 10 digital leaders (58%) are planning to invest in technology to make their businesses more agile post-pandemic, according to the Equinix Global Tech Trends Survey 2020-21 (GTTS).
In this, the first of a series of blogs that will explore the customer priorities driving the evolution of digital infrastructure, and guiding the development roadmap for Platform Equinix®, we will look in detail at how simplification enables reliability, security, agility and scale.
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Historical complexity is everywhere
Just as many of us acquire personal clutter over the years, organizations accumulate infrastructure clutter. In both cases, the clutter typically includes an assortment of everyday essentials, homemade items, a few prized possessions, and plenty of unwanted gifts and unwise acquisitions.
Whether at home or in the data center, sorting out the clutter takes so much time and effort that it’s usually put off until it becomes unavoidable. From an infrastructure perspective, that’s an issue, as it often results in critical systems so complicated (and so poorly understood) that routine maintenance becomes a complex ordeal.
Cloud has only increased complexity
In the early years of cloud adoption, it did seem that as-a-service IT could be a superpower for infrastructure simplification. Just spin up the resources when and where you need them, use them for as long as necessary, and then delete them and stop paying.
And while that story was basically true, what no one foresaw was just how complicated cloud services would quickly become. The wild success of cloud services has resulted in an ever-broadening range of cloud products, along with complex pricing models. At the same time—and often for very good reasons—many organizations are now using multiple IaaS and PaaS providers, along with dozens of SaaS services. Additionally, organizations have identified certain systems they prefer to keep off public clouds, while still enabling those systems to interact with public clouds. Net-net, public cloud has undeniably added a further layer of complexity to the already challenging infrastructure landscape.
Simplification is still the desired outcome
Many organizations we talk with are driven by the need to simplify how they deliver infrastructure to their internal customers. Many are feeling competitive pressure to innovate faster and to adapt more nimbly to opportunities, and they know that a simpler infrastructure would enable a leap forward.
Others are seeking to standardize their architectures and operational processes across business units and regions, for greater efficiency and compatibility. Again, simplification is seen as the key lever to deliver those economic gains.
Start from the foundation up
A common request is for simple repeatability—the opportunity to “copy and paste” proven infrastructure solutions from one location to another. Traditionally, this has been impossible. Each environment was so unique that each solution had to be individually engineered.
But this level of ubiquity can be achieved when simplification starts with foundational infrastructures and is driven through each subsequent infrastructure layer. While this does take some effort and engineering discipline, taking this approach retains the key benefits of simplicity—standardization, modularity, reusability, and more—throughout the environment.
For decades, customers have taken advantage of the engineered simplicity of Platform Equinix to enable their own simplification. In the past, customers focused on the predictable experience, security and operational excellence of Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers—qualities shared today with new offerings, including our standardized quick-deploy Secure Cabinet Express.
At the same time, the growing importance of digital ecosystems has shifted market attention from data center predictability toward interconnection ubiquity. The ability to interconnect on demand with Equinix Fabric™ software-defined interconnection, to any one of more than 10,000 Platform Equinix ecosystem participants without traversing the public internet is a big step forward in infrastructure simplification. According to the 2020-21 GTTS, the percentage of digital leaders reporting that connecting to digital ecosystems is a benefit of interconnection nearly doubled (11% to 21%) from the 2019-20 survey.
Set the direction from the top
Of course, the biggest barrier to simplification is the hardest to overcome: the human factor. The desire for local autonomy, preferences to engineer one’s own solutions, and simple “not invented here” bias can all create bumps on the road to simplicity. Therefore, simplification requires strong leadership.
Depending on an organization’s culture, strictly mandating exclusive use of standard solutions can be successful. In more liberal environments, leaders are using convenience and speed as gentler levers to achieve the same outcome. The fact that digital solutions such as Network Edge virtual network devices and Equinix Metal™ bare metal servers can be deployed globally in minutes, and not the the weeks or months needed for physical roll-outs, is a strong motivator to simplify and standardize on digital solutions. And with appropriate integrations, infrastructure delivered digitally really can deliver the “copy and paste” ease of deployment.
Maintaining momentum is the final reason that driving infrastructure simplicity requires strong leaders. Simplification requires constant work. It’s a state of permanent revolution rather than an achievable endpoint, and complexity is always threatening to intervene.
Fortunately, the strong digital leaders needed to drive simplification are also those most likely to understand its true value. It’s not just the superficial cost reductions and efficiency gains, but also the accelerated pace of innovation and dramatic shifts in agility that can open new markets, drive new capabilities, and contribute significantly to the transformation of an organization.
Digital leaders focused on accelerating transformation and advancing their competitive advantage rely on digital infrastructure. Learn more about our vision for the future of digital infrastructure.
You may also be interested in reading:
Powering Digital Leaders, Harness Your Digital Infrastructure to Gain Business Advantage (e-book)