Deploying Digital Infrastructure? Consider These Key Factors

How customers decide to architect for their core, edge and ecosystems

Steve Madden
Deploying Digital Infrastructure? Consider These Key Factors

Now that we are into year three of the global pandemic, distributed digital infrastructure continues to propel digital leaders forward as they use technology for competitive advantage–when and where they need it most. Cloudifying business as usual is no longer enough. Whether at the digital core, the digital edge or both, where companies position compute, storage and networking capabilities is driven by their digital-first strategies.

According to the Global Interconnection Index (GXI) Volume 5, digital leaders are moving 4.5x farther ahead with their digital-first strategies compared to traditional businesses. There is no longer a distinction between business and IT units; they must operate as a single unit to achieve success. Their shared goal is to reach a state of digital maturity—when digital business processes are responsible for driving most of the revenue.

The time for a digital-first strategy is now.

The Global Interconnection Index (GXI) is the industry’s leading source of data and insight on interconnection and its increasing impact on the digital world.

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What is digital infrastructure?

Digital infrastructure brings together and interconnects the physical and the virtual, creating the backbone of the digital economy. Software-defined interconnection helps companies quickly rewire and reconfigure business infrastructure when demand changes. The GXI reports that digital leaders across all industries are leveraging interconnection to the degree that the total interconnection bandwidth is already nine times larger than all internet traffic.

The three components of digital infrastructure are the digital core, ecosystems and edge. In this blog, we’ll explore the factors that help companies choose to deploy digital infrastructure at core locations[1], edge locations or both to drive their digital businesses forward. The primary difference between core and edge locations is that the core is optimizing for proximity to clouds and networks, while edge is optimizing for proximity to physical work locations, business operations, and users. A single location can serve both needs (although rare) and they both enable access to ecosystems of cloud, IT and network service providers, SaaS and technology companies and industry-specific companies (but at a different mix).

Establishing a foundation at the digital core

Corporate networks, multicloud and regional back-end data infrastructure locations are examples of the types of infrastructure typically found at the digital core. These locations, identified as core metros, are used to provision capacity between networks, clouds, XaaS providers and an organization’s digital infrastructure. Interconnecting the digital core removes traditional technology-related limitations and helps position on-premises systems adjacent to cloud services.

As digital leaders establish a digital presence and produce and scale digital services, they must establish a core where they have the largest volume of digital transactions. Doing so helps them streamline connectivity and optimize cloud access within each location and across regions, significantly reducing network costs. Positioning infrastructure at core locations helps businesses unlock trapped capital (CAPEX) that can be used to invest in software-oriented solutions and technology-driven business models. In addition, leveraging subscription-based services (OPEX) helps businesses enable digital development at scale.

The GXI shows that the digital core represents 70% of interconnection bandwidth and digital infrastructure capacity despite being only 20% of locations. This data shows that the core is extremely important in terms of the number of deployments it drives; it also shows that edge-only deployments do exist and are important in their own way.

Examples of initiatives that businesses focus on at the digital core include digital transformation, data science and analytics, data privacy and protection, process automation, sustainability and Infrastructure as Code.

Interconnecting at the digital core accelerates value creation

A leading global provider of platform, channel and content protection services needed to gain direct and secure connectivity between a sporting event broadcaster’s content feed and its own content security and video privacy platform for a short-term event.

This company delivered continuous, real-time protection for a major sporting broadcaster on Platform Equinix®, using the Network Edge virtual network functions platform and Equinix Fabric™ software-defined interconnection to access the broadcaster’s content feed and interconnect to their cloud provider, where its streaming and security platform resided. Equinix Metal™ automated, interconnected Bare Metal as a Service simulated broadcast traffic for testing, helping bring the solution online in just a couple months.

Interacting at the digital edge

Supporting mobile workforces, developing business-relevant insights and providing differentiated experiences in proximity to population centers requires digital leaders to position infrastructure at the digital edge. Edge metros are those locations primarily used as the interface between the physical and digital worlds, where organizations connect to customers, edge devices and places of business and participate in local marketplaces.

Positioning digital infrastructure geographically close to where most business revenue is generated is crucial for providing the best possible customer experience. Organizations can scale edge processing, develop insights close to where data is generated and deliver high performance and security to customers and their mobile workforce. The GXI shows the digital edge encompasses 80% of the locations with about 30% of infrastructure deployments and interconnection bandwidth. Yet, the edge is where significant growth is projected with Service Providers (double the growth of core) with Enterprise interconnection bandwidth projected to grow 57% CAGR.

Examples of initiatives businesses focus on at the digital edge include smart industry and Infratech, predictive maintenance, edge-to-cloud automation, real-time services, operational stability at scale, environmental awareness, meeting rising customer expectations, personalized experiences, ransomware and fraud prevention, and data security and sovereignty.

Partners interact at the digital edge to drive innovation

An engineering company relied heavily on capturing and analyzing extensive amounts of field data. Traditional methods of data collection and analysis for remote locations and critical infrastructure were becoming less effective or obsolete because they were labor-intensive, time-consuming and costly.

Next-gen methods using drones, AI and virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR) technologies enable innovative, safer and cost-effective ways to plan, design and build for today and for future generations. By teaming up with Equinix and a managed service provider, the company deployed a global edge compute, network and hybrid multicloud architecture that enabled the company to efficiently innovate and deliver greater value to its clients.

Deploying digital infrastructure at both the core and edge

Positioning infrastructure in locations at the core and edge is becoming the norm for many businesses to bridge the physical and virtual. This hybrid model of digital infrastructure solves for different business requirements, supports specific industries and business models, and provides access to Cloud and IT Providers.

Deployments by Enterprises at multiple core and edge locations, combined with expansion by Service Providers to the edge, creates ecosystem density that provides new ways for Service Providers and Enterprises to transact and create value together worldwide. The GXI shows that increasing access requirements to cloud and network providers will fuel Enterprise core location growth. Edge locations will expand interconnection bandwidth capacity at a 51% CAGR with volume and density that approaches core location levels, indicating that the edge will continue to experience high growth rates.

Deploying at core and edge locations enables global data management

A company in automotive manufacturing needed to process more than 150 terabytes (TBs) of data to inform design decisions that would increase the safety for connected and autonomous vehicles, and ultimately save lives. The team needed to pull image and sensor data from vehicles in different regions across the globe, and store and process it in a connected central repository that could be accessed quickly by hundreds of engineers anywhere in the world.

Equinix IBX® data centers and personnel provided the infrastructure and expertise to deploy the company’s supercomputer cluster infrastructure in just a couple of weeks. Once the data was placed in Equinix data centers and uploaded to the company’s cloud, thousands of its engineers around the world worked collaboratively to tag, structure, analyze and process huge amounts of data and develop new AI learning models on demand.

Deploy your digital infrastructure from a single platform

As the world’s digital infrastructure company™, Equinix enables nearly 10,000 customers and partners to deploy their digital infrastructure in core and edge locations on a single global platform: Platform Equinix. With its extensive ecosystem of partners and enterprises, there’s tremendous value to digital leaders as they compete, scale and leverage market opportunities around the world.

For more insights on how companies are optimizing their digital infrastructure across the core, edge and ecosystems, read the GXI Vol. 5 today.

To learn more about Platform Equinix, check out the vision paper.



[1] Locations are carrier-neutral facilities

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Steve Madden Vice President, Equinix Research Group
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