As executives in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) transition into a new year, the question of how best to future-proof their business—for 2023 and beyond—looms large. These businesses face the same challenges as their global counterparts, but there are others driven by the unique legal and political realities of the region. According to the Equinix Global Tech Trends Survey (GTTS), 81% of EMEA IT leaders said they see future-proofing the business as a top priority for their technology strategy.
Specifically, the GTTS found these three areas as the most common future-proofing challenges named by EMEA IT leaders:
- Complying with data regulations (83%)
- Improving cybersecurity (83%)
- Improving customer experience (82%)
In addition, no future-proofing strategy is now complete unless it incorporates sustainable operations. By definition, environmental sustainability is the ultimate future-proofing priority—not just for individual businesses, but for the entire global economy.
In this blog, we’ll take a deeper look at the four priorities named above—data regulations, cybersecurity, user experience and sustainability—to examine the future-proofing challenges facing EMEA businesses, and how they’re overcoming them.
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The European regulatory landscape grows more complex
In many ways, businesses in EMEA are ahead of their global counterparts when it comes to complying with data protection and sovereignty regulations; the advent of GDPR forced the issue a few years back. However, the regulatory landscape continues to evolve, and business leaders must consistently invest in the skills and technology needed to keep up.
One particular challenge they face is taking advantage of digital ecosystems while also staying on the right side of data privacy laws. Ecosystems have become essential to business success, whether it’s collaborating with partners to drive innovation or tapping into cloud and SaaS providers for greater performance and new services on demand. EMEA businesses must balance their compliance requirements against the need to share data across their digital ecosystems.
Equinix joined the Gaia-X initiative to help create a sovereign digital infrastructure that supports digital ecosystems and data marketplaces in Europe. The end goal of Gaia-X is to allow European organizations to share data and services with one another freely, without giving up sovereignty over what they share.
Equinix IBX® data centers are fully GDPR compliant. Any organization handling data from European customers can store that data in more than 70 metros worldwide without risking improper exposure. Equinix Fabric®, our software-defined interconnection solution, helps move data to ecosystem partners or between data centers, while giving businesses the granular control and visibility they need to ensure compliance.
Geopolitical conflict adds to cybersecurity challenges
EMEA IT leaders face a complex and rapidly changing security landscape, with cyberattacks increasing in both frequency and intensity. Cyberattacks for monetary gain remain a concern, while the ongoing military conflict between Ukraine and Russia has created additional vulnerabilities. In its Threat Landscape 2022 report, the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) mentioned a new wave of “hacktivism” driven by the conflict.
European CIOs must pursue their digital transformation priorities without increasing cybersecurity risk. To do this, they need a holistic security strategy that protects both their digital assets and their physical infrastructure. Preventing data breaches is a particular area of concern, both because of the data protection regulations mentioned above and because of the high costs and reputational damage that inevitably follow such incidents.
Equinix physical data center security includes five layers of access controls, thus preventing unauthorized access to customer equipment. In addition, Equinix Fabric helps keep data protected in transit. Enterprises can bypass the public internet to form direct, private connections to any of our 10,000+ customers. This allows them to move sensitive data anywhere it needs to go without exposing it to cyberattacks.
Employees and customers expect a better user experience
For both employees and customers, expectations around user experience have dramatically increased. What started as a matter of necessity during the pandemic has now become business as usual. Employees expect to work when and where they want, collaborating with global colleagues. Companies must meet this expectation to attract the right talent and overcome a technical skills gap.
Similarly, consumers expect highly personalized services delivered consistently across a multitude of digital channels. Providing this frictionless customer experience can be a competitive differentiator in the digital economy.
To provide a better user experience, businesses need distributed digital infrastructure across key locations. Software-defined interconnection services from Equinix Fabric allow for low-latency connectivity to employees and customers anywhere, speeding delivery of digital services.
Equinix’s suite of on-demand digital services enables a holistic edge-to-cloud strategy and allows businesses to build an agile IT footprint that combines both physical and virtual solutions.
For instance, Equinix Metal® delivers Infrastructure as a Service for single-tenant bare metal on demand. Virtual network functions (VNFs) such as Network Edge help businesses deploy in new locations. The combination of these services reduces the high up-front cost of physical hardware and long lead times of traditional network provisioning. They can also be consumed via a more flexible OPEX model.
New sustainability reporting requirements arise
Starting in financial year 2023, emissions reporting in Europe will become mandatory under the terms of the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR). For this reason, business leaders in EMEA are not only working to reduce their own direct emissions, but also looking for reliable partners and vendors to help reduce emissions across their supply chain—their Scope 3 emissions.
European business leaders must strike a delicate balance between enabling digital acceleration and limiting Scope 3 emissions from their IT infrastructure. Fortunately, the data center industry has made tremendous strides in increasing energy efficiency. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), energy used by data centers only increased by 10-60% between 2015 and 2021, despite a 440% increase in internet traffic over the same time period.
Equinix is proud to take the lead in making data centers cleaner and more efficient. We were a founding signatory of the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact, an industry self-regulatory initiative that aims to make data centers in Europe climate neutral by 2030. In addition, we were the first data center operator to commit to becoming climate neutral across our global operations by 2030. In pursuit of that goal, we’ve already reached 95% renewable energy coverage globally, including 100% renewable coverage in EMEA.
In January 2022, we announced the opening of our first Co-Innovation Facility. In this facility, we’re partnering with leading names in data center technology to develop and test the next generation of sustainability innovations, including fuel cells and liquid cooling.
Be ready for whatever the future holds
While we have a good idea of the challenges EMEA businesses might face in 2023, being a future-proof business is less about predicting what will happen and more about being ready for anything. This means having a flexible, agile digital infrastructure that allows you to adapt to any disruption that arises.
To learn more about how leading organizations are deploying strategies to give themselves a competitive edge in the rapidly evolving digital economy, read the Leaders’ Guide to Digital Infrastructure e-book.
[i] “ENISA Threat Landscape 2022”, European Union Agency for Cybersecurity, October 2022.
 George Kamiya, “Data Centres and Data Transmission Networks”, International Energy Agency, Spetmeber 2022.