Published 22 Nov 2023
For those who remember the tech world before the COVID digitalisation gold-rush, the 2019 assertion by Gartner that 'The Data Centre Is (Almost) Dead, ruffled feathers. The report warned that by 2025, 80% of enterprises will shut down their traditional data centres. In fact, 10% of organisations already have.
Then the pandemic hit and the global demand for world-class user experiences (for workforces and customers alike) exploded. This meant such facilities not only earned a reprieve, but also became business-critical all over again.
The industry still operates in this context. A 2022 Forrester report commissioned by Pulsant partner Megaport found that 40% are adding [traditional] data centre sites or capacity to improve user experience across their networks.
In a world where the connectivity of a business, workforce or population is vital, the network that brings them together, and the core locations on that network that store or process data, are more than just technological infrastructure. They are the very fabric of commerce.
Understanding where - and how - a data centre fits on that network is more than just an exercise in aligning digital to existing operations. It is about making sure a facility can drive the innovation that is the lifeblood of all business.
“We are connected to over 800 data centres across the globe,” explains Paul McGuinness, Head of Solutions EMEA at Megaport. “So, we have a vested interest in being right at the forefront of how data centres are changing and how the network and data centre can best interact.”
An evolution to the edge
In retrospect, Gartner’s warning of a death knell is all the more controversial because data centres have undergone extensive evolutions. The most immediate development was from a traditional, physical facility to a virtual counterpart. This offers businesses not only a choice between the two, but also the option of a hybrid.
Dependent upon size, locations, and budget, or indeed an appreciation of the distinct functions offered by a physical or virtual DC, this offers a sophisticated array of possibilities.
Colocation and multi-tenant data centres now provide access to multiple carriers and connectivity providers in one location. Enterprise-owned, on-premise centres cannot hope to match the variety of connectivity options.
But it has not been the only evolution. Moving beyond proprietary, owned data centres to those run by telecommunications suppliers, co-location providers and Hyperscale giants, the market is now awash with options.
At Pulsant, we have focused on the development of an estate of ‘edge’ data centres. Daniel Blackwell, Pulsant Product Manager for Network & Security explains the rationale: “Edge datacentres, located close to city centres, rapidly become connectivity hubs. Data should not need to travel all over the country, just to get down the street – especially in the case of applications such as the Internet of Things.”
“Our regional locations, and national network fabric enables us to move data closer to where it needs to be, delivering shorter distances to action rather than long round trips to a large, centralised data centre.”
These regionally focused facilities are typically smaller and are designed to be as close to the end user as possible. Instead of having one large data centre, businesses can opt for multiple smaller DCs.
There is a compelling rationale to go regional. By managing and processing the data locally, we believe that data centres have the opportunity to become hubs of innovation. Decentralised facilities combine the technological benefits of reduced latency and optimised bandwidth (that arise from proximity to the data being generated) with a closeness to the business they serve. In the case of recent technologies such as analytics or the Internet of Things, this means challenges are identified and dealt with earlier. A faster rectification of issues means faster ROI.
In pursuit of alignment: again, and again
However, there is an equal need to not be confined to staying regional. As businesses grow and shift, they need to be able to employ new connectivity, quickly. This has already made software defined networking (SDN) a business-critical consideration for many enterprises – hence our partnership with Megaport.
In a digital-first world, data centres and networks are key components of the technological infrastructure of innovation. The better the continual re-alignment of these assets, the more agile the organisation.
And make no mistake: this is a continual process. Recent data from the 451 Group shows that more than 15% of organisations change wide-area network or middle-mile connectivity profile hourly. A further 21% do it daily, and another 14% do it weekly.
This is the speed of re-iterated configurations and processes that are the basis of digital transformation.
Digital transformation is the integration of technology and the cultural modernisation of a business, fundamentally changing how it operates and delivers value to customers. Hence, we can also appreciate the importance of proximity between the assets that enable that change, as well as the juxtaposition of the technology and the various organisations involved.
McGuinness concludes: “Our partnership with Pulsant typifies our approach to enable businesses to rapidly provision dedicated, private, and reliable connections between data centres within metro areas, nationally, or internationally.”
With this closeness as a backdrop, businesses can adapt, grow, and build quicker. The improvements in customer experience, operational agility and workforce enablement that arise from successful digital transformation all depend on successful integration of the data centre and the network – and the closer those links, the better the results.