We are in the midst of a data revolution accelerated by the pandemic. In a webinar we recently sponsored with IDC, Research Director Andrew Buss shared a sentiment he heard from a CIO on this topic–that is, “…essentially this year has squeezed four years-worth of digital transformation into six months.”[i]

Digital transformation has touched everything from the way we work to how we shop. More than ever, the customer experience depends on how businesses integrate new digital technologies with legacy infrastructures. In order to optimize and modernize IT infrastructures, digital leaders are focusing on those priorities that can leverage existing and emerging digital technologies and still control costs. This approach relies on the delivery, collection and management of a flood of data through network optimization and agility. Let’s look at the technologies that are driving these changes.

5G and emerging technologies are driving the eruption of data at the edge
Business-critical applications often stay on-premises due to performance and security concerns. These data centers weren’t designed on the principles of automation, orchestration or proximate connectivity. Most network traffic is backhauled from the edge to corporate data centers, creating greater latency and impacting application performance. But think about what’s emerged: a data influx at the edge driven by high-speed broadband, the internet of things (IoT) and 5G. And there are now cloud-native businesses trying to deliver, consume and backup mission-critical data distributed across multiple locations and sources.

To address these challenges, digital leaders are looking for ways to create and interconnect modern digital infrastructure by leveraging more agile network architectures to bridge legacy infrastructure with emerging digital technologies. Here are some of the approaches they are taking.

“…essentially this year has squeezed four years-worth of digital transformation into six months”

How agile network architectures are accelerating digital transformation
Navigating the pace and growth of the digital landscape requires a network-wide transformation. IDC asked approximately 1,200 respondents across Europe about their digital approaches. The results show digital leaders, comprising nearly one-fourth (23%) of all participants, make extensive use of advanced IT infrastructure capabilities, including a focus on network agility with a hybrid multicloud approach.[ii] They are doubling down on network transformation, even in the midst of a global pandemic.

Consider the following scenario: Currently your company uses multiple cloud service providers (CSPs) to deliver services to all of your distributed branch locations via two regionally centralized data centers. You are backhauling user traffic to and from CSPs through these two centralized locations, which is causing performance and security issues for your users and higher networking costs.

As a digital leader, you would move to a distributed model. This means maintaining your two core data centers but deploying software-defined network (SDN) interconnection and network functions virtualization (NFV) infrastructure at multiple smaller edge data center points of presence (PoPs) inside a colocation provider, such as Equinix. Proximate, high-speed, low-latency interconnection to leading CSPs provides a high-speed on-ramp to their scalable resources and services. This improves your cloud application performance and user experience and reduces CAPEX costs by going to an OPEX-based consumption model for the edge connectivity to the cloud. Private, dedicated connections to your CSPs through Network Edge services that deploy leading NFV vendors’ devices and Equinix Fabric™ dedicated software-defined interconnection also provide greater security. Your new digital architecture deploys more agile and cost-effective virtual networking and hybrid multicloud architectures that maximize both performance, scale and security, while reducing costs.

The next question is, “How do you manage the complexity of all this and stay agile?” Let’s take a closer look at what digital leaders are doing with emerging technologies to accomplish this.

6 characteristics of agile digital infrastructure
According to Buss, “Digital leaders look at digital transformation as an investment in the future and a way to capture market share, rather than cut costs.” The IDC survey cites a number of differentiating characteristics that digital leaders have adopted or plan to adopt as shown in the diagram below.

Source: IDCii

To achieve their goals, digital leaders are investing in SDN interconnection and NFV infrastructure automation and orchestration to gain greater network agility and flexibility.ii These investments highlight key priorities: scalability, digital and business ecosystem access, availability, high performance and security. They are OPEX-driven and intended to reduce the complexity of hybrid infrastructures.

Scalability
Colocation solutions improve connectivity, scalability and reach. Leveraging a global digital infrastructure platform such as Platform Equinix® enables an enterprise to extend their reach to 63 metro markets in 26 countries across five continents. Our IBX® data centers help customers increase the regional and global reach and scalability of their digital infrastructures.

Interconnection to ecosystems
Digital leaders capitalize on the power of strong ecosystems by building and connecting their digital infrastructures using   Direct and secure interconnection to thriving digital and business ecosystems provides flexibility, cost efficiencies and valued-added enterprise capabilities for users. Enterprise users can gain greater access to these new capabilities over the public internet via Equinix Connect, while service providers can leverage the scalability of internet peering to deliver a greater user experience using Equinix Internet Exchange®.

High availability
Redundant, reliable interconnection between Equinix IBX data centers means greater resiliency for business continuity and disaster recovery. For instance, Equinix Fabric offers redundant direct and secure connections between your distributed infrastructure and digital ecosystems on our global platform using software-defined interconnection. And Equinix IBX data centers have a proven 99.9999% average uptime record globally.

High performance
Scalable, agile and resilient digital infrastructure requires combating the latency issues that can come with legacy, centralized networks connecting to cloud and distributed resources at the edge. Interconnection solutions such as Equinix Fabric improve performance with proximate high-speed, low-latency, private connectivity. Together with Equinix Fabric, Network Edge services deploy leading vendors’ NFV infrastructure and devices at the edge, close to clouds and SaaS providers, in minutes. This leads to higher overall network and application performance and lower costs.

Security
Security control solutions – from the core to the edge – are necessary to address security risks during development, operations and optimization. Equinix SmartKey®, for example, is a global secure key management and cryptography service that simplifies your data protection. It offers efficient integration regardless of where data lives, improving network trust and agility.

OPEX-based consumption
An OPEX-based consumption model, rather than a traditional CAPEX model, allows digital leaders to reinvest their cost savings. They can expand new IT technologies and solutions in existing and new markets, capturing new business and scaling as necessary.

An agile, flexible approach to network makes changes and operations manageable, scalable and predictable, while reducing costs. At Equinix, we know network agility allows businesses to capitalize on their digital transformation investments and see top-line benefits. Arguably, network agility is the most important priority of today’s digital leaders transforming their digital architectures.

Learn more about how you can achieve network agility.

You may also be interested in watching the IDC webinar sponsored by Equinix: “How to Cope with Unprecedented Change with a New Approach to Your Network.”

By Sachin Sony, Senior Manager, Segment Marketing

[i] IDC webinar, sponsored by Equinix, “How to Cope with Unprecedented Change with a New Approach to Your Network,” Dec 2020.

[ii] IDC, European Enterprise Infrastructure and Multicloud Survey, 2020 as referenced in IDC webinar, sponsored by Equinix, “How to Cope with Unprecedented Change with a New Approach to Your Network,” Dec 2020.

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