Data Centres as Digital Ecosystems

Written by Phil Alsop, Editor, DCS Europe Published 2022-01-05 08:06:16

A grand sounding headline – with more than a nod to management-speak? Maybe, but the virtual, digital world offers the very real possibility of streamlining and consolidating a company’s supply chain through the creation of connected communities. Colocation data centres have a crucial role to play in this vision of the future.

In actual fact, this future is already here, in a number of ways. Some colocation providers are already building data centres designed with certain applications and/or industry sectors in mind. Indeed, in the case of the finance sector, for example, have already been doing this for a number of years. 

The demands of high-performance computing, AI and other developing technologies require a different type of data centre from what we might call the traditional colocation offering. High densities with a higher cooling requirement are the order of the day. The specialist providers of these will inevitably attract like-minded companies and, in so doing, provide them with an economy of scale, and access to resources, which they would just not be able to achieve on their own.

Away from the development of such specialist technology community data centres, other facilities are developing expert offerings for certain markets. As referenced above, the finance sector is the most obvious example of this. Data centres in and around the City of London provide the infrastructure that’s ultimately required to enable the complex trading algorithms which make split-second decisions that can win or lose millions or even billions of pounds, dollars or euros.

Newer industry focuses include the gaming and media industries. As with the HPC/AI scenario, a data centre facility which is optimised for a particular type, or types, of activity – serving thousands upon thousands of gamers or movie watchers with real-time, high-definition access to content – is a major benefit. Similarly, such facilities provide access to a level and scale of flexible infrastructure which would be unaffordable to many of the companies who operate in these sectors, if they had to make the necessary capital investment themselves.

So far, I’ve concentrated on the attractions of specialist colocation facilities, where specific applications or industry requirements are the main driver of the infrastructure. Before moving on, it’s also worth making the point that, in many cases, if the colocation customers in a specific facility all work in the same industry, there’s every chance that they do business with one another. If that’s the case, how much more efficient is it to have many of these interactions and transactions take place within one data centre, rather than spread across a number of geographically diverse locations?

And this brings us on to perhaps the main reason why the potential benefits of digital ecosystems are being investigated by more and more end users at the present time. For the benefits of being in the same data centre as many of the organisations with whom you do business – both suppliers and customers potentially – are available to all, not just industry or application specific groups.

Instead of relying on internet-based connectivity, there’s the opportunity to benefit from intra-networking within a data centre. An organisation deploys its IT hardware and software in a multi-tenant facility, which also hosts cloud and managed service providers. Better still, maybe some of your business partners are also located in the same location, so you can carry out much of your day to day activities without ‘leaving’ the data centre.

Additionally, for those activities that do require external communications, the data centre provider will have a range of connectivity partners from which to choose. 

In physical terms, imagine the efficiency and economic savings if your supply chain was all based in the same city or town. Well, a digital ecosystem is the virtual equivalent. And, if that location provides easy access to your required transport networks, even better.

In terms of the potential IT performance improvements a colocation digital ecosystem offers, these can include:

  • A more reliable network connection, with less packet loss
  • A reduction in latency
  • Agility and scalability, with fast access to the cloud and managed services within the facility
  • Improved security, as data remains at one location
  • Better network control and visibility
  • Increased external network options, thanks to the data centre provider’s extensive connectivity partners

Individually, some of these benefits might appear negligible (a few milliseconds here or there might not matter to you, for example), depending on the type of business you operate. Collectively, they make a compelling case for at the very least exploring the idea of becoming part of a digital ecosystem. 

When it comes to sourcing a data centre partner, make sure to understand their tenant profile. Are there a significant amount of incumbents who work in the same area, or who use the same type of applications? And what connectivity, cloud and managed services companies have a base in the facility?

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