Global platform trends.

The ecosystem of businesses and services that meet in the data center is an important enabler of success.

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has highlighted two key trends affecting our market; the increased investment in digitisation by businesses of all sizes and in all sectors, and the increasingly internationalised or global nature of the IT infrastructure required to support these investments. Organisations globally are turning to digital and IT solutions not only to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, but to lead the search for curers.

Even before the outbreak, Big Five accounting firm EY found that more than half of those responding to its latest Global Capital Confidence Barometer were allocating between 25% and 50% of all investment capital into their digital transformation. At the same time, 75% of respondents to a 451 Research survey plan to extend IT infrastructure to new geographic locations in the next two years. Over 25% plan to add more than 10 new locations. It’s clear that these trends present a real opportunity for multi-tenanted data center operators like DigiPlex.

Some are responding to these opportunities by claiming to be global platforms. The phrase is borrowed from the more consumer IT worlds of Uber and Air BnB who provide a set of applications upon which business or individuals can offer their own services (car and driver or property for short-term let). But does this approach really work for the highly complex and bespoke demands of data center provision? The promise of a standardised set of services, agreements and SLAs seems attractive, as does the potential for a global ‘hub’ for data, compute or connectivity. The question that needs to be asked is, can these hubs actually be delivered, and if so, do they really meet the specific and changing requirements of customers?

Changing the name on the door
Most of the players promoting ‘global platforms’ have grown by acquisition. Their platform consists of a variety of data centers, built by different vendors at different times and for different purposes. Their performance and suitability will also vary; simply ‘badging’ them with a new brand provides no guarantee of consistent performance. Customers may find themselves tied to under-performing centers in key locations without the ability to tender for alternatives.

Shallow Ecosystems
As data centers evolve to become the ‘factories of tomorrow’ they offer more than just space, power, cooling and connectivity. The ecosystem of businesses and services that meet in the data center is an important enabler of success. Global platforms offer a standardised approach with the promise of lower costs and easier management, but this tends to lead to preferred suppliers and locking out of alternatives. Local players with better connections, understanding and services that fit better with local customers can find themselves excluded by global platforms.

Trust us, we know best
The platform approach relies on scale to be profitable, and this can mean rigid processes that define the way a customer will interact with the vendor. If you are a significant global customer, you may be able to bend the process to fit your requirements more closely, but for all but the biggest it is likely that you will have to conform to the way the Platform operates. It may be difficult to adjust your own processes to fit the needs of the platform, and you may end up with service levels other than what you wanted. This can also lead to lock in, as global agreements are made with connectivity partners for example. Better prices and service could be available from alternative providers, but the platform does not offer them.

You can’t alter physics
For all of their promise of providing seamless, cost effective, global-scale data centers as a platform, no player can make data flow faster or create a one-size fits all infrastructure that works the same everywhere. In fact, what the platform advocates do not mention is that there are many different ways to create a global reach, connect to different network fabrics and meet the bespoke demands of each business. Owning every element is neither desirable nor necessary. For example, carrier neutral facilities serving local enterprises, hyperscale and cloud providers are likely to offer more competitive solutions for connectivity and to host more vibrant ecosystems closely connected to local economies.

For some the cookie-cutter approach of a global platform will make sense. But for most businesses the advantages of flexibility, of having control over how your facility is set up and managed, and the option to join a vibrant ecosystem of local customers and suppliers that can meet the specific requirements of your business in that location, will be far more important.

At DigiPlex we believe in listening to what our customers want and need, and then creating the right solution with them. We combined international connectivity with world-leading sustainability and deep expertise in Nordic social, economic and political environments to deliver bespoke solutions. Whether you are a hyperscaler, global enterprise or local business we work to create exactly the right data center facility for your local needs and global connectivity.

Article by VP International & Hyperscale Sales – Tim Bawtree

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