The Data Center Frontier Executive Roundtable features insights from industry executives with lengthy experience in the data center industry. Here’s a look at the insights from Tony Bishop of Digital Realty.
As part of the Digital Realty senior leadership and CTO teams, Tony Bishop plays a central role in helping the company build a differentiated global platform and ecosystem strategy to enable enterprises and services providers to accelerate their digital business strategies on PlatformDIGITAL. Before joining Digital Realty, Tony served as VP of Global Enterprise at Equinix, Chief Strategy Officer for 451 Research and served at Morgan Stanley & Co. as Managing Director, Global Head of Enterprise Datacenter Operations & Strategy. He is the author of Next Generation Datacenters: Driving Extreme Efficiency & Effective Costs Savings (July 2009). A former college-level hockey player, Tony now spends his days moving Digital Realty’s data center platform down the ice.
Here’s the full text of Tony Bishop’s insights from our Executive Roundtable:
Data Center Frontier: More providers are targeting the hyperscale computing market, and more customers appear to be “graduating” to super-sized requirements. How is this market changing, and what are the keys to success in serving the hyperscale sector in 2020 and beyond?
Tony Bishop: Hyperscale computing models are growing at a rapid rate – and for good reason. We predicted 2020 would be an important year for hyperscale growth and so far, this trend is playing out across the U.S., Europe and APAC. As the demand for cloud and big data continue to accelerate, enterprises need resources that can easily scale with their capacity and network bandwidth requirements.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this trend even more. With the sudden move to remote work, we’ve started to see enterprises increasingly rely on cloud computing to support distributed operations and sustain business continuity. To meet the networking demands required today, data center investment is growing in areas where they can be in close proximity to large hubs for tech and cloud companies and closer to where data is exchanged.
For example, the Toronto market is emerging as a key connectivity and tech hub in North America.
To meet this area’s growing needs, we just announced the expansion of our One Century Place facility to help customers the flexibility, capacity and performance needed to serve customers in this region, and globally. This is just one example of how the hyperscale growth trend is playing out. But to drive success in this sector in 2020 and beyond, providers will need to continue to make investments in capabilities that lie in close proximity to where end-users’ demands are.
Organizations today require fast, reliable access to critical applications and data, meaning interconnectivity between hyperscale data centers needs to be resilient and readily available to ensure businesses can provide the reliability customers demand. To successfully serve the hyperscale sector, providers should lean on an ecosystem of partners to deploy IT infrastructure in close proximity to data to support the reliability, resilience and scalability needed for today’s digital business.
Data Center Frontier: Artificial intelligence is bringing more powerful chips into the data center. What’s your take on the present and future of rack density, and how it may influence data center equipment and design?
Tony Bishop: The use of AI in the enterprise has accelerated dramatically in the past few years and with it, AI is bringing a significant need to meet new power demands and energy efficiency. Rack density, in particular, will become even more important in meeting power management needs. Colocation providers that can deliver on continuous, reliable energy needs will prove successful as AI applications and use continues to evolve.
But perhaps more important is how we overhaul IT infrastructure to bring infrastructure closer to the data generated by intensive applications like AI. AI workloads have moved to colocation facilities, yet the accrual of data is causing challenges for today’s IT infrastructure. As data accrues, it tends to attract additional services and applications, causing data gravity to emerge, which has the same effect on an enterprise that gravity has on objects on our planet. We often see data gravity as one of the main culprits preventing AI innovation. For example, if enterprises don’t account for data gravity, it can emerge as a big challenge that slows response times, creates information silos and prevents companies from providing excellent customer and employee experiences. To overcome these challenges, enterprises must bring computing resources closer to where data sets lie, which shrinks the time and distance needed to analyze the data that supports AI innovation.
At Digital Realty, we’ve expanded our capabilities in this area. One way we’re doing so is through our partnership with leading chip manufacturer, NVIDIA, to meet the needs of customers by introducing a new AI-ready infrastructure solution that enables them to rapidly deploy AI models in close proximity to their data sets. As a result, enterprises can gain access to AI-ready infrastructure to solve the global coverage, capacity and connectivity needs associated with deploying AI capabilities.
Data Center Frontier: What do you see as the most important trends in data center connectivity and interconnection, and how have they been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Tony Bishop: It’s no longer a matter of if enterprises are adopting cloud strategies. Instead, multi-cloud is emerging as a way to enhance security, scalability and flexibility within the enterprise, yet it also surfaces additional complexity that today’s modern enterprises must overcome. To do so, enterprises must rely on software-defined networking (SDN) to quickly and securely connect to not only each other, but cloud service providers and the web of data centers around the world. The use of SDN technologies enables enterprises to access any destination from a central location while supporting multiple connections to service providers, including public clouds. This gives enterprises more flexibility and reliability, especially as they face evolving bandwidth requirements.
For instance, our customer, Surfnet Communications found itself with the sudden need to provide more bandwidth to its customers as they started to work from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic. By partnering with Digital Realty and utilizing Service Exchange, Surfnet was able to overcome bandwidth issues and service customers from anywhere. COVID-19 demonstrated the need for a stable infrastructure that could support our economy during turbulent times, and an important part of this was interconnectivity.
“The use of SDN technologies enables enterprises to access any destination from a central location while supporting multiple connections to service providers, including public clouds.”
Tony Bishop, Digital Realty
Our number one goal remains to ensure safety while supporting customers with the critical infrastructure and uptime needed to power today’s digital businesses. During COVID-19, in partnership with Megaport, we launched an offer to waive port fees for new ports on Service Exchange to anyone in critical industries like government, medical emergency services and education verticals for six months. Available worldwide, this offer enables critical services to connect to over 350 service providers and 167 cloud onramps globally.
As organizations reevaluate their priorities and budgets to progress digital business post-COVID, we need to keep in mind the challenges we need to overcome as data continues to grow, especially as a result of a more permanent remote workforce. Moving forward, we’ll see this trend continue to accelerate as companies look for ways to add flexibility and connectivity – from anywhere.
Data Center Frontier: The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting companies to pursue automation to limit health risks. What are the most promising innovations the data center industry can adopt to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic?
Tony Bishop: Automation is at the heart of everything data centers are doing to ensure business continuity, especially now. As the world quickly transitioned to remote work/business, the stress on our IT infrastructure increased dramatically. Data centers emerged as critical resources for keeping our digital economy running, yet they too needed to re-evaluate normal operations to keep employees, customers and partners safe. Automation has evolved from a tool to give operators more time to concentrate on complex tasks that may require higher level skills for human intervention, to a lever operators can pull to ensure the health and safety of employees.
Predictive maintenance is also on the rise as a health and safety tool as data centers turn their attention to next-gen data center infrastructure management capabilities to extend remote monitoring and management capabilities, enabling customers, partners and team members the ability to improve flexibility and enable remote work when needed.
Finally, we’re also seeing companies like IBM investing in hybrid connectivity to enable customers to be successful, no matter where their data is located. The post-COVID enterprise will need to be more strategic about where their data lies. With hybrid strategies, they can not only increase their agility, but adapt quickly and ensure business continuity if or when something like a pandemic disrupts normal business operations in the future.