NEW YORK – In a clear signal of its growing ambitions in the colocation market, Digital Realty has unveiled PlatformDIGITAL, a broad initiative to sharpen its focus on problem-solving for enterprise customers retooling their IT infrastructure. It is leading with two key capabilities: interconnection, and the management of Big Data, Bigger Data and the Ginormous Data Yet to Come.
At its MarketplaceLIVE conference Thursday in New York, Digital Realty outlined its view of the future, along with a refined strategy for working with enterprise customers facing a complex landscape of IT options. At the core of the PlatformDIGITAL strategy is Pervasive Datacenter Architecture (PDx), which offers repeatable “fit-for-purpose” data center footprints designed to solve common challenges faced by enterprise colocation customers.
“Digital Realty’s heritage is understanding a customer’s data center needs,” said Scott Mills, Global Vice President for Solution Engineering at Digital Realty. “We’re seeing all kinds of mixed workloads and densities. With PDx we’re rationalizing the needs of our customers.”
For many enterprises, those needs are driven by digital transformation, as online services transform the face of global commerce. The scope and speed of digitization is a particular challenge for companies with on-premises data centers, which are struggling to keep pace with the business.
“A lot of enterprises are saying ‘why am I doing this?’ And realizing they don’t have to,” said David Cappuccio, Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, who spoke at MarketplaceLIVE. “Many of those companies are not refreshing their data centers and moving their IT to colocation or cloud facilities.” Gartner projects that by 2025, 80 percent of enterprises will have shut down their traditional data center, versus about 10 percent today.
With PlatformDIGITAL, Digital Realty is seeking to capitalize on that transition with focused solutions for customers, especially those migrating out of on-premises data centers.
“It’s a signal to the market that we are taking this shift seriously,” said Mills. “We will be able to support every use case in every market.”
A Sharper Focus on the Colocation Market
Digital Realty is the world’s largest operator of mission-critical facilities, with more than 200 facilities across 35 global markets. Last month it announced plans to acquire Interxion, a European colocation specialist, for $8.4 billion in a deal that will add about 50 more data centers.
Digital Realty is the clear leader in the wholesale data center market, in which a tenant leases a finished suite of “turn-key” raised-floor space. Those tend to be larger deals than seen in retail colocation, in which tenants buy smaller amounts of space by the cabinet or cage.
But Digital Realty has been building momentum in colocation through a series of acquisitions, including deals to buy the 365 Main colocation business in San Francisco and the Telx network of carrier-neutral interconnection facilities in 2015. The company’s colo bona fides will be further enhanced with the purchase of Interxion, a leading player in the European interconnection market.
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MarketplaceLIVE was a logical venue for Digital Realty to roll out its new offerings for the colocation market. The event is the successor to the Telx Customer Business Exchange, which encouraged business between colocation customers within the same interconnection ecosystem. With the Interxion acquisition and a growing global footprint, Digital Realty has a more powerful story for colocation customers, and is ready to compete with anyone.
And that means Equinix, the clear market leader in colocation and interconnection, which has built its global empire of 200 data centers atop an unmatched interconnection ecosystem. The competition between these two titans of the data center world illustrates the ongoing blurring of the boundaries between wholesale and retail colocation as providers seek to become a one-stop shop for IT infrastructure.
Equinix served notice of its wholesale ambitions with its $1 billion xScale initiative to build hyperscale data centers in Europe. In rolling out PlatformDIGITAL, Digital Realty is making a clear play for interconnection-centric business that has long been the sweet spot for Equinix.
With the PlatformDIGITAL unveiling, it’s hard not to hear echoes of the Platform Equinix initiative, which reinforced the company’s growing status as a digital ecosystem that could enable business connections.
One of the key architects of Digital’s strategy is Tony Bishop, who joined the company in March as Senior VP of Platform and Ecosystem Strategy. Bishop came from Equinix, where he spent five years on the leadership team, focused on ecosystem strategies.
“We want to build confidence by adding capacity and capabilities,” said Bishop. “We’re serious about the fact that our interconnection density is on a par with anyone in the world.”
The Platform Strategy, and Why It Matters
Platforms are the new hotness, both in Silicon Valley and the data center industry. In recent years, a series of large global investors have entered the industry, using acquisitions to try and create business platforms for the data center industry. The strategy is usually to create a national footprint supported by a back-office support operation, and service offerings to address common customer needs.
In many ways, PlatformDIGITAL is rebranding and organizing things Digital Realty has done for many years.
“People say ‘you’re a real estate company,’ but our heritage allows us to amazing things,” said Digital Realty CTO Chris Sharp, who noted that the company has 1.21 gigawatts of commissioner power in its portfolio, including 100 megawatts in a single building (Building L) in Ashburn, Virginia.
The platform vision is about taking those assets, productizing them in new solution packages, and refining the marketing strategy to target specific verticals and business scenarios.
“Many customers feel overwhelmed,” said Sharp. “It’s a heavily interconnected world. You have to adapt new architectures quickly and efficiently. We’re removing friction from your business.”
Building a true ecosystem requires a broader set of business connections. That’s why partners featured prominently in the PlatformDIGITAL rollout, which showcased edge computing specialist Vapor IO, networking giant Cisco Systems and cloud and AI offerings from IBM.
The most intriguing of these was the edge offering, in which Vapor IO’s Kinetic Edge Exchange will be offered as part of the PlatformDIGITAL PDx Network Hub Solutions, with an initial launch in Atlanta and Chicago in early 2020. The partnership provides access to edge infrastructure for Digital Realty customers, and is a significant vote of confidence for Vapor IO as it continues to build its network in a fragmented edge computing landscape.
“Digital Realty’s approach to edge complements Vapor IO’s nationwide deployment strategy and allows us to, together, deliver a true core-to-edge continuum,” said Cole Crawford, Founder and CEO of Vapor IO. “By combining Vapor IO’s edge footprint with Digital Realty’s centers of data exchange, our mutual customers can extend digital workflows all the way out to the edge and can also connect to any of the Service Exchange networks.”
“There is a growing industry imperative to create new centers of data that reside between the core and the edge,” said Digital Realty CEO William Stein. “With the announcement of PlatformDIGITAL, we uniquely enable customers to deploy their IT infrastructure at the centers of data exchange around the world, bringing users, things, applications, clouds and networks to the data. Our customers get the advantage of access to fit-for-purpose infrastructure that can power their digital transformations at the scale and speed they require today and into the future.”
PlatformDIGITAL: PDx and The Four Hubs
That fit-for-purpose concept comes to life in Digital Realty’s Pervasive Datacenter Architecture approach (PDx) codifies hundreds of product deployment combinations into repeatable solutions, which are organized into four categories of architectural blueprints:
- Network Hub for Rewiring the Network: consolidates and localizes traffic into ingress/egress points to optimize network performance and cost.
- Control Hub for Implementing Hybrid IT Controls: hosts adjacent Security & IT controls to improve security posture and IT operations, tailored infrastructure deployments matching hyper-converged infrastructure configurations and density requirements for control points.
- Data Hub for Optimizing Data Exchange: localizes data aggregation, staging, analytics, streaming and data management to optimize data exchange and maintain data compliance.
- SX Fabric for Interconnecting Global Workflows: adds SDN overlay to service chain multi-cloud and B2B application ecosystems. Connects hubs across metros and regions to enable secure, highly-efficient and distributed workflows
Here’s another visualization of how Digital Realty is positioning the PlatformDIGITAL strategy.
The platform launch reflects the growing sophistication of data center customers and the service providers that support them. As we’ve noted in our recent coverage, the digital transformation will drive innovation on the customer-facing front end and industrialization on the back end. The ongoing influx of capital from global investors will continue to raise the bar, funding a more competitive environment. Across this complex landscape, end users will look to providers that can deliver clarity as well as capacity and services.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that organizations are faced with a growing number of locations, applications and sensors, all generating information at the edge, and must find new ways to aggregate and optimize data exchange to survive,” said Kelly Morgan, VP of Services at 451 Research, who presented a new report at MarketplaceLIVE, titled The Infrastructure Imperative.
“Over 70 percent of enterprises plan to expand geographically within the next two years, putting further pressure on their IT infrastructure,” said Morgan. “Deploying data hubs in professionally-managed multi-customer data centers will be one of the essential elements of a successful enterprise strategy.”