Urban centres allow businesses and workers to thrive and innovate, creating new ways of working, which attract industry and people to commercial hubs. Now, data is doing the same thing. It congregates where it’s generated, used and valued in global hubs; it has its own gravitational pull.
As global enterprise data explodes and becomes more valuable to organisations due to smarter applications that service data, the concept known as ‘data gravity’ becomes more important. The location of data centres has become mission-critical for decision-makers. If corporations want to be competitive and spur business growth, with lightning-fast connectivity and processing, how data is served and configured matters.
“Every business is increasingly a digital and data-driven business. Data is also a revenue generator. Processing and connecting data needs to be faster, businesses need to be more agile and deploy workloads quicker and scale up data-driven resources. But this involves curating physical assets –data infrastructure matters. It’s why data centres are the unsung heroes in this equation,” says Séamus Dunne, managing director for the UK and Ireland at Digital Realty, the largest global provider of cloud- and carrier-neutral data centre, colocation and interconnection solutions.
The recent success of cloud computing, software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud-native capabilities have given companies a false sense of security that physical data assets don’t matter anymore. This, however, is not the case. Digital information still needs to be stored somewhere. The cloud is in fact sitting in a bricks-and-mortar warehouse in a critical location on a server stack – and demand is growing.
Data centres are mission-critical
The global digital economy is still facilitated and constrained by physical, data centre infrastructure and geography. Therefore, how these depositories of information are networked by fast optical fibre to other data centres, within a city hub or metro centres in different countries, is crucial. It’s why a data-first strategy is vital.
“As businesses digitise and transform they need a new network architecture, one that is localised and where enterprises have a strong business presence, whether it’s Tokyo, New York or Paris. Every enterprise needs a meeting place for data – these hubs are where data can connect and aggregate, where applications can power business and where customers, as well as partners, can innovate through data, whilst being locally compliant,” says Dunne. Digital Realty’s global data centre infrastructure thus encompasses locations in 54 metropolitan areas across 27 countries on six continents.
He adds: “Whether an enterprise is active in retail, financial services, pharmaceuticals or manufacturing, 90% of their data-driven workloads will be in a colocation data centre where they lease server space. These data depositories cannot be isolated islands, as in the past, when enterprise built their own on site. They have to be able to move data at incredible speeds across private networks and between hubs – interconnectivity is crucial.”
This is why data gravity matters. As organisations gather data in one place, they build data mass, which draws applications in to make sense of it, serve customers and monetise it. Data gravity intensity, as measured in gigabytes per second, is expected to grow globally by 139% per year until 2024, according to Digital Realty. This is because global enterprises are digitising and boosting their capacity to aggregate, store and manage data; it’s being concentrated geographically.
The effects of data gravity are particularly prominent in European markets such as the UK, France, and Germany because of their status as financial services, banking, retail, manufacturing and insurance hubs. This has made them magnets for ever-increasing volumes of data.
Rethinking data strategies is vital
By 2024, Digital Realty estimates that the Forbes Global 2,000 enterprises across 53 metropolitan areas will create data at a rate of 1.4m gigabytes per second and will require nearly 20,000 petabytes of additional storage annually. There will soon be too much data for it to be managed through centralised systems. There is a growing need for enterprises active in multiple commercial centres to decentralise their data, as well as store and process it closer to customers.
“Crucially, corporations need to know where data accumulates, that way they can understand where to support their business digitally. Doing nothing is the worst decision the C-suite can make in terms of the digital and data transformation going on globally. Rethinking data strategies at a global, regional and local level is the new imperative, otherwise businesses won’t be able to turn data into insights and intelligence,” says Dunne.
He adds: “Look at a city like London, it’s massive data-wise. It’s pulling in an enormous hub of applications to use the data that’s being generated. The same is true of other metro centres including Jakarta, Singapore, Rome, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Atlanta, which are rapidly expanding data hubs. You need data centres around big metropolitan areas where data gravity is densest and on the rise. Then you need to link those centres effectively, so they are able to exchange data at speed.”
It’s why enterprises need to partner with data-centre providers that have an expansive reach worldwide and robust interconnected ecosystems. Only a few companies globally are able to provide high levels of network infrastructure, a global footprint of data centres with cloud access infrastructure on multiple continents.
“We’ve now got data centres that run at very high efficiency, very high data density, better sustainability and low latency, but increasingly we’re finding their networking capability is as important as any of these aspects,” Dunne says. “Data is becoming the business agenda – no industry is immune – enabling customers to unlock the value of their data is the future.”
As the need for data services grows, so too will the data gravity surrounding major global urban hubs increase. Companies should put into place data management strategies, and work with data partners, to ensure their assets are carefully protected.