Living on “The Edge”: A datacenter perspective

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Living on “The Edge”: A datacenter perspective

By Bill Thomson, Product Management and Marketing at DC BLOX

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Are you ready? Here goes: you are on “The Edge” right now. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a psychic, and I’m not commenting on your mental state. Although I think we all feel a bit “on edge” these days don’t we? And coincidentally, the two may even be related.

The growth of the edge

While analysts, pundits, and marketing teams have been talking about the edge for years now, it really was the global pandemic that pushed it into the forefront of many business and IT leaders’ minds. After all, we had to react quickly and precisely to take so much of the global workforce to be remote so swiftly. In fact, Microsoft quickly announced that its Teams software had set a new daily record of 2.7 billion meeting minutes when the number of video calls on the platform increased 1,000% in March 2020.

That kind of growth overnight is astounding, even in the always exponential world of enterprise IT. And that is a single data point amongst so many more; all of which show that the COVID-19 pandemic pushed many (if not most) companies to speed their transition to an entirely digital landscape. But while that may explain why so many IT pros are “on edge” it doesn’t really tell us where “the edge” is.

Wait, where is the edge?

So, where is the edge? The main reason that I think most people have a hard time defining the edge is that we are standing on it. Just like you can’t see a mountain while climbing it, we often have a hard time seeing things that are too close to us. The device you’re reading this on is at the edge of a Telco, CableCo, or other ISP (internet service provider) network. The site you’re reading it from is actually cached at the edge of a CDN (content delivery network). And if you’re in your home (or other) office, you’re likely using a VPN (virtual private network) or SD-WAN (software-defined wide area network), putting you also at the edge of your corporate network.

Edge computing

So, we find ourselves, all of us, and all of our devices too, at the edge. And really, we’ve always been here. ISPs used to call their edge “the last mile.” But that was in a different world. In today’s world it’s not just connectivity we need at the edge, but also compute (and storage) as well.

As the number of devices connected to the internet increases, the volume of data increases as well. This puts a strain not just on that “last mile” of connectivity but also on the data center infrastructure it eventually connects to. Of course, one answer is centralization. We could build even bigger data centers (and “public” clouds) in the biggest cities and connect everyone back to them. This is the trend we’ve been on for a while now and it is often referred to as “the core” (to have an edge you must have a center!). But this approach is flawed for several reasons. An obvious one is latency – you can’t fight the speed of light. Others include resiliency, capacity, and flexibility.

The other option, of course, is decentralization. What if, instead of building more and bigger data centers in the places with the most data centers already, we built data centers closer to the edge – where you and I live? This is the essence of edge computing. It’s a way to bring the digital infrastructure advantages of the largest cities out to where the rest of us live and work.

How to leverage the edge

You get it. You know that your business needs to keep up with firms in LA, NYC, and Chicago or face being swept away in the digital transformation. You also know that there’s no way you’ll ever move your offices from Chattanooga, or Birmingham, or wherever you and your employees love to live. So, how does someone who’s both “on edge” due to rapid digital change and on “the edge” due to geography ensure their business can take full advantage of all that technology has to offer?

Do what the biggest companies in the world are doing, use a reliable, state-of-the-art data center to house your critical IT systems, and make sure that it has the smart connectivity to every partner, supplier, and customer out there – and do it close to home. Your chosen data center provider should offer at least:

  • Tier III design with N+1 cooling and on-site power generators for backup
  • Redundant Internet access providers with geographically diverse transit points
  • Ethernet connectivity to a myriad of built-in carriers and regional Internet exchanges
  • Private Connectivity to all your cloud applications and platforms (on-ramps)
  • Software-defined network for rapid provisioning

About the author

Bill Thomson heads the marketing and product management organization for DC BLOX, a multi-tenant data center operator in the Southeast US. He is a technology industry veteran having developed and marketed numerous enterprise software, SaaS and cloud infrastructure products geared to B2B markets.

Thomson has led strategic product planning, marketing and product growth for many leading technology companies including AT&T, NTT, Cbeyond, and Vonage. He has served on the Technology Association of Georgia Product Management Society Board, holds a Master of Science degree from Stevens Institute of Technology and a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Rutgers University.

DISCLAIMER: Guest posts are submitted content. The views expressed in this post are that of the author, and don’t necessarily reflect the views of Edge Industry Review (EdgeIR.com).

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