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07 July 2017
| Natalie Bannerman
As innovation takes hold in all sectors of industry, Natalie Bannerman spent time with Equinix’s management and customers to hear about some of the challenges
Data will have to move to the edge of the network and be
distributed around the world, says Equinix CEO Steve Smith.
That will reduce the distance it has to travel, cutting latency
and increasing response speed.
Smith was speaking at an innovation day held in London, when
the company celebrated its 18th birthday in the company of
customers, analysts and the media to discuss developments in
the industry. He said that Equinix has a base of roughly 9,500
customers – both cloud and network providers
– and the company has its vision clearly set on
digital disruption in the form of mobile cloud enabled
According to Smith, 75-80% of data globally sits on
companies’ premises, but "more of this will move
off premise and take advantage of the cloud".
He identified seven key areas where disruption is most
likely to occur: software-defined networks, subsea cables,
manufacturing, healthcare, retail, professional services and
The growing need for businesses to expand their services and
provide faster and reliable connectivity is one of the biggest
challenges facing the industry today, he said, highlighting
three key ways in which business will meet this demand: "speed,
informality and adaptability".
His views were echoed in a panel discussion on digital
infrastructure featuring Steve Haines, group managing director
at BT, Russell Poole, managing director of Equinix, and Julian
David, CEO of TechUK.
When asked about how technology and the capacity needs of
customers are only barely met, the panel turned its focus on
government responsibilities. Poole said: "Consistency within
politics around legislation, development of our infrastructure,
and development of skills" are still lagging.
Haines said: "Funding into the industry keeps it
competitive." David added: "Take away some of the barriers to
competition. Have we the right policy to enable innovation?
They [government] treat investment in infrastructure the same
way as putting a conservatory on your house."
Security was a key discussion point at the conference. There
was much talk of security becoming increasingly software-based
and getting those capabilities into the cloud and data centres
Tim Rawlins, director and senior advisor of the NCC Group
led the discussion on transport security in what is becoming an
increasingly interconnected world.
He asked: "What is your attack surface as we become more
interconnected?" In other words, can the various
inter-connected wireless devices in your car be used to hack
your system? What precautions are being taken to safeguard
Rawlins responded to a question by saying that hundreds if
not thousands of transport systems are subject to attempted
hackings every week. But he offered relatively simple
solutions: design security in, do not refit it in retrospect,
he said. Cyber security standards need to be developed with
expert input in mind and transport technology needs to be
independently assessed to ensure vulnerabilities
haven’t been built in.
Michael Beaven, director of building services and
environmental engineering at design and engineering company
Arup, spoke on advances in innovative buildings. "People are
interacting with the building", he said, not merely existing
inside of it and "technology is enabling people to be far more
interactive in the workspace".
Through machine learning and predictive control, the
building itself can learn to create a better environment for
its users. A good example is the IoT desk, a project that Arup
is developing, which provides a completely personalised
The desk operates automated light sensors, and adjusts air
quality and thermal comfort, learning how to create the best
working environment. The future is in intelligent systems,
smart surfaces and interactive working environments, all while
offering feedback to enable the building to collect data and
As the world moves increasingly faster, so too must
technology. While some have adapted to this new way of
thinking, many choose to hold on to the old ways of doing
things. Some restrictions are as a result of government and
technological limitations, but ultimately the ability of
businesses to remain agile and embrace change appear to be the
deciding factor in its continued success.
According to Smith, it’s about "moving
decisions to communications". We must "learn fast and fail
fast", he said.