The best edge in the new digital-first economy
23 August 2021 | Elsa Pine
Elsa Pine, global sales executive, emerging technologies and edge infrastructure at EdgeConneX, explains how the edge is empowering new economic inclusion
Human progress is marked by our ability to migrate and adapt to new and different environments. That migration first allowed people to travel and settle in new lands and then, later, to engage in trade with distant cultures around the globe, creating new combinations of food, fabrics, tools, and technologies and sharing stories that showed how, deep down, people everywhere have much in common.
But to travel long distances, and to bring spices and silks and machinery and stories back home and expand this physical economy, people had to create new modes of transportation with new ports and terminals and landmarks so travellers could navigate safely.
Boats need harbours and ports and maps; trains need terminals; planes need airports. Commerce, travel, and migration all rely on key infrastructure to enable safe passage and, ultimately, to share information, ideas, and experiences that help bring people together.
And, while it may not be immediately obvious, data centres are the new ports and terminals for a new kind of global commerce and a new digital-first economy.
All the historical examples above involve moving people and physical goods and as a result they are limited by locations where people can anchor a ship, land a plane, or load and unload a truck or train. But, even with those limitations, as long as they could find a safe harbour or a stable parcel of land near a large population, they could build facilities to initiate trade with another market, even halfway around the world. And in time, even some mid-sized communities could join the global exchange of commerce and goods.
Today’s data centres serve much the same purpose as yesterday’s ports and terminals, but without most of the limitations. However, the key, again, is adaptability. Data centres don’t need to be near a waterway or along a major highway to ferry passengers to and from an airport. They only need to be in locations where networks can be connected, and power can be generated to perform critical services in an economy based increasingly on data, ideas, applications, and connections.
And one of the great benefits of the services provided by data centres in the 21st century is to expand access to this new digital economy into markets that have been traditionally underserved.
Originally, even colocation data centres were built at major internet peering locations and enterprises were expected to use those core data centres wherever the providers elected to build them. But this resulted in a pattern of concentrating services in a few select markets and telling customers they needed to adapt to providers.
That all changed with the emergence of the edge data centre, which brought capacity, connectivity, power, and proximity closer to the enterprises who needed the services. Edge data centres empower their customers to join the worldwide digital economy, but that empowerment extends to the surrounding cities and markets that now enjoy faster cloud access, wider content choices, larger gaming communities, and a broader selection of goods and services than ever before. Conversely, these communities also gain access to offer their goods, services, content, and culture to other new markets around the world, all thanks to a growing network of data centres adapted to the needs of their customers, and not vice versa. That’s because these new data centres are built in consultation and collaboration with customers, not in locations that only benefit legacy data centre providers.
So, what does this development mean for businesses that depend on rapid, frictionless access to new markets around the world, including cloud, content, and network service providers, XaaS services, cloud gaming platforms, IoT platforms and the ubiquitous network access they require?
For starters, it means they can concentrate on their core business when entering a new market, hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of miles away, leaving the development of data centre capacity to someone with the expertise to do that, but who also listens and responds with solutions that facilitate market entry and success. It means all of these diverse businesses and industries have access to a growing portfolio of digital ports and terminals that expand their connectivity, capacity, and reach without the heavy capital outlay they would need if they developed the data centres themselves. And it means they can gain access to their ‘next billion’ customers, new suppliers, and local and global networks.
From cable landing stations that connect continents to edge and far edge data centres that can range in size from hyperlocal to hyperscale, the real key is using the edge to make connections, to networks, geographies, markets, and customers. In our digital economy, the edge isn’t just a destination – it’s a gateway for businesses that are going places.
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