Building a foundation on a carrier-neutral data environment
All modern organisations rely on their data centre to ensure they have access to their data and applications. However, as more companies progress along their digital transformation journeys, so their data centre requirements have changed.
This has meant they have increasingly moved away from hosting IT infrastructure in their own facilities, rather than leveraging the expertise and capabilities of commercial data centre providers.
There are, as Stephane Duproz, CEO at Africa Data Centres, points out many different types of data centres, and the benefits that companies can achieve are dependent on the choices they make.
“Today, the idea of a server room is largely one of the past; only small, local companies might benefit from having their IT infrastructure hosted in a single location. With the adoption of cloud-based applications, even this is falling by the wayside,” he says. “Even large companies who used to see the value in building their own data centres are increasingly moving away from this model.”
Choosing the right model
He explains that there are two main models for commercial data centres: carrier-neutral and non-carrier neutral data centres.
“Non-carrier neutral data centres are typically run by telecoms operators and they operate as a value-add to core connectivity services. While clients can decide how they want to configure their IT infrastructure, they are bound to the connectivity provided by the telecoms operator,” says Duproz. “The challenge facing organisations is that their users aren’t all on the same network as them anymore. Companies are dependent on the agreements that their carrier has signed, both locally and internationally, meaning that any bottlenecks or service outages will impact on availability.”
With more and more applications leveraging services hosted externally, data is shared with external partners and employees working remotely, it’s not possible to keep all parts of even the simplest IT infrastructure connected via a single service provider anymore. This poses a challenge for companies looking to ensure that their users can access their services without unnecessary restrictions.
The need to provide a seamless user experience, irrespective of where the user is, has been one of the driving forces behind the evolution of the carrier-neutral data centre.
“A carrier-neutral data centre allows all connectivity providers to service their clients and connect to each other on an equal footing,” he explains. “In this environment, connectivity is available as a given and it’s this that’s the reason why cloud platform providers and content distribution networks use carrier-neutral data centres to bring their services closer to the end-user.”
In the carrier-neutral environment, there is an incentive for all carriers to interconnect with each other, reducing or eliminating the cost of transferring data from one network to another. They are also able to reach all the organisations with infrastructure in the data centre, tailoring their offerings to the needs of each customer.
Taking advantage of the multiplier effect
“The benefits go both ways and have a multiplier effect. As more carriers interconnect at any given location, so the value to the customer, and to the carriers themselves, increases,” Duproz says. “With companies requiring multiple connectivity options to ensure business continuity, the ability to easily access services from several network operators makes it a relatively simple exercise.”
He adds that beyond carrier neutrality, the next step becomes cloud neutrality. With companies and carriers clustering together, this becomes a logical environment for hyperscale cloud providers to locate their platforms. And these providers also need to interconnect with each other, so they tend to locate their infrastructure close to each other.
“The result of this is that organisations have low latency access to their data, irrespective of which platform they’re using. In the optimal environment, even data hosted in the cloud is actually located on infrastructure hosted mere metres away. This delivers all the benefits of having your own infrastructure, but with none of the associated costs and drawbacks.”
While it’s impossible to predict what the computing environment will look like in five years, the flexible environment of the carrier-neutral data centre allows all organisations to quickly adapt to ensure they remain competitive.