Unprecedented demand for capacity and connectivity, driven by the effects of COVID-19, has prompted the reshaping of the network landscape as we know it.
Shifts in enterprise architectures, accelerated migration to cloud environments, and the rapid development of edge nodes are key trends that are unfolding as organizations work to negate the challenges of a global health crisis and service providers race to capture the next wave of heavy-duty workloads.
Bill Fathers, CEO of US-based colocation and interconnection provider, Cologix, has observed three phases of transformation as the industry moves into post-pandemic territory and determines what the ‘new edge’ will look like as a result of these trends.
Phase One: The Acceleration of Existing Services
Video streaming and conferencing usage has surged beyond expectation, particularly during the earlier stages of COVID-19, driving up bandwidth demands for networks globally. Cologix has seen a 40% year-on-year increase in cross-connect orders during this time. And, much of that traffic is going straight to the cloud.
“There’s been a huge uptick in the usage of existing services. Enterprises are consuming their SaaS and IaaS offerings in greater quantities, and more bandwidth is being consumed as cloud connectivity becomes ever more important. This has driven that ‘first wave of demand’,” says Fathers.
As a knock-on effect, cloud and connectivity providers have been consuming increasing amounts of bandwidth to support the demand of their global customers. Cologix’s data center and interconnection hubs have continued to capture these growing requirements of households and businesses alike by providing its customers with much-needed infrastructure and network for this phase and the next.
“A lot of the trends we were seeing in the industry have become accelerated,” Fathers says, on the continuing consumption of dedicated networking including software-defined connectivity. As increased demand sets in, he sheds light on a bigger set of deployments that have already started to give rise to enterprise architectural changes.
Phase Two: The Enterprise Architecture Shift
With COVID-19 having significantly changed the way our workforces operate, Fathers says, “…many enterprises are deploying almost all of their workloads to the cloud.” Those that once kept heavy-duty databases, including inventory, billing systems, and other critical records, on-premises are now shifting these into cloud-based environments to support their new predominantly digital business functions. More comprehensive workloads being deployed has and will continue to reshape the enterprise’s network and cloud architecture as this kind of digital transformation takes place.
CSPs are subsequently building out more on-ramps in key areas in order to support this heightened demand from companies who are making a more substantial move to the cloud. New and existing major on-ramps have so far allowed many enterprise workloads to effectively be forklifted out of on-premise locations and directly resituated in the cloud.
As a result of increased workload migration, Cologix’s two largest Canadian markets, Montreal and Toronto, are together experiencing a 30-40% uptick in traffic going in and out of cloud on-ramps, while some of Cologix’s US markets including Minneapolis and Columbus are seeing rapid growth in capacity offerings as well.
However, with such a rapid movement to cloud-first environments, enterprises still need access to legacy databases on-premises. This is where edge computing becomes incredibly significant during this time.
Phase Three: The Race to the Edge
As enterprises move heavier, more critical, and often sensitive data workloads to the cloud, latency is top of mind when it comes to these migrations. Capturing the need to negate latency issues as organizations also try to remain close to legacy databases, cloud service providers across the world are concentrating their efforts on rolling out edge nodes to a multitude of locations.
“Edge nodes are now being deployed across a number of markets which were previously deemed to be too small,” Fathers says, which is bringing compute and storage closer to businesses and helping to avoid the need for ‘hair-pinning’ traffic back to their cloud environments from an on-ramp outside of their location.
As edge computing becomes critical to cloud users, Fathers believes that for the CSPs, “It’s the first to the edge and the winner takes all.” He estimates that 30-40% of total compute is heading to these edge markets, and as the clouds rapidly build out nodes in underserved markets to remain competitive, this will undoubtedly contribute to the shaping of a ‘new edge’ post-COVID.
In addition to these emerging trends, it’s believed that the level of security that a cloud player can guarantee for private data at the edge will be critical. Zoombombing serves as a prime example of certain security risks associated with the cloud. Fathers predicts that this will prompt the emergence of vendors that can offer deeper encryption in order to tackle this rising security challenge. “Those who can offer encryption services that go deep into the database layer rather than just the networking layer, will be invaluable,” he says.
From the provision of unprecedented amounts of bandwidth to the impending race to the edge for the clouds, the networking landscape is seeing incredible movement during this time. A ‘new edge’ will emerge as more cloud offerings are developed, and cloud-users around the globe continue to rely on compute and storage within reach as well as interconnection hubs to power their businesses.
Contributor: Bill Fathers, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Cologix
Over the past 20 years, Bill has held a variety of executive leadership positions in the global communications sector across data centers, cloud services, and software, including most recently as Executive Vice President of Cloud Services at VMware, and previously as President of Savvis. Learn more here.
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