The next-gen world of cutting-edge technology is upon us.
5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), driverless cars, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI)—these aren’t just sci-fi forecasts for the future. They’re real; and use cases of these tools are already proliferating. (Also read: Top 20 AI Use Cases: Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare.)
However, the framework of technology is constantly evolving. As we develop applications, the infrastructure our applications run on is being built and optimized practically simultaneously. Even as we see the landscape of health care, education, government, entertainment and more change shape with new capabilities every day, it’s still as if the world remains on a precipice: awaiting a true transformation by unleashing its untapped IT potential. A tipping point, if you will.
So what will push us over the edge? It comes down to acknowledging and optimizing the unsung hero of these advancements: edge data centers.
It’s true that these facilities aren’t the flashiest part of the technology ecosystem—they don’t generate hype from end-users like virtual reality gaming does— but they are the very foundation of this next frontier of IT. To reach the full value of 5G, IoT, AI, and other technologies, organizations would be smart to start architecting around the new data gravity-driven edge.
What is Data Gravity?
If you haven’t heard of data gravity yet, chances are you've heard of gravity. It’s a force of attraction that draws objects toward each other. When we add the word "data" to the mix, the definition doesn’t change much.
Data gravity is the phenomenon the IT infrastructure industry is experiencing where certain data center hubs seem to have created an ecosystem that continues to draw in value and deliver more and more opportunity to tenants on an ongoing basis without much effort. The ecosystem is self-bettering in a way—a flywheel creating its own momentum.
Right now, the edge is rich in data gravity, but not all edge data centers have this X factor. Data gravity requires the right beginnings.
Why Data Gravity is Essential to Edge Data Centers
Consider a data center in a tertiary market compared to an edge data center in an up-and-coming market in the center of the United States.
Sure, the former is a data center, but its connectivity ecosystem potential is underwhelming. Tenants will benefit in some ways but they’re cornered when it comes to spurring their expansion long-term and opening up more tools for digital transformation and evolution. On the other hand, the geographically central edge data center in an up-and-coming market changes the game. This facility still services the edge (as opposed to major hubs like Ashburn or Silicon Valley), but because it’s a midway point for east-to-west and north-to-south routes, companies colocated here will have much more to choose from. These types of long-term benefits draw high-value companies in and launch a data gravity-driven data center ecosystem.
Another way to find data gravity is to look for edge data centers that double as a connectivity ecosystem—pulling in the easily accessible benefits of an internet exchange (IX) in addition to the advantages of colocation.
Data centers and edge data centers all deliver connectivity as table stakes, but with an IX thrown into the mix, the data center becomes a living, breathing, opportunity-rich ecosystem full of low-cost connectivity resources. IXs are continuing to gain traction as strategic tools for expanding and managing network traffic, so they’re an invaluable resource for keeping local traffic local—and the communities that comprise them will only continue to grow in size and significance.
Recapping the Edge Exodus
In 2020 alone, research from McKinsey revealed that, out of 2,395 surveyed participants across a full range of regions, industries, company sizes, functional specialties and tenures, half said their organizations had adopted AI in at least one function. In 2021, Ericsson forecasts proposed that in 2022, 5G subscriptions would pass one billion (a milestone reached two years faster than 4G did post-introduction.)
This skyrocketing demand for next-gen applications isn’t news to most. In reality, the story of IT’s move to the edge of the network is well-worn. It’s common knowledge now that when the world calls for low-latency applications and highly available workloads, the solution moves data capture, computing, and storage closer to the point of generation. This allows for quicker data transfer, more agile and mobile networking, less latency and jitter for end-user experiences—all of which are paramount for making 5G use cases, some IoT applications and other similar opportunities functional.
The global digital business sphere is looking for the next step. Many organizations know their future lies at the edge, and many are making moves to take their footprint to that new frontier by using edge data centers, internet exchanges and other network and infrastructure expansions. Still, many are looking for the secret sauce that makes edge strategies truly empowering—rather than just computing in a less centralized area. What will set a digital transformation apart and ensure it’s on track to get the most productive business results and customer-impressing outcomes? When does a data center stop being just another facility in a surprising location and start being a stepping stone to future-proofed transformation?
When 5G, IoT, AI and other technologies are on the line, this connectivity is absolutely essential. How can organizations ensure they aren’t just siloing their IT equipment in a restricted edge location?
It comes down to data gravity. (Also read: Destroying Silos With Integrated Data Analytics Platforms.)
To say the edge is the key to digital transformation would be an accurate assessment. In a world where futuristic applications are taking shape and experiences need to be more reliable and innovative than ever, the edge is the only way to get there. But this isn’t the full picture.
When organizations think of 5G, IoT, and AI, they have to be thinking of the edge. And if they’re thinking of the edge, they need to be thinking of data gravity. This is the secret to getting the most bang for your buck and securing the future of IT—not just squirreling it away in some endpoint facility.
To find an edge data center with data gravity, connectivity potential is a great indicator. Centralized data center locations, an on-site or nearby IX and news of a growing ecosystem are great data gravity gauges. These are the facilities that forward-thinking organizations should be entrusting with their IT.