SVP, Platform, Growth and Marketing, Digital Realty
As the global head of platform, growth and marketing at Digital Realty, Tony Bishop focuses on building and growing the leading global data center platform to best address data gravity and digital transformations for the company’s enterprise, service provider and hyperscale customers. Prior to Digital Realty, Bishop worked in senior leadership positions at Equinix, 451 Research and Morgan Stanley. He is a 2nd Degree Fellow at Infrastructure Masons and the author of “Next Generation Data Centers in Financial Services: Driving Extreme Efficiency and Effective Cost Savings.”
Published in Issue 5 | December 2020
How long has Digital Realty been working on data gravity and how was the concept born?
Digital Realty is the world’s largest data center provider in terms of operations and square footage. We sit at a nexus point of being able to see how various types of enterprises and service providers build out infrastructure. This enables us to spot emerging trends very early. One of the trends we identified during the past two years was that enterprises were starting to build these larger data sets. They were doing so on large compute footprints on multiple sites around the world on our platform. As we began to look deeper, we also initiated conversations with the customers to try and understand the cause and effect.
The common theme was data explosion that included where the data was created; how it was aggregated; how it was then enriched with analytics; and, how it was exchanged between many different platforms to a company (internal and external). That was the genesis of the concept of data gravity.
What does the modern digital workplace mean to the enterprise and what are the challenges that need to be addressed? How does PlatformDIGITAL® solve it?
Data is now created at endpoints that are outside of a data center or outside of the cloud itself. Anywhere you have access to a device you are creating data. Therefore, data creation happens at different endpoints that are going to come over enterprises’ corporate networks via WiFi or mobile network. Data has to then be aggregated and managed for compliance purposes, security and performance. Combining these facets, you are going to overhaul an enterprise’s infrastructure architecture.
The previous process to connect the endpoints and backhaul into the data centers or the cloud now has to be inverted. That means bringing everything to the data whether it’s users, applications, clouds or business platforms. This is what we observed and published our findings in the report “Data Gravity Index DGxTM” as an emerging infrastructure trend. Our product roadmap at PlatformDIGITAL® includes aspects of not only connectivity but also data and computing-related issues, where you integrate private enterprise infrastructure with the public infrastructure that enterprises use.
Our Data Gravity Index DGxTM is open. It is not specific to our platform. It is an index set in the industry designed to shape the dialogue around solving the data problem—how we are going to address data on all dimensions?
2020 has accelerated the adoption of digital applications. What kind of impact will it have on the future and what role will data gravity play?
This year is definitely creating a new norm on every level. It’s creating a new set of expectations. What used to be a more bounded physical office becomes unlocked. When the world turns back, it will be a mixed model. One that offers the unbounded experience of being able to conduct business, participate in business workflows and be part of the digital workplace from anywhere in the world. Performance, security and scale is now more vital than ever. This will force architectures and infrastructures to be even more critical, grow in size and be rearchitected to accommodate this new paradigm.
With regards to the role of data gravity, what we are seeing is that with digital workplaces and remote working, users are connected to the enterprise from many different places. Users continue to consume applications and services, and interact with many other users. This is the endpoint concept that I talked about earlier. These endpoints will need to interact with other endpoints, which creates a file, message or both. These are both— structured and unstructured—and will lead to an explosion of data that has to be processed, then aggregated and be maintained for compliance purposes.
AI, ML, autonomous cars, connected cars and IoT are all driving massive amounts of data. What are your views on these emerging technologies and how do they impact the data equation?
It is important to note three things: firstly, where the data is being generated; secondly, where it is being processed; and thirdly how those endpoints participate in business workflows. As these emerging technologies—AI, ML, autonomous cars, connected cars and IoT—unlock the ability for more intelligent workflows that can originate within the connected worlds of things, it leads to storage multipliers in terms of volume and variability.
On the other side, what AI underpins is the need to see all data. As a result, this makes the data aggregation piece become very important. The data needs to be cleansed and normalized, followed by analytics that run on top of that.
AI is dependent on automated models of analytics that enable the learning and training developed from the data. Because you have to train the models by constantly analyzing the data, and then constantly update the models, AI will fundamentally change the architectural piece. Our customers continue to solve the most complex infrastructure, connectivity and workload use cases on our platform globally. This includes use cases across network peering, hyperscale, low-latency, high-performance computing, big data and artificial intelligence.
How does data gravity inhibit enterprises from achieving their digital transformation goals?
Digital business strategies are not about moving to the cloud or colocation in a silo. It is about the digitization of business processes on an end-to-end basis that creates new information flows. This entails connectivity and the integration of other applications and other users. The premise of a digital workplace is to remove the barriers of the physical world and overlay a digital architecture that is unconstrained. Data is the central point of everything. If data is unavailable it is difficult to take action. Fundamentally, as data continues to grow and interact with more applications it becomes heavy and difficult to move. So that’s why it’s a gravitational force. Meaning that architecture and infrastructure must come to the data. This makes it the number one barrier to digital transformation.
How do you see your customers take advantage of the Data Gravity Index DGxTM?
Our Data Gravity Index DGxTM is open. It is not specific to our platform. It is an index set in the industry designed to shape the dialogue around solving the data problem—how we are going to address data on all dimensions? That includes looking at data residency, data localization, data compliance, data security—when everything is dynamic, virtual and distributed.
The Data Gravity Index DGxTM can be used as a benchmark for people to understand the data that is coming for their industry, locations or company. It helps them answer questions such as “What is my data creation lifecycle?” or “How is this going to radically impact my infrastructure and ability to deliver while meeting my business needs today and tomorrow?” Additionally, it can be a guide for customers to think differently about how they’re going to architect. As we add more information and data on a granular level, we will continue to add intelligence to the report. It will become a tool that allows them to not only benchmark, but plan and make decisions about their architecture.