Wednesday, 29 April 2020 06:37

Path to digital transformation poses significant challenges

GUEST OPINION* by Nicholas Hollings, Principal Solution Architect Equinix

There are significant challenges for enterprises on the way to digital transformation, with enterprise IT refresh cycles and budget constraints partly to blame. Another restricting factor is that there’s clearly a need to get everyone on the same page about the meaning of digital transformation and what it offers for different organisations.

For all too many, it becomes a struggle between executive strategy and operational capability to execute in the organisation.

Even in today’s divided world, it is encouraging to be reminded that there’s still more that unites us than separates us. Digital transformation is the same. No matter what industry you are in or what kinds of business challenges you face, it turns out that most companies are facing very similar predicaments.

Digital transformation is predominantly about a handful of objectives.

First, making your digital and physical supply chains more efficient. Second, reducing the friction between people consuming your product and the people inside your business delivering it. Third, leveraging your data and other people’s data to get a better outcome so you can get ahead of your competitors.

The most tricky and common challenges include working out how to consume cloud efficiently, deliver applications to their users more effectively, and handle data sovereignty and data ownership securely and responsibly in a cloud-enabled world. Let’s take each of these in turn:

1. A crowded cloud

For many businesses, their cloud landscape is no longer just relying on a single cloud service provider. There is a whole roll call of other software services that need to be consumed and bound together. Building an easily consumable, extensible and flexible cloud connectivity platform that achieves this is a huge challenge for many organisations. A cost-effective, common point of cloud security and control can be hard to achieve. We do that through network optimisation and our multicloud platform that allows businesses to securely and directly connect cloud service providers and enterprises in various locations through a single self-navigating portal. Migrating data or workloads from one cloud to another can also be made simpler via Network Edge (NE) services. NE enables companies to modernise networks virtually, by deploying network functions virtualisation (NFV) from multiple vendors to connect their digital supply chains.

2. Serving up your apps

As businesses deliver an increasing number of services to customers via apps, there’s a huge challenge around application experience. Latency really does matter. An edge strategy, combined with a global platform like Equinix, can provide significant advantages when you are delivering applications to consumers in locations beyond local metros. By using distributed application architectures you can increase your user experience by moving the application, or parts of the application, closer to where the user is – at the digital edge. This maximises application potential and user experience and enables analytics at the edge, allowing for near-real-time feedback, business process optimisation, and the avoidance of latency and bandwidth issues.

3. On the edge of the cloud

Enterprises are also concerned about what to do with the stuff that can’t make it to the cloud. The question we hear people ask is, “How do I gain agility and flexibility in those workloads which, for design or commercial reasons, aren’t suited for the cloud?”.

There’s a strong case to be made to move these workloads close to the edge of the cloud, where it can still access the same things that you are doing in the cloud – so-called cloud adjacency. This is particularly true once you have moved a lot of applications and workloads to the cloud. With Equinix, you can access the cloud edge inside our data centers where hundreds of cloud service providers are residing, taking advantage of some of the benefits of cloud, including greater efficiency, without having to actually move everything directly into the cloud.

4. The data dilemma

The other common concern we hear is how to deal with the explosion of data. It’s clear that organisations’ ability to collect data is outstripping their ability to process it and analyze it. They’re struggling with the amount of data they need to look after and how much they have got to move around between systems for their people to do their jobs.

Additionally, this isn’t just about the data you own. Competitive edge these days also relies on getting access to data outside your organisation that in combination can make the most sense of your data. For this, you need to be able to stay close and interconnect with your suppliers and customers, as well as open data source from the Government or public utilities. We also recommend being able to pre-process your data before it gets moved into the cloud to help with cost optimisation or storing the data at the edge of the cloud so that you can send it to multiple clouds. This ensures you can really build complex systems in multiple clouds off that mass of data and make the most of it at the best cost.

For organisations early in their journey, we think it’s really important to put some structure around their business challenges that points to use cases and next steps. Using the Interconnection Oriented ArchitectureTM framework, we map organisational challenges to four digital transformation use cases that can solve for them, including network optimisation, hybrid multicloud, distributed data and distributed security. Join Equinix’s upcoming live webinar ‘Equinix Innovate – Architect for the Digital Edge’, on Tuesday 5th May, to discover how this transformation journey model can give you the agility, flexibility and extensibility needed to achieve that competitive advantage.

*About the author: Nicholas Hollings is Principal Global Solution Architect for interconnection and data centre company Equinix.

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