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Different by design: Innovation within the data centre

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Darren Watkins, managing director at Virtus takes a look at what drives innovation within the data centre.

It’s no secret that digitalisation is disrupting entire industries and decimating those that don’t adapt fast enough, making ‘innovation’ the watchword of success in this hyper competitive landscape. “Move fast and break things” confirms Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and the youngest billionaire on the planet – as he reminds us that success means being one step ahead of everyone else – and taking enough risks to be different and special.

Whilst innovation is one of the most bandied about terms in global business today, exactly what it means can be nebulous. The most obvious way to characterise innovation is that the best new products and services offer a number of new or different characteristics and customer ‘touchpoints’.

Where does innovation start?

A company that is truly different is one where the innovation ethos runs through every part of the business. From the creatives, developers and marketers to the point of sale, innovation is encouraged. Even at the back end – the finance department, tech support and in the data centre – competitive advantage lies in the ability to be different.

This mindset should start in the infrastructure that underpins an organisation – and more specifically, in the data centre. 

Data centre experts often promote that when it comes to data centre choice, coverage is everything. Many believe that, ultimately, choice beyond this is irrelevant; that one data centre is just the same as another and that data centre space is therefore a commodity.

However, it’s vital to dispel this myth and assert that real difference can and must be achieved at this level. Being able to store and process data safely, and to access and interpret it as meaningful actionable information, quickly, will give a huge competitive advantage to those organisations that do it well.

The real home of innovation?

Indeed, far from offering a commodity service, data centre providers vary in many ways. Despite many things being similar – from accreditations, space and power capacity, contractual flexibility, connectivity options and service levels, to location – they can be different by design if you look beyond the obvious.

There are two events that have forced a change in the enterprise data centre, and have pushed providers towards true innovation. Firstly, advancements in computational methodologies have dramatically increased the value generation potential for data.

Deep Learning, the latest set of applications built on Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies such as Machine Learning, has emerged a vital tool in any company’s arsenal. Companies compete to gain access to the best sources of data and then race to extract the most value from that data.

Secondly, enterprises have dramatically increased the uptake in the application of scientific tools into their product development toolkit. Most of these scientific advancements leverage scientific computing methods in what is referred to as High Performance Computing (HPC). The increased infrastructure demands of deep learning workloads and HPC applications have simply outstripped the capabilities of data centres of old, and have meant that data centre providers have had to adapt quickly, offering more capacity, more speed, and more power.

These changes have also meant that it has become nigh on impossible for organisations to build, own and manage their own data centre. As a result, in this fast-moving world, it’s become ‘who you partner with’ which is the real key to success.

When choosing a data centre provider, looking for that ‘difference’ is crucial. Beyond innovations in the physical data centre, differentiation can be achieved through the way a provider works with its customers.

A partnership, not a service provider/customer contract, is important – where the provider listens to your needs and develops a bespoke way of working that is right for your business. Complacency is not an option and innovation is crucial.

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