2020 was a year defined by a pandemic and how it changed the way we live and conduct business. “We saw the 2019 (or older) way of doing things turn into the 2021 (or later) way in a matter of days,” Chris Sharp, CTO at Digital Realty says. “McKinsey actually said by May of 2020 we had vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks. Organisations lacking digital maturity find themselves struggling to keep pace with competitors, and those unable to find their digital footing may be unable to survive.”
Over two-thirds of organisations with over 25 per cent organic revenue growth in the last three years say they invested more in digital-related capital expenditures than their peers. Organisations planning to address digital transformation over the next few years were forced to take immediate action. Even before the life-changing pandemic, McKinsey found that the per cent of products or services partially or fully digitised went from 35 per cent in December 2019 to 55 per cent in July 2020.
In 2021, Gartner sees the Internet of Behaviour consisting of people centricity (people work/interact with a business), location independence (the shift of ecosystems) and resilient delivery (process adaptability). “That last component is critical,” Sharp adds. “If the pandemic taught organisations anything – it is the serious risks involved in a lack of agility or adaptability. In their 2021 strategic tech trends, Gartner called disruption the hallmark of 2020 and noted that organisations prepared to pivot and adapt can weather any kind of disruption. Some of their suggestions include a public/private distributed cloud, anywhere customer support, AI-driven business automation and flexible cybersecurity controls.
The year for data gravity
According to Sharp, if 2020 was known for disruption, 2021 could very well be known for Data Gravity. Data Gravity describes the process in which data accumulation attracts additional services and applications to the data in the way gravity attracts objects around a planet. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, data volumes were growing at exponential rates—and the expedited adoption of digital transformation accelerated data growth. Data Gravity was always a component of digital transformation, but 2020 was a game-changer.
“Once the pandemic hit, people stayed home and internet use skyrocketed,” Sharp continues. “Business went remote, and meetings went virtual. Starting in 2016, Gartner pointed out that the amount of new corporate and consumer data being generated every day was literally incalculable. Imagine what it is in 2021.”
Meanwhile, The Data Gravity Index showed Data Gravity intensity growth across 53 global metro areas by a compound annual growth rate of 139 per cent globally through 2024. IDG indicates data volumes are growing at an average of 63 per cent per month, and by 2025, over 463 exabytes of data will be created each day. That is a rapid amplification in the Data Gravity megatrend. As more applications create more data and more data needs to be exchanged with more applications, the gravitational effect of the data increases in volume, velocity, and scale. Again, think about that on a global scale.
“Take the definition of Data Gravity and think about the significant challenges it can create.” Sharp says. “We are talking everything from inhibited enterprise workflow performance and impeded customer experience to expanded security risks and increased costs. Do not forget – these issues are further complicated by regulatory requirements and other artificial constraints.
“This is a modern problem with an accelerated paradigm, and current backhaul architectures simply are not able to solve for Data Gravity. An inverted data-centric architecture deployed at points of presence in neutral, multi-tenant data centres is needed in 2021.”
Powering the digital transformation with edge computing
Dave McCarthy of IDC expects edge products to power the next wave of digital transformation. Further, he expects the worldwide edge computing market to reach $250.6 billion in 2024 (a CAGR of 12.5 per cent from 2019-2024). So, traditional IT architectures are pushing data beyond cloud services and data centres to the edge—and require dedicated resources closer to end users and devices.
If you add the effects of Data Gravity to this trend, the results are even more startling. Gartner predicts that more than 50 per cent of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside the core data centre and cloud. As applications and services move closer to the data, centralised backhaul architectures incur higher costs, complexities, and risks.
Hybrid IT is another trend that extends beyond North America. For example, Ireland and most European countries are expecting hybrid IT infrastructure to play a critical economic role in their transforming digital economy. “You can address this through a connected community approach that allows for integration between core, cloud and edge at centres of data exchange,” Sharp continues. “This can only be implemented with a secure, data-centric hybrid IT architecture deployed in multi-tenant data centres.”
Connected devices at the edge are predicted to generate more than 79 zettabytes of data by 2025—five times higher than the amount generated last year.
Data stewardship drives architecture
There is a growing consolidation of data with 80 per cent of data worldwide residing in enterprises by 2025. For the first quarter of 2020, Gartner saw a 90.2 per cent increase in year-over-year enterprise petabytes delivered, which is predicted to grow at a greater than 35 per cent rate per year over the next two years. That is a data creation rate of 1.1 million gigabytes per second, or 15,635 exabytes of additional storage annually.
“As enterprises assume more data stewardship in 2021, this requires them to rethink their legacy backhaul architectures,” Sharp says. “The costs of storing the same data across multiple points of presence grows dramatically as Data Gravity increases.
“It also becomes increasingly difficult to demonstrate compliance with various regulations such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards, and other requirements. If you are already combatting other challenges of accelerated digital transformation, you cannot afford compliance failures. It could cost millions of dollars in fines and penalties.”
The trend of data localisation
Thinking about how digital trade flows play a critical role in global trade and commerce today. There is GDPR and data localisation requirements, but the reality is that data localisation extends far beyond the EU. Plus, cybersecurity laws from China and other countries have far-reaching ramifications for enterprises conducting business in their countries. To ensure compliance, nearly nine out of ten IT leaders indicate they will have policies that maintain local copies of customer and transaction data by 2022.
“However, the reality is that the shift to data localisation is already underway,” Sharp concludes. “A study conducted in 2020, found that 30 per cent of enterprises responded to GDPR by moving the location of their data storage to inside the EU. Meanwhile, 28 per cent shifted data storage and processes in response to Chinese Government regulations within China. This move is still underway with 56 per cent of organisations indicating they have not considered or made final decisions in response to new Chinese laws.
“The multiplication of locations and copies compounds the Data Gravity effect. It also increases the cost of storage while intensifying the complexity of managing and analysing data. Older predictions about data localisation raising the cost of hosting data by 30 to 60 per cent still ring true today.”