This episode’s guest is Chris Sharp from Digital Realty. This was actually my first time meeting Chris who’s the CTO and he’s been with Digital Realty for over seven years. Before that, he was with Equinix and worked for a couple of network carriers.
Digital Realty is one of the largest colocation operators in the world, and he had some really interesting perspectives on approaching the pandemic at a global level.
Getting a Jump on Pandemic Plans
We started off talking about how Digital Realty had a headstart on their pandemic plans in the US as they’d already experienced some of the hotspots, Singapore in particular. They learned quickly from that experience and were able to get their plans in place.
In the US market, the focus was on ensuring they had talent in physical locations but that they didn’t get stuck overseas. While sending information workers home, it was an interesting way of thinking about sort of the people aspects of that.
Chris also shared about how quickly Digital Realty has to evolve quickly with colocation because the digital economy was driven by people in these large data centers during the pandemic. They had to contend with increased demand and increased install timeframes all based on the pandemic. Plus, they even had to think about things like the fuel for backup generators.
The Return to Normal
We discussed what Chris thinks isn’t returning to normal and his feelings about how the internet has fundamentally changed in terms of its traffic patterns. He shared insights into how the flow of traffic from centralized office hubs out to the cloud has turned into a thousand points of light in the home out to various cloud vendors.
Suddenly, Digital Realty’s clients were seeing traffic change from a handful of giant nodes to a million users at home on various ISPs. Chris shared how Digital Realty spent a lot of their effort in the pandemic just figuring out how to re-architect the network based on this new flow and, and based on the way that their customers were interacting with services and interacting in some ways with each other. It really forced them to up the stack as a real estate company and think about the application use of their clients.
Client Trends: Hybrid Cloud, Hyperscalers, and More
Finally, Chris shared some trends around what they’re seeing with their clients.
They’re seeing clients moving some workloads from hyperscalers back into colocation and settling into hybrid architectures. (I shared a blog from the CEO of Basecamp on my LinkedIn recently and riled up some salespeople online, but it’s a timely and real conversation about which workloads belong.)
We’re beginning to optimize our workloads to our new reality. With the move to hyperscalers offers immediate elasticity and capacity but not every workload fits very well in this coin-operated model of usage and hyperscale.
Plus, Chris also talked about capacity being the new currency of the digital age which was a real takeaway for me. If you think about it, the big hyperscalers are also consumers of colocation.
As they expand, they’re competing with clients who are looking for their own data center space, and planning your digital footprint is essential if you are buying services really at a real estate level to support your business.
This is complicated by the fact that supply chain challenges aren’t going away. Availability of data center space in your desired geography is not assured and it’s one of the things that makes planning ahead working with an organization like Bridgepointe really important.
We wrapped up with a shameless predictions section covering personal media, algorithms, what we get served, who owns curation you know, and hopefully, more transparency coming from those providers in the future about how they’re delivering content to you. This was an interesting (and fun) departure from the rest of the conversation, but it was really thought-provoking.
At a high level, this was a different conversation. We’ve talked to cloud company service providers, VDI and network and security execs, so this was a good change of pace taking a deep dive down into a real estate business that found that it too needed to climb up the digital transformation ladder to build and grow based on their client’s application use.
Chris Sharp has over 20 years of experience in the technology industry, with an extensive background in developing technology strategies in global markets. He has a deep knowledge of the data center sector and is well-positioned to expand technical innovation at Digital Realty.
Most recently, he was responsible for cloud innovation at Equinix, where he led the development of innovative cloud services solutions and developed new capabilities enabling next-generation, high-performance exchange and interconnection solutions, facilitating broad commercial adoption of cloud computing on a global basis. Previously, Mr. Sharp held leadership positions at top network and colocation providers, including Qwest Communications, MCI/Verizon Business and Reliance Globalcom.
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