Why data centres are a critical link in the blockchain

2 May 2018

Image: STILLFX/Shutterstock

Financial services firms need to consider how their data infrastructure enables collaborative innovation on technologies such as blockchain, writes Patrick Lastennet from Interxion.

For the financial sector, IT is no longer simply a business necessity – it is the business. In the face of unstoppable digital innovation, agile IT is essential to support new strategies, keep pace with the competition and harness emerging opportunities.

Today, the pace of change is faster than ever. New technologies are disrupting every aspect of the financial sector. For high-street banks, customer satisfaction now turns on 24/7 online banking, as well as seamless mobile and contactless payments. In high-frequency trading, low-latency connectivity is the lifeblood of profitability, with even microseconds creating competitive advantage. Meanwhile, a glut of agile fintech companies and services – such as PayPal, Apple Pay and Oscar – are rewriting the rulebook on lending, payments, insurance and many other financial services. Almost nine out of 10 (88pc) financial industry incumbents are now concerned they’re losing revenue to these agile innovators.

A chain reaction

The latest digital innovations are even redefining long-established concepts such as money, with the emergence of bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies into the mainstream. Bitcoin now boasts 12,000 transactions per hour across 96 countries worldwide.

Powered by blockchain technology (essentially, an incorruptible digital ledger distributed across the internet), cryptocurrencies present both substantial risks and enormous opportunities to the financial sector.

Cryptocurrencies make it possible for individuals and businesses to transact securely, independent of traditional banks. Writing for BNP Paribas, analyst Johann Palychata states that the underlying blockchain technology powering cryptocurrencies “should be considered … an invention like the steam or combustion engine” and that it has the potential to transform the entire financial sector and wash away established business models.

While blockchain technology is certainly a source of business uncertainty, the financial sector is also seizing its revolutionary capabilities to make clearing and settlement faster and cheaper. Financial transactions that would typically take several business days can now be completed in just seconds. Many of the world’s largest firms – including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Royal Bank of Canada and Banco Santander – are already collaborating on the Global Payments Steering Group, harnessing the blockchain for interbank global payments.

According to PwC, three-quarters (77pc) of financial sector incumbents will adopt blockchain as part of their systems or processes by 2020. Given blockchain’s potential to slash bank infrastructure costs by 30pc and drive savings of up to $12bn per year, it’s no surprise that the race to innovate is on.

Agility is essential

Capitalising on the many potential applications of blockchain technology demands that financial firms innovate at scale and speed, with the freedom to experiment and collaborate easily. As such, the data centres supporting firms with connectivity, processing and storage must also be agile.

Colocation strategies are well suited to supporting this kind of rapid innovation. For instance, carrier-neutral facilities enable financial firms to pick and choose the connectivity options that best suit their business needs, whether their decisions are based on cost, service performance, resilience or a host of other factors.

By colocating, firms can also benefit from private cross-connects with other members of the financial community sharing the same facility. With a range of new services and skills within easy reach, any financial firm can dramatically boost its ability to adapt and add fresh capabilities.

For example, Interxion is seeing ever more financial firms choose to colocate in its London data centre campus, which is close to many world-leading exchanges and liquidity venues, as well as home to a thriving community of more than 100 capital market participants offering cutting-edge services and skills.

To support this growing demand, we’re currently expanding our central London campus with a £30m investment in a third data centre. LON3 will add 1,800 sq m to our uniquely located site, strategically positioned between the Square Mile and Tech City.

Colocate to innovate

With PwC reporting that 82pc of financial sector incumbents expect to increase their number of fintech partnerships in the next three to five years to keep pace with change, colocation offers the perfect environment for collaborative innovation.

Of course, access to nimble, cloud-based resources is also essential for firms embracing innovation. By colocating at a facility that brings instant access to a multi-cloud environment, organisations can reduce infrastructure costs, flexibly select the right cloud for the right workload, increase availability and reduce latency. Colocated hybrid cloud also leaves firms well placed to embrace a fully optimised, mixed IT set-up that combines on-premise, colocated and cloud-based resources. More fertile ground for technology-led business innovation would be hard to imagine.

By Patrick Lastennet

Patrick Lastennet is responsible for the business development and marketing of Interxion’s financial services vertical. He has extensive experience launching a multilateral trading facility, managing major product development projects and market data integrations, and possesses a deep understanding of the electronic trading business as well as large-scale IT transformation projects within financial services.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Interxion blog